New York City’s Chinatown is an enclave of concentrated Chinese businesses, schools, religious outlets and culture, all focused in a downtown area of Manhattan. In another NYC borough, Queens, pockets of Chinese communities equipped with local fare and signs translated into Chinese can also be found. While the Chinese communities in New York and the rest of the U.S. have plenty to offer, one New York developer has plans to go even bigger.
According to a report by the New York Post, a businesswoman from Long Island is proposing plans to build a massive Chinese community, dubbed a “Chinese Disneyland,” up in the Catskills section of New York state. The development would be located in the town of Thompson, about 100 miles northwest of New York City, and would have all the trappings of Chinese life. According to Sherry Li, the plan would potentially bring in thousands of wealthy Chinese immigrants by giving an opportunity for them to obtain visas via a federal program that grants them visits by investing $500,000 or more in the U.S., but in particular, the small town of Thompson. Li says the proposed development, officially called the China City of America, would draw in an estimated $6 billion.
“We can kind of view it as a Chinese concept of Disney [World] -- so it’s going to have a lot of attractions for families,” Li said in the report. Current designs for the project include a college, 1,000 residential properties, a Chinese retail center and even a possible casino. China City also includes a lot of more traditional Chinese cultural nods, like keeping Feng Shui in mind during the design process, a $10 million “Temple of Heaven,” a $20 million “Forbidden City” as well as major buildings and areas being named after the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals and the 16 major Chinese dynasties. “Each dynasty will have its building and will have rides go with it,” Li said during a town hall meeting where she pitched the idea.
Though the plan is now in the process of being reviewed by the leadership in Thompson, which has a population of just 15,000, it has already received a lot of resistance. “It actually seems surreal but unfortunately it is real,” Paula Medley, a local activist who leads an environmental group, said. “It sounds like an EB-5 scam,” Laura Corruzi, a New York City attorney familiar with the area, said. “The financials don’t really support the $6 billion project.”
On top of that, doubts have been cast by Tony Cellini, the Thompson town supervisor. “We’re not certain we have the infrastructure to handle all that at this point,” he said of the sprawling development. “I believe China City is very serious but they’ve got a long road ahead of them to get all their approvals.”