Queens has the largest number of immigrant seniors in the city, with Flushing leading the list of neighborhoods, according to a new report.
The borough is home to about 162,000 foreign-born people over the age of 65, says a study by the Center for an Urban Future. The report shows more than 25,000 live in Flushing.
“Immigrants are critical to Queens,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the New York-based think tank.
“They’ve driven a lot of the economic growth in the borough,” he said. “They make up almost half of the population in Queens. It’s important that they can grow old in the city.”
Droves of immigrants, mostly from Asia, first made their way to Flushing in the 1970s, Bowles said.
Since then, many more have moved from Manhattan’s Chinatown to the northern Queens neighborhood for a more affordable way of life that is surrounded by immigrant services. In the last decade, more than 8,000 immigrant seniors have settled in Flushing, according to the report.
“They want to live in Flushing because it’s more convenient for them in terms of language barriers,” said Kathy Liu, program director for the Flushing YMCA’s New Americans Welcome Center. “It’s one of the neighborhoods which allow immigrants to go to different agencies to help them in their language.”
The center is a one-stop shop for non-English speakers and one of many locations where immigrants can receive for free literacy, citizen preparation, job readiness and computer classes year-round. The facility sees natives from China, Korea and even France, Liu said.
The Flushing branch of the Queens Library, which offers similar services, is the most heavily used branch in the state, said Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King.
Still, the report shows immigrant seniors face a number of challenges, including a higher poverty rate. They are also less likely to receive government benefits.
“Many don’t qualify for retirement or housing benefits,” Liu said. “With rent so high in this area, they find it very difficult to live with the savings they brought from their own country.”
According to the report, Flushing has the highest concentration of poor seniors. More than half of all Korean seniors in the city who are below the federal poverty line live in Flushing, the study found.
The Rockaways had the second largest group of poor immigrant seniors, 3,154 people.
“Immigrant adults have all of those traditional challenges, but then they have additional ones because of language barriers or a lack of familiarity with programs and services that are available,” Bowles said. “I don’t see this as a problem necessarily, but as a challenge that New York City policy makers have to plan for.”
Some other highlights:
- Bellerose, Rosedale, Forest Hills and Rego Park, trailing slightly behind Flushing, also made the list.
- Howard Beach and South Ozone Park had the largest change in their immigrant senior population. They saw a 112 percent jump, which amounts to nearly 5,000 seniors.
- Over the last decade, the number of immigrant seniors in Queens increased by 42,000, while the number of native-born seniors dropped by nearly 41,000.
- Queens council district is most ethnically diverse in all five boroughs, says lawmaker
- Bill would allow noncitizen residents to vote in municipal NYC elections
- Thousands helped by immigration hotline