Inside Chinatown’s Tiny Cubicle “Apartments”

April 21, 2014 | Marina Galperina

81 Bowery is one of New York’s last lodging houses. Chinese immigrants, most of them working in construction and restaurant service industry, live communally in 64-square-foot spaces on the fourth floor, partitioned by makeshift walls and roofed with wire cages.

Photographer Annie Ling on 81 Bowery:

“You’re the same age as my daughter… I have not seen her in 16 years.”
Mr. Chu, Cubicle #4

When I first met Mr. Chu at 81 Bowery, I was taken aback by the hard truth of this statement. Because many Chinese immigrant laborers like Chu live on very little and send most of their earnings to family member sin China or distant cities, at the end of the day these breadwinners forget a real relationship with their wives, children, mothers, and fathers.

Her recent exhibit at the Museum of Chinese in America featured her four-year project documenting Chinatown, from the tenements to the shut in senior citizen communities. 81 Bowery is the most striking, reminiscent of the 100 x 100 series Michael Wolf shot in Hong Kong. (Photos: Annie Ling via Curbed)