Every 10th person in the U.S. was born in another country, the Census Bureau tells us, but in New York City it’s every third person. And when you pass the green freeway sign reading “Welcome to Queens: The World’s Borough,” the ratio of native-born to foreign-born reaches perfect balance, 1 to 1. There’s a reason Archie Bunker’s favorite chair, that refuge from change, has been relegated to the Smithsonian. At the junction of 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets in Jackson Heights, a block has been closed to traffic and seats are set out for the public, which here resembles nothing so much as the U.N. in casual dress. The summer air smells of pavement, cumin, mango and kebab. Restaurants serve food from India, Colombia, Nepal, Peru, Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. In May, while officially renaming the pedestrian way “Diversity Plaza,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that within the range of about a mile, 150 languages are spoken. If immigration is, in fact, America’s way of refreshing itself, this block is an outdoor shower under a cobalt sky.
This appears in the July 11, 2016 issue of TIME.
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