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Chinatown and Little Italy info and apartments | NewYorkStay.com

Chinatown / Little Italy

chinatown littleitaly new yorkWith the population of Chinatown exceeding 100,000 ,this incredible vibrant neighborhood houses the largest group of ethnic Chinese in the west and is one of the first Chinese communities to establish itself outside of Asia.  It is made up of mostly Cantonese residents in recent years this demographic has grown to include Fuzhou as well.


History has the first recorded immigrant to establish a business in Chinatown as a cigar peddler named Ah Ken, His success allowed him to open a boarding house to accommodate the other immigrants arriving from China and provide them with jobs also selling tobacco and cigars.  What we know as modern Chinatown evolved from this humble beginning and it is incredible to think that we can pinpoint the start of it all down to the first immigrant thanks to historical records. 


As the community expanded to include Chinese moving from the West Coast to the East business grew to include restaurants and laundry services, however as the community grew so did the prevalence of gangs or associations which were formed based on family alliances and community ties from back home .


These groups controlled loans and development and with the population being mostly men due to the incredible distance and hardship of the immigration journey exacerbated by the cultural clan mentality, violence became a common occurrence. 


The area known as Five Points was once the most dangerous neighborhood in the city in the late 19th century, It is now the only park in Chinatown and is called Columbus park. As the nation continued to develop and more Asian immigrants began arriving Chinatown boomed and expanded to include the areas it encompasses today, and while gang and clan relations are sometimes strained the neighborhood is considered very safe and is home to Cantonese and Fuzhou residents with Cantonese and Mandarin being the languages most often spoken. 


All schools in the area are taught in English and Chinese. Signs are written in both languages, and the facades of many buildings have been decorated with an ethnic theme. The area of Chinatown is beginning to encroach on what was Little Italy as the population of immigrants and second generation residents continues to increase. Import businesses are huge in electronics, textiles and leather goods to name a few and Chinatown is a favorite local destination for its fantastic and cheap fruit and vegetable markets. The array of herbs spices and medicines are beyond compare, many a New York Sunday is spent wandering the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy and then dragging the bags full of weird and wonderful finds home. 


The Italian community while still present and strong in commerce is minimal residential due to the Chinese residents buying out all the real estate and the fact that most Italian immigrants were able to move out of the neighborhood which has notoriously small apartments once they earned enough money to do so yet still keep their businesses in the area.  The streets of Mulberry between Broome and Canal are the only remaining part of Little Italy with a large concentration of commerce and business being devoted to restaurants and coffee shops serving pastry and gelatto.


There are a few meat and cheese shops as well, but mostly the area is called Little Italy out of respect for the bygone days when the residents were fresh off the boat from Italy and the smell of garlic infused everything for a mile. 


The two neighborhoods combined to make up one historic district of the city as of 2010 and no trip to the city is complete without a visit (Sundays are great because you can hit the big DimSum Feasts and then head iver to little Italy and grab a coffe and pastry.


We suggest the following activities in the Italian section:  The Feast Of San Genaro, Ferarras for pastry,  Il Coccio Ceramics, Dipalos for food shopping, Umbertos for clams on the half shell, Da Nico for everything Italian.


and in Chinatown: The Chinese New Year Festival,  Pearl River Mart for shopping (Grab some silky Pyjamas they are great or a robe also very cool gifts available !), Mahayana Buddhist Temple,  Kam Man foods..Any of the DIM SUM Restaurants are a must hit location for either lunch or dinner. Some are open late some open very early so check the timings first.


Try the following places: Jing Fong, Pings, DimSum a gogo, The vegetarian Dim Sum House,  Just wandering around Chinatown or Little Italy is a New York Tradition it is one of those places where it is best to have a loose idea of your time schedule get lost and have some fun ! South Street Seaport and the WTC site are not far either also there is Wall St or Governors Island which is a fantastic stop over ,during the summers break.