The Flushing McDonald's looks like any other. Few among the crowd there on a recent Saturday said they even liked the food. "We prefer our own Korean food," said Hoick Choi, 76, a pastor at New Power Presbyterian Church, who comes about once a week. Many come after filling up on a free lunch at a nearby senior center.
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Some say it is convenience that draws them from the solitude of their nearby homes to spend the day sitting there in the Big Mac-scented air. Many are widowed, or like Jee Woong Lim, 81, who arrived in America two years ago from Seoul, say they are in need of company. They are almost without exception nattily dressed, in suits or dress slacks, brightly colored ties or sweaters, fedoras and well-shined shoes.
Yet there seem to be no shortage of facilities that cater to the elderly in the neighborhood. Civic centers dot the blocks, featuring parlors for baduk, an Asian board game, and classes in subjects from calisthenics to English. Mr. Lee, who comes to the McDonald's from Bayside, passes several senior centers en route. One is a Korean Community Service center in Flushing, which recently changed a room in the basement into a cafe with 25-cent coffee after its president, Kwang S. Kim, got word of the McDonald's standoff.
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No one has come.
"I think I have to go to McDonald's and ask why they're there," Mr. Kim said.
Outside the McDonald's on Saturday, Sang Yong Park, 76, and his friend, Il Ho Park, 76, tried to explain what drew them there. They come every single day to gossip, chat about politics back home and in their adopted land, hauling themselves up from the banquettes with their canes to step outside for short cigarillo breaks. And they could not say why they keep coming back — after a short walk around the block to blow off steam — every time the officers remove them. They said they had each been ousted three times so far.
The two men, however, knew what they would do next time. Sang Yong Park said he would not budge, but his friend said he would dutifully obey any police order, just as he always has. "I will just listen to them," he said. "But I will come back inside after they leave."
—By The NYT's Sarah Maslin Nir and Jiha Ham