Neighborhood Stories: Sunset Park’s Union Power


Sunset Park has an impressive history of activism: decades of labor organizing, rent strikes, and, more recently, the neighborhood’s own feisty local Occupy chapter, Ocupemos Sunset Park — which joined with members of City Council, U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in 2012 in an aggressive campaign for tenants’ rights. A wealth of ethnic and religiously based organizations, such as La Unión and the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, not only offer services ranging from advocacy to youth programming to cultural celebrations to serve their specific communities, they’ve also served as the foundation for some notable cross-racial alliances working to address issues from police surveillance to rezoning proposals.

Such moments of unity between Sunset Park’s Latino and Asian communities provide a promising “glimpse of globalization,” notes Queens College urban studies professor Tarry Hum, author of the 2014 book Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood. “There’s definitely been a surge in activism in the neighborhood since the 2016 election,” she adds, noting how the community took to the streets in November to protest President-elect Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and has since staged solidarity events with local Muslims. The sense of threat imposed by the new administration has reminded these communities of their shared vulnerabilities, says Hum, and many members of Sunset Park are joining the resistance beyond their neighborhood blocks. It’s no coincidence, the professor offers, that the leaders of recent protests and rallies “are from the city’s dense, multiracial immigrant neighborhoods” — including Sunset Park–born community activist Linda Sarsour, who recently left her position as director of the Arab American Association of New York to focus on fighting Trump full-time.