Only 5% of the nabe’s 8,600 residents identified as Italian-American in the 2010 census, according to The New York Times. Even Mulberry Street, which clings desperately to its roots, has gradually lost Italian restaurants to souvenir and gift shops, and rising rents.
“The restaurants do not own the buildings so they’re really subject to the lease and those leases get higher and higher [rent costs],” said Victor Papa, president of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, a nonprofit that works with the lower east side of Manhattan.
The surrounding neighborhoods absorbed parts of Little Italy years ago, starting with Chinatown from the south, then SoHo from the west and NoLIta from the north.
This, along with more young professionals and families moving into the area, is creating a drastically different neighborhood than what was here 50 years ago, when half the residents were Italian-American.
“I think Little Italy is here under the memory of the name,” said Nir Gilboa, co-owner of the local real estate firm Nolita Group. “Give it a few years and it will jump straight from Chinatown to SoHo.”