This interview was conducted and recorded in Cantonese Chinese. Read Sylvia Ching Man Wong's transcript and translation below.
Kai Fung, a homeowner on West 35th Street in Coney Island’s West End, was born in 1956 in Macau and immigrated with his family to Hong Kong when he was 12. After his sister became a U.S. citizen, Fung and his wife decided to start a new life in New York. When they bought their home in 1989, they chose Coney Island due to its affordability though friends had safety concerns.
The government subsidized homes built by Astella Development were spacious and comfortable, says Fung, and safety has improved over the years. Now, one third of the families on the block are Chinese. Three of his siblings and their families currently reside in Coney Island. “We love it here!" he says. "The best part of it is the beach."
Having studied hotel management and worked in the hotel industry, Fung's first job in New York City was with the Hyatt Regency, the hotel chain he had worked with in Hong Kong. Working the night shift at the Vista Hotel saved his life when the hotel, which would later be destroyed on 9/11, was badly damaged in the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist attack. Fung recently retired after 20 years working as a bartender at the Essex House. He enjoys playing ping pong and practicing T’ai Chi at the Seaside Innovative Senior Center on West 37th Street in Coney Island, where this interview was recorded.