Thousands attend Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown, though the celebration was bittersweet

The Lunar New Year Parade on Sunday brought thousands of spectators to Lower Manhattan for a bittersweet celebration.

Lion dancers, dragon puppets, and a slew of city and state elected officials arrived at Mott and Hester Streets on Feb. 20 to ring in the year of the tiger — but it wasn’t all smiles for a community that’s felt tremendous suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the pain of an array of violent anti-Asian attacks.

The parade route was peppered with locals decrying not only anti-Asian hate, but also a new jail set to be placed on the rubble of the Manhattan Detention Center and the plea to combat the mental health crisis.

Special guests waved to locals. Photo by Dean Moses
Children happily watched the confetti fall. Photo by Dean Moses
A dragon snaked its way downtown. Photo by Dean Moses

Angry cries could be heard between confetti pops and protest signs could be seen sandwiched betwixt traditional Asian outfits as large crowds chanted “No new jail!” and “Save Chinatown!”

Despite the controversy, organizers and special guests like Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams tried to look positive and enjoy the celebration while pledging to stand with the community against hate by committing funds to combat mental health.

Several residents roared with anger over attacks inflicted on the AAPI community. Photo by Dean Moses
Protesters climbed traffic poles in order to ensure their voices were heard. Photo by Dean Moses

“I walked these streets, and this was a ghost town for too long. We came here with Steven and others, but we are back. And I also want to say that the State of New York, my administration, is committed to one program I believe is going to make a huge difference here. We’re putting $10 million toward helping mental health and social services for this community to help people rise up, rise up and deal with all the challenges,” Hochul said. “We will continue to fight back against every form of hate as it rears its ugly head. We have your backs, and we stand with the Asian community, 1.6 million strong here in the State of New York.”

Governor Kathy Hochul pledged her support to Chinatown. Photo by Dean Moses
The governor helped lead the parade. Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Adams also addressed the crowd, although the head of city received a notable lukewarm greeting with some boos thrown his way. Still, he attempted to shrug it off by championing the city. 

“Let me tell you what’s great about New York is that we have 8.8 million people, and we have 30 million opinions. And that’s what makes New York City an amazing place,” Adams said. 

Mayor Eric Adams. Photo by Dean Moses
Chinatown was filled with laughter, music, and sparkling confetti. Photo by Dean Moses

Adams, Hochul, and Senator Chuck Schumer led the parade alongside fellow elected officials while spectators fired confetti into the blue sky like cannon fire. The spectacle included floats, dancers, musicians, and more. The parade route ran from down Mott Street, along East Broadway and up Chrystie Street.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer greeted the crowd. Photo by Dean Moses
Dancers twirled along the route. Photo by Dean Moses
Traditional Asian attire was showcased at the parade. Photo by Dean Moses
Residents sat on their fire escapes and watched the parade. Photo by Dean Moses
Children reached out for the lion dancers. Photo by Dean Moses
Attendees waved the Chinese flag. Photo by Dean Moses
Confetti burst through the air during the parade. Photo by Dean Moses
Pink blossom petals were also thrown into the air. Photo by Dean Moses