Little Italy is Losing its Italians, Report Says
By Kiratiana Freelon on February 22, 2011 9:52am
By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — Little Italy is running out of Italians.
Only 5 percent of the 8,600 people living in Little Italy are actually Italian Americans, compared with nearly half of the 10,000 living there in 1950, according to a Census survey obtained by the New York Times.
The survey did not encounter a single Italian-born resident of the neighborhood, the paper noted.
News of Little Italy's dwindling ethnic representation came on the heels of a political battle, which threatened to limit the neighborhood's signature event – the San Gennaro Feast, which stretches down Mulberry street between Houston and Canal Streets each September.
Boutique owners from the trendy NoLIta (North of Little Italy) district claimed that the festival, which features amusement park rides and Italian street vendors, hampers business and sometimes forces them to close shop.
Responding to the clothiers' concerns, Community Board 2 passed a resolution suggesting that the 85-year-old fair be cut short at Kenmare Street – a decision that will ultimately be decided by the mayor's Street Activity Permit Office.
Little Italy also faces pressure from a plan to create a Chinatown Business Improvement District, which would establish jurisdiction over all but two square blocks of the once 50-square-block neighborhood, the Times noted.
Approval of the Chinatown BID now rests in the hands of the City Council, having won endorsements from all three of the relevant community boards.
Of the 8,600 people currently living in Little Italy, nearly 4,000 were born in Asia, according to the Times.