New York City, NY

NYC Run: Light Up Chinatown

Marnie Kunz
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Photo by Marques Jackson Photography in Chinatown, Manhattan, before covid-19.

For a beautiful NYC run, Manhattan’s Chinatown is lit. As part of Light Up Chinatown, 250 lanterns now illuminate Mott Street, in the heart of Chinatown. The project to bring permanent traditional Chinese lanterns to one of NYC’s most culturally rich neighborhoods was created as a way to support local Chinatown businesses in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns and rising xenophobia.

Covid-19 and Light Up Chinatown

Early on in the pandemic, Manhattan’s Chinatown was hit first and hit hard, with a lot of the local businesses reporting a 50 to 70 percent revenue drop, according to the New York Times. Since then, many of the small businesses in the bustling Chinatown neighborhood have shut down, and lots are struggling to stay afloat. Despite their own struggles, some Chinatown restaurants are feeding the homeless, and serving up dumplings to those in need.

The Light Up Chinatown project brings colorful lanterns to Mott Street from Canal to Bayard streets, with hopes to expand down Bayard Street up to Canal. The neighborhood beautification project was born out of the idea of Patrick Mock, a Chinatown resident and manager of 46 Mott Bakery. Mock wanted to make the streets come back to life instead of the dark and quiet streets with many closed businesses that became the pandemic norm. As his bakery served up meals at night for hospital workers, the elderly and homeless, Mock thought it would be great to make the streets more welcoming with lights.

Send Chinatown Love joined in the grassroots effort, helping raise funds for the traditional lanterns, which come from beloved Chinatown shop Pearl River Mart. Send Chinatown Love is an organization that sprang up in response to the devastating effects of covid on the 7,000 businesses in Chinatown that are largely off the grid. Send Chinatown Love supports these small businesses and is helping to get them online and drive more business to the many mom and pop shops of the neighborhood.

Actor Will Smith also got in on the efforts, donating $10,000, bringing the total donations past $35K, getting closer to the $47,000 goal which would fund extending the lights down Bayard Street to Canal Street, Chinatown’s main hub.

Running in Chinatown

For a colorful run, Chinatown is full of street art and now, thanks to Light Up Chinatown, lit lanterns at night. Begin your run at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, at Bowery and Canal Street. Head west on Canal until you hit Mott Street, where you’ll make a left to run down Mott and see the lanterns.

You can also loop up Mulberry to see the lit-up Welcome to Chinatown sign on Canal and Mulberry streets.

Chinatown Run Map for more Chinatown route suggestions, including the Chinatown Gates street art on Pell Street and the colorful, historic Doyers Street. You’ll also want to run by the Welcome to Chinatown Mural at 1 Allen Street. The mural, created by designer Victor Ving and painter and photographer Lisa Beggs was the very first of their 40+ Greetings Tour street art project with “Welcome to (City Name)” murals around the U.S.

Chinatown is a perfectly situated NYC run location as you can easily run across the scenic Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn to add miles to your run, you can head to the colorful Lower East Side and East Village to see murals, or run into downtown NYC and run by City Hall and the Finance District, and hop on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

Chinatown Eateries

There are so many amazing Chinatown restaurants so you can support the community and get great eats after your run. I love the ice cream and pancakes at Taiyaki NYC.

And for delicious veggie food, check out Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant. One of my faves for a quick and tasty sandwich or pastry is Bake Culture, right next to the Hotel 50 Bowery across from the Manhattan Bridge entrance.

Another great way to support the neighborhood is to gift a meal from one of the Chinatown restaurants to local people in need. You can pick the restaurant to donate to from Send Chinatown Love’s website.

You can also donate to Light Up Chinatown to help pave the way for more lit streets in one of NYC’s most iconic, colorful neighborhoods.

Marnie Kunz is an RRCA-certified running coach and the creator of Runstreet Art Runs, which bring together communities through running and street art. She is a Brooklyn resident, Akita🐕 mom, running coach, and writer. She enjoys traveling, art, dogs, and eating messily. You can follow her running and events at @Runstreet Instagram and Runstreet Facebook.

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Resources: Light Up Chinatown

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Marnie Kunz covers culture, entertainment, fitness, healthy living, mental health, running, NYC news, and inspiration for living a more fulfilling life.

New York City, NY
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