Wednesday, November 29, 2017




( Photos  Autar Mota )

Little Italy is an area of Downtown Manhattan that falls in SOHO district. It lies close to China Town and precisely on Mulberry street . You can also say that it lies between canal Street and Grand street. Approachable from all sides by Metro, taxi or Buses , this Place has become a New Tourist destination in Manhattan New York for its old Buildings , Italian Grills , Open Air Restaurants , Bars and Antique shops . You find Pathways with Bricks / Tiles without Black topping . No High rise buildings or Towers . Walk through this heritage locality to get a feel of Europe of early twentieth century . While on a visit to this place , I spoke to an elderly resident of the area who informed me as under:

“ Italians came as   immigrants  to this place sometime in second half of nineteenth century .  They were mostly  poor  artisans and  unskilled Laborers. Some of them   also worked in Cotton factories . See all these Buildings , they were factories and most of these structures are made of cast Iron. See the ceiling height, It can’t be less than 20   feet in most of the cases . After the closure of factories , it became a residential area . The Chinese came after the Italians  . The Chinese  immigrants came as laborers Subsequently they bought shops , properties and established China Town. They too worked hard for survival. At a point of time about 30000 Italians lived in this area . We had shops , Restaurants and well established business over here . People educated their children and started moving out mostly to Queens and Brooklyn. Now you see these shops , or some Restaurants and a handful of Italians living over here . This is a unique area in Manhattan. Many Artists and creative people started coming to SOHO for its noise free old style ambiance and absence of High rise buildings. They were followed by many Hollywood actors and a few celebrities . That gave a sudden spurt to Real Estate activity over here and sent real estate price to   instant spiraling. Heights . By  rough estimate China Town over here has a Chinese   population of at least 90000 to 100000  

As we walk close to Saint Patrick’s old Cathedral , we are informed that some Hollywood Movies ( AMERICAN CRIME THRILLER GODFATHER In Particular ) were shot over here. People have seen Marlon Brando and other actors shooting some sequences near the church and some Restaurants on Mott Street . Little Italy has been the backdrop of films like Mean Streets ( Robert De Niro ) , Big Daddy( Adam Sandler comedy) and Donnie Brasco (American crime thriller ) . I am informed that so many TV serials are shot in this area .

I was also informed that a few powerful  Mafia Dons also operated from Little Italy when crime was at its peak in New York . A story of past now , But possibly , that also could be a reason of migration of some residents from the area . China town nearby also had a long history of Gambling Dens , Mafia Dons and criminal gangs ( Tong wars ) operating in the area , But with the spread of education and prosperity , all that is a story of past now. As China Town expands , Little Italy is getting smaller and smaller every year. A time may come when it shall be a Nostalgic memory in minds . Whatever be the case ,Tourists continue flocking to this heritage area even if the residents are moving out .

And the American society has wonderfully emerged from the melting pot of so many cultures that the immigrants to this New Nation brought with them . People from Spain, Netherlands , England , Africa , Italy , China , Indian subcontinent , Turkey , Middle east and many more places together with Natives have toiled to make what is known as AMERICA today .

I quote a paragraph ( page 178 ) from senator Bernie Sanders Book' " Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution:

" I am proud to be the son of an immigrant. My father came to this country from Poland at the age of seventeen without a nickel in his pocket. A young man who had no money, little education , and not one word of English , travelled across the ocean in 1921 in search of a better life. His story , My story , our story is the story of America:Hardworking people and families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for themselves and their children . .......Since the Nation's founding, untold numbers of people have come to our shores to improve their lives, escape oppression or violence, or flee desperate poverty. More than any other country in the history of the modern world, the united states has been shaped in its identity and character by the process of immigration and the contributions of these immigrants. "

Well knwn Urdu Poet Firaq Gorakhpuri also said something similar about immigrants to India . I quote his couplet:

Sar Zameen-e-hind par aqwaam-e-Aalam ke firaq
Kaafile Bastay gaye Hindustaan bantaa gaya ..

(“In the land of India ,  caravans from Nations of the world kept Pouring in and India kept getting formed ”).

So long so much.....

( Autar Mota)

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1 comment:

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