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Must See in NYC: Light Up Chinatown

Have you seen the lanterns in Chinatown, New York City?

250 paper lanterns are now lighting up Mott Street adding a colorful energy, warmth, and brightness to Chinatown, NYC.

Light Up Chinatown NYC

Many businesses throughout NYC have taken a hit due to the pandemic. With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issuing an Executive Order N0. 202.8 requiring all nonessential employees to stay home, businesses were forced to shut down or reduce their operations to comply with the order or be subject to fines. Consequently, business owners of shops and restaurants in Chinatown have been severely impacted. In addition to the rules set forth by the order resulting in forced closures, xenophobic fears of COVID-19 has caused a lack of business and dwindling customers in this Lower Manhattan neighborhood.

Vector Art

Vector Art

T0 help this historic neighborhood and small immigrant-owned businesses survive the pandemic, an organization called Send Chinatown Love has stepped in. This organization is mobilizing shops and restaurants by organizing food crawls, optimizing their online presence to increase revenue, and setting up a variety of other fundraising campaigns. One of those being "Light Up Chinatown" - a grassroots initiative with a mission to bring the community together during the pandemic by boosting the confidence of the neighborhood and to remind people that while many businesses have closed, many are still open. Send Chinatown Love is installing 250 paper lanterns and light fixtures on Mott Street  between Canal and Bayard streets to light up the street in these dark times, and also inspire New Yorkers and tourists alike back to Chinatown's streets to support local businesses.

Patrick Mock, the manager of 46 Mott Street Bakery and community advocate who has been providing meals to the homeless and senior Chinatown residents, first thought of the idea. With the help of City Council District 1 candidate Jenny Low, Chung Seto of United Democratic Organization (UDO), Joanne Kwong of Pearl River Mart and Send Chinatown Love, the Light Up Chinatown project was born. They were inspired by the lit lanterns in San Francisco's Chinatown and took the idea to the Chinatown Business Improvement District, which started them off with $21,000. From there, they received an $8,000 grant from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and then raised more than $48,000 through grants, donations and the $150 lantern adoptions (each of the 250 lanterns represents a donation of $45 or more to the Light Up Chinatown project).

Light Up Chinatown NYC

The lanterns began being hung across Mott Street in December 2020 in the colors pink, orange, violet, and gold (the lanterns were meant to be red and white, but red was out of stock).

Each of the lanterns are coated in nylon and weatherized, and are individually personalized with the names of people who supported the initiative along with Chinese calligraphy done by the New York Chinese Cultural Center and local artists from Think!Chinatown. The lanterns are also adorned with kawaii cartoons, emoji faces, handprints, pretty flowers and foliage, bold shapes and patterns in three paint colors. The designs were symbols for good fortune, peace, love, happiness, wealth, and longevity.

Vector Art

Vector Art

The Light Up Chinatown initiative has drawn locals and visitors to the neighborhood capturing photos underneath the glowing lanterns in turn increasing the foot traffic and hope for neighborhood and businesses.

Fun Fact: Will Smith's $10,000 donation garnered a lot of media attention and support to the campaign.

You can donate to the campaign by visiting Send Chinatown Love's website. There's also a GoFundMe page set up and of course, you can go check out the lanterns in person and support a Chinatown business.

Light Up Chinatown NYC
Light Up Chinatown NYC


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Hey Y'all!

I'm Santeka - a colorful, outspoken Southern woman that landed in New Jersey. Welcome to my corner of the internet where I share travel, food, twirlable moments, DIY pjojects, and fixer upper inspiration all while living my life out loud! My favorite gig is helping entrepreneurs leverage their table to grow their business.


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