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New Flophouses: Chinatown’s Internet Cafes 

Amid a housing crisis, the Lower Manhattan businesses serve as an unlikely safety net, where people pay as little as $7 a night for a roof over their heads.

“It’s like a prison. You have to be high to sleep.”

— Harry Jumonji

At the beginning of the millennium, the internet cafe was a beacon of the future. But now, amid a lack of affordable housing and a surge in homelessness in New York City, these vestiges of the dot-com boom have become an unlikely safety net, where people pay as little as $7 a night for a roof over their heads. On any given evening in the few remaining 24-hour cybercafes in Manhattan’s Chinatown, chairs are filled with the exhausted bodies of those who have lived there for weeks or months — or by some accounts, even years.

A man tried to get some rest at Freedom Zone Internet Cafe while others surfed the web and played games through the night.

A man tried to get some rest at Freedom Zone Internet Cafe while others surfed the web and played games through the night. Niko Koppel

“It’s like prison,” said Harry Jumonji, describing the tense environment of Freedom Zone on Eldridge Street, where he had been staying with his girlfriend for months. “You got to be high to sleep.”

During the day, the businesses are mostly used by groups of young Chinese gamers. But at night, men and women settle into their spots, their claims staked by shopping bags of clothes, pillows and blankets…(read more)

Source: The New York Times

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