Ethnic NY: Chinatown, Little Italy, African Burial Ground & Irish Five Points
New York City is known as the Gorgeous Mosaic and nowhere in Manhattan is that clearer than in Chinatown and Little Italy. Learn about the American dream in New York’s first immigrant neighborhoods: the growing Chinatown, shrinking Little Italy, spiritual African Burial Ground and long vanished Irish Five Points.
Chinatown is one of NY’s most famous neighborhoods and since the mid 1800′s, when Chinese immigrants from the West Coast moved, a symbol of NY’s ethnic diversity. You’ll explore Chinatown and see the hanging peking ducks on Mott Street, Chinatown’s main street, smell the glistening fish stalls and pungent sidewalk fruit markets. It is famous for its restaurants, sidewalk vendors and bargain shopping. Chinatown is NY’s most rapidly growing neighborhood as newer immigrants expand its borders, swallowing up blocks of the adjacent Little Italy and Lower East Side. You can visit the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) to learn about the history of this vibrant community. There are actually other Chinatowns in NY, most notably Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Flushing in Queens.
Pay respects at the African Burial Ground National Monument in the midst of NYC’s courthouse district. This burial ground for both free and enslaved NY residents of African descent was lost to history for centuries and only discovered and resurrected in the 1970′s. The Visitor Center offers exhibits and a powerful video. It is a moving and somber tribute to dark period of NY’s history.
Little Italy centered on Mulberry St is another iconic NY neighborhood, and equally famed for its fabulous food, pastries and wine. Although is is shrinking due to an expanding Chinatown, it retains its Old World charm of Naples and Rome. Understand the struggles of the contadini, Italian immigrants from small villages in mostly southern Italy (the “Mezzigiorno”) trying to meld their old world customs to this strange New World and the crowded streets of their new urban home. Learn more about its history at the new Italian American Museum on Mulberry St. It is home to the famed Feast of San Gennaro, held every September and is the oldest of the many Italian neighborhoods in NY that include Belmont in The Bronx and Bensonhurst and Bath Beach in Brooklyn.
Long lost to history and urban renewal, The Five Points regained its fame when Martin Scorsese produced his 2002 epic Gangs of New York starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day Lewis and Cameron Diaz. This film portrayed the misery and depravity of the worst urban slum in America and the Irish and Nativist gangs who battled there. There is little left to remind us of this era, except of course for the Ghosts of The Five Points