Chinatown, Little Italy unite to preserve, promote

By Khiara Ortiz

The launching of a new marketing campaign aimed at showcasing 17 cultural and architectural landmarks in Chinatown and Little Italy was announced recently at the Old St. Patrick’s Church Youth Center on Mulberry St.

A variety of walking tour maps, brochures, banners and a Web site will provide information on the businesses, tenements, row houses and churches that have shaped the lives of millions of immigrants for more than 200 years. The aim of the campaign — funded through a partnership of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, Chinatown Partnership L.D.C. (Local Development Corporation), Little Italy Merchants Association and local businesses — is to increase tourism in these two neighborhoods that have yet to fully recover from 9/11, according to the organizers. Their goal is to create new jobs and preserve the neighborhoods’ historical character.

“We are proud that we have been able to serve as a bridge between these two great communities that have done so much to shape New York City,” said Victor Papa, president of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, a Lower Manhattan nonprofit housing developer. “We want to make sure that our collective history is not forgotten and that a vital link to the past does not get discarded under the guise of economic progress.”

In 2010, Two Bridges led the effort to have Chinatown and Little Italy declared as a single, nationally significant historic district, and now the neighborhoods are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“People don’t really know where Little Italy and Chinatown are,” noted Papa. “They have absolutely no idea how close they are to the World Trade Center.”

“A central goal of this campaign is to encourage some of the estimated 4 million to 5 million annual visitors to the World Trade Center site to visit nearby Chinatown and Little Italy,” said Wellington Chen, executive director of Chinatown Partnership L.D.C.

This culturally rich area of Manhattan is “not really promoted in the tourist trade,” Papa pointed out. “The story of how Italian history is portrayed is very sad. People are frustrated by the images that are portrayed in shows like ‘Jersey Shore’ and ‘The Sopranos’.” He noted that Chinese are depicted through stereotypes as “sinister and evil.” The upcoming Marco Polo Day on Fri., Oct. 14, will draw attention to the “linkage between East and West,” he said.

The full-color walking tour map and brochure of the historic district will be available at NYC & Company kiosks and at local businesses, and distributed near the Trade Center site for a limited time.