Monday, November 07, 2011

Save New York's "Little Syria"

The New York Times ran a story (When an Arab Enclave Thrived Downtown) last year about Little Syria -a neighborhood in Manhattan that existed from the late 19th century until the 1940's when the area around Washington Street was demolished to make way for entrance ramps for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.  

In his book, "The Arab Americans," Gregory Orfalea described Little Syria as:
"An enclave in the New World where Arabs first peddled goods, worked in sweatshops, lived in tenements and hung their own signs on stores."

On June 9, 2011, Community Board 1 of Lower Manhattan in New York City passed a resolution requesting that the Preservation Commission designate the Little Syria community center at 105-107 Washington Street because of its combined "Colonial Revival" architectural value and social-historical importance, highly valued by the ethnic groups that lived there. However, according to the petition authors, "it looks like they do not measure the perceived social and historical importance to meet their landmarking criteria, perhaps because the Arab-American community -- and the American public itself -- has shown little interest in visibly asserting the value of the preservation of this heritage in Lower Manhattan."

Activists in New York are circulating a petition to preserve the forgotten neighborhood: "NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission: Save the First Arab American Neighborhood." 

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