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East Harlem Gets $10K Grant to Preserve Nation's First Little Italy

By Dartunorro Clark | November 10, 2016 5:08pm | Updated on November 11, 2016 5:35pm
 Homes located on Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem.
Homes located on Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem.
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DNAinfo/Dartunorro Clark

HARLEM — The United States' first Little Italy is getting a preservation boost.

The Pleasant Avenue area in East Harlem got a $10,000 grant Thursday from the The New York State Council on the Arts and the Preservation League of New York State to survey the area.

The area was the first in the county to be dubbed Little Italy as it housed the largest concentration of Italian immigrants from the 1800s to the 1970s.

Now it's called El Barrio as the Italian population was replaced by a large Hispanic one. But it retains much of the character of its Italian roots in many of the facades of its churches and buildings, officials said. 

CIVITAS Citizens, a civic and urban planning nonprofit, along with Landmark East Harlem will take on the project.

Organizers said this is a particularly important task as the city is beginning to roll out its massive rezoning plan, which some community activists believe could put the neighborhood's character at risk.

"This funding will go a long way in helping to ensure that historic East Harlem is preserved for future generations,” said Jameson Mitchell, Executive Director of CIVITAS.

The organization will hire a consultant to complete a “cultural resource survey” of the area, which in turn would help it receive a New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission historic district nomination or a National Register of Historic Places district nomination.

Mitchell said the organization plans to conduct the survey and release the results in the coming months.

Twenty-six organizations in 18 counties throughout the state will also receive various levels of funding for preservation projects.