Suburban shoppers flock to ethnic enclaves

Suburban shoppers with immigrant parents or grandparents are boosting the city’s economy by visiting ethnic retail centers at a growing rate, according to a report published by the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank.

Downtown Flushing, Washington Heights, Richmond Hill, Brighton Beach, Midwood and Astoria are all popular ethnic centers. While the number of businesses citywide increased 9.6 percent from 1994 to 2004, the report highlighted several areas that grew faster: Flushing, up 54.6 percent; Sunset Park, up 47.3 percent; Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach, up 33.7 percent; and Washington Heights, up 17.8 percent.

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The Flushing Business Improvement District’s executive director estimated that as many as half of the weekend customers at downtown Flushing’s retail strips are from outside the neighborhood, and come from as far as Connecticut, New Jersey and even Massachusetts.

Traffic from the suburbs has strained many of these neighborhoods’ roads, said the report, which called on the city to improve parking and public transportation.

Job growth also outpaced the citywide rate in several ethnic enclaves. Between 1994 and 2004, employment citywide climbed 6.9 percent. Over that period, employment increased 33.6 percent in Washington Heights, 27.9 percent in Jackson Heights, 23.2 percent in Sunset Park and 13.3 percent in Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach. TRD