Sunset Park: Home to Many Hard-Working Immigrants

By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — If there is a description for Sunset Park, it’s “Immigrant Central.”

Indeed, the top three languages spoken in homes here are Spanish, English and Chinese, with English in second place.

This is also a hard-working community. And while most of its residents are certainly working-class and toward the lower end of the economic spectrum, their hard work keeps the community from experiencing the kind of hardcore hopelessness and welfare dependency that is seen in East New York, Brownsville and several other areas.

These are some of the conclusions reached when one reads the Brooklyn Neighborhood Report on Community District 7, one of a series of such reports (one for each community board) published recently by the Center for the Study of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College. The neighborhood reports are co-sponsored and funded by the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

Community District 7 consists of Sunset Park; Industry City, an area with few residents; and parts of Windsor Terrace-Greenwood Heights. The latter is a smaller, more middle-class area, but because of sheer numbers, the statistics mainly reflect Sunset Park.

The report compares figures from the district in 2000, from the district in 2007-09, and from the borough as a whole. Figures, in most cases, were basically the same in 2007-09 as they were in 2000, meaning that no sweeping change has taken place in the district.

The area, according to the 2007-09 statistics, is 43 percent Latino, 27 percent Asian and 24 percent white. The top three languages spoken in the home, as we’ve mentioned, are Spanish, English and Chinese.

Of the young people between 16 and 25, 15.8 percent are “disconnected,” meaning that they’re neither working nor in school; and 24.8 percent of the district’s residents are living in poverty. Thirty-four percent of the children in the area are living in poverty.

Still, there are several very positive signs. The number of adults with a B.A. degree or higher has increased from 15 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2007-09. And the median household income has risen from $40,997 to $42,542.

The main ethnicities in the area, in order, are Chinese, Puerto Rican and Mexican.  And the main occupations are cook, waiter/waitress, cashier and truck driver. One of the main occupations listed in 2000, “sewing machine operator,” has disappeared, for reasons unknown.

Some health-related factors that have decreased in other areas have actually increased here: cigarette smoking grew from 16 percent to 19.5 percent, and diabetes grew from 20 percent to 26 percent. This may be due to the fact that many of the area’s immigrants come from countries where healthy living is not emphasized.

Finally, 70 percent of all citizens over 18 are eligible to vote. This surely means that the area will be heard from as a political force in the future.