Sounds like we share a lot of things in common. I agree with you that perhaps the “infrastructure” of Chinatown, compounded by rent control, makes it easy for some folks to just coast along and not improve and get better. No different from Section 8, where it would be quite easy to want to just stay mostly unemployed or working part-time since your rent is mostly paid for you. Why work harder and earn more to only see your gov’t subsidy reduced accordingly, right? I still say though that the vast majority of people who come through Chinatown eventually come out into the world and do fine (hopefully). And, let’s be honest, it is not like every building in Chinatown has clothes hanging out of windows. My understanding is that Chinatown proper is about 20 sq blocks so even though it is considered one of the most densely populated neighborhoods around, are we really talking about that much people? Not really. And let’s be honest, a lot of them are elderly. Sure, they may be replaced with younger folks who then coast or decide to better themselves and get out. I just happen to be the crazy one wanting to move back in to shake things up some.
One thing we haven’t mentioned, which is set in stone somewhat, is the presence of many government public housing buildings in Chinatown. They aren’t leaving even if prosperity rose all around them with the subway going online one day.