Photo by 6sqft
It’s hard to miss the two floors of flashing, chili pepper light-adorned Indian restaurants on First Avenue and Sixth Street in the East Village. The origin of these two stacked eateries, though, is much more frequently overlooked, as is the fact that the neighborhood’s adjacent “Little India” is really more “Little Bengal.” New York’s main Bangladeshi community is often cited as being in Jackson Heights, which boasts a large South Asian population and a great representation of its diverse culture, including the beloved Patel Brothers grocery store. Less well known is that East New York also has a large Bangladeshi community, and in the 1990s, the East Village’s “Curry Row” worked to identify itself as Indian, a culture more Americans at the time were familiar with. Ahead, we look at the whole history and break down the best places to experience Bangladeshi culture in NYC.
New Amsterdam in 1671, via Wiki Commons
New York is the largest Latino city in the United States. Over 2.4 million New Yorkers, or nearly one third of the population, identify as Hispanic or Latino. The city’s thriving Latin community marks the most recent chapter in the history of Latin New York, which stretches over 400 years.
In the spring of 1613, Juan Rodriguez (also known as Jan Rodrigues), a free mixed-race Dominican man from Santo Domingo, became the first non-Native American person to live in what would become New York City. He arrived aboard a Dutch trading vessel, declined to leave with the rest of the crew, and stayed on until 1614, as a fur trader. Rodriguez’s settlement pre-dates the first settlers of New Amsterdam by a full 11 years, making him the first immigrant, the first black person, the first merchant, and the first Latino to live in New York City.
Learn more about Early Latin NY!
When the Piccirilli Brothers arrived in New York from Italy in 1888, they brought with them a skill– artistry and passion for stone-carving unrivaled in the United States. At their studio at 467 East 142nd Street, in the Mott Haven Section of the Bronx, the brothers turned monumental slabs of marble into some of the nation’s recognizable icons, including the senate pediment of the US Capitol Building and the statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits resolutely in the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.
The Piccirillis not only helped set our national narrative in stone but they also left an indelible mark on New York City. They carved hundreds of commissions around the five boroughs, including the 11 figures in the pediment of the New York Stock exchange, the “four continents” adorning the Customs House at Bowling Green, the two stately lions that guard the New York Public Library, both statues of George Washington for the Arch at Washington Square, and upwards of 500 individual carvings at Riverside Church.
Chisel away at this tale
While we take for granted the paths and roads we use on a daily basis, it’s interesting to find out how they came to be. It’s not a new concept that paths worn by the comings and goings of early dwellers and subsequent settlers in a particular area became roads, streets and thoroughfares, often with names that reflect their beginnings. Brooklyn Heights Blog (via Viewing NYC) shares some insight into Brooklyn’s familiar roads that began as Native American trails on a 1946 map titled “Indian Villages, Paths, Ponds and Places in Kings County.”
Peruse the map
Roger Horne, a Mohawk Ironworker in the Raising Gang, ca. 1970 via the Smithsonian
The Empire State Building. The George Washington Bridge. The United Nations. The Woolworth Building. 30 Rock. The Seagram Building. Lincoln Center. The Waldorf Astoria. Virtually all of New York’s most iconic structures were raised in part by Mohawk Native American ironworkers. Since 1916, when Mohawk men made their way to New York to work on the Hell Gate Bridge, ironworkers from two Native communities, Akwesasne (which straddles Ontario, Quebec, and New York State) and Kahnawake (near Montreal), have been “walking iron” across the city.
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Historic Hunterfly Road Houses via the Brooklyn Historical Society
It’s a mighty sounding moniker, but the name “King’s County” also speaks to Brooklyn’s less-than-democratic origins. At the turn of the 19th century, the city of Brooklyn was known as the “slaveholding capital” of New York State and was home to the highest concentration of enslaved people north of the Mason-Dixon Line. But, after New York State abolished slavery in 1827, free black professionals bought land in what is now Crown Heights and founded Weeksville, a self-supporting community of African American Freedman, which grew to become the second-largest free black community in Antebellum America. By 1855, over 520 free African Americans lived in Weeksville, including some of the leading activists in the Abolitionist and Equal Suffrage movements.
More about free black Brooklyn
PS General Slocum; photo via Wikimedia
On June 15, 1904, a disaster of unprecedented proportions took place in New York City, resulting in the loss of over 1,000 lives, mostly women and children. This largely forgotten event was the greatest peacetime loss of life in New York City history prior to the September 11th attacks, forever changing our city and the ethnic composition of today’s East Village.
It was on that day that the ferry General Slocum headed out from the East 3rd Street pier for an excursion on Long Island, filled with residents of what was then called Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. This German-American enclave in today’s East Village was then the largest German-speaking community in the world outside of Berlin and Vienna.