Open City Magazine: Mapping Displacement and Resistance in Sunset Park

How arts and tech can preserve intergenerational neighborhood stories and fight back against gentrification.

By Huiying Bernice Chan


Teresa Gutierrez’s cadences in Spanish pulsated through the television screen as she described the changes happening in Sunset Park, her neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“The rents are so high that our community can’t find decent housing or a healthy place to live for themselves,” Gutierrez, a long-time resident and immigrant rights organizer, said. “We need to organize to protect ourselves to know our rights.”

Gutierrez was among numerous Sunset Park residents who were interviewed by multimedia artist and activist Betty Yu for her interactive, multimedia exhibit, “(Dis)Placed in Sunset Park.”

“Sunset Park is home to one of the largest populations of Chinese residents in New York City, exceeding the number of those living in Manhattan’s Chinatown.”

Yu, a long-time Sunset Park resident, opened her exhibit highlighting the accelerated gentrification and community resistance in Sunset Park in September at the Open Source Gallery, in the heart of where she conducted her interviews.

Attendees were immersed in a curation of photographs, maps, and short films that brought to life stories of how Latinx and Chinese residents have created home in Sunset Park, intertwined with their concerns and organizing work against displacement today.

Sunset Park is home to one of the largest populations of Chinese residents in New York City, exceeding the number of those living in Manhattan’s Chinatown. They mostly live in the 8th Avenue area of the neighborhood, while Latinx residents live in the 5th Avenue vicinity. Today, about 50 percent of residents are Latinx, from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America, while 40 percent are Asians, mostly Chinese. There is also a growing Arab and Muslim community from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and other countries in the Middle East.

In the last decade, the neighborhood has been a prime target of real estate developers that has led to accelerated displacement. Developers have been pushing to change zoning and land-use laws in Sunset Park so they can build more luxury housing and commercial buildings, especially in areas like Industry City.

A complex of former manufacturing buildings owned by Jamestown Market, Industry City is one example of a project that is already displacing long-time residents, especially in the Latinx segment of the neighborhood below 5th Avenue. A $1-billion venture that spans seven waterfront blocks from 32nd to 39th Streets, Industry City is being designed to be one of the country’s largest innovation-maker hubs. The development comes at a large cost to the neighborhood, as it attracts college-educated professionals and simultaneously pushes out working-class residents.

“A lot of my friends in the 4th Avenue side are gone, because they’ve been displaced,” Yu said. “It’s really weird walking around there. Because what’s happening there is about to hit the Chinatown part,” she continued.