First Arab-American Neighborhood In Grave Danger
Lower Manhattan Was Once The Center of Arab Life in U.S.
Most Americans, and even many Arab-Americans, are unaware that Lower Manhattan -- along Washington Street from Battery Park through the 9/11 Memorial to Chambers Street -- was once the center of Arab-American life in the United States, then called "Little Syria" or the "Mother Colony." Obscured from history as the result of the construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the World Trade Center, its physical destruction was compounded by vanishing memory within the Arab-American community, reinforced by an atmosphere unprepared to acknowledge that the Arab-American story of hard-work and community -- both Christian and Muslim -- began at the very location the violent tragedy occurred. Fortunately, by a kind of miracle, three buildings remain and are physically connected: 103 Washington Street, an Arab church that served as a Irish bar for many years; 105-107 Washington Street, a community house inaugurated by the governor of New York to serve the Little Syria neighborhood; and 109 Washington Street, a tenement building still containing apartments. Tens of millions of tourists every year will walk between Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum -- all through historical Arab New York! -- and these three buildings deserve to be preserved as landmarks to leave some general trace of an ethnic neighborhood that has been devastated like no other in the city.
Save the Community House
The most urgent priority is to send letters to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission encouraging them to preserve the "Little Syria" Community House at 105-107 Washington Street. Community Board One in Lower Manhattan passed a resolution encouraging this action, but the Commission needs to hear from more Americans that this disappearing heritage and this building are valued. There is a danger that this building could be demolished in the coming months, and we need to act quickly.
Lobby for Recognition
Unlike nearly every other ethnic neighborhood in New York City, Little Syria has no signs, no memorials, and no statues to recall the tens of thousands of immigrants who passed through. We believe that the 9/11 Museum should acknowledge the long Arab history at the location in order to dispel stereotypes, and that the city should erect an informational sign communicating this heritage to the millions of tourists who shall walk within this neighborhood.
Daily News Story on National September 11 Museum and “Little Syria”
May 18, 2013
Today the New York Daily News posted this informative piece by Carol Kuruvilla about our efforts to preserve the neighborhood and to encourage the National September 11 Museum to include some recognition. We want to emphasize that we only went public with our frustrations after several years of local historians asking the Museum to incorporate [...]
Community Board One Resolution on “Little Syria” Historical Signage
May 16, 2013
On May 1, 2013, the Financial District Committee of Community Board One unanimously advanced the below resolution advocating signage for “Little Syria.” While not all members necessarily voted or were present, the committee includes Edward Sheffe, CHAIR; Susan Cole, CO-CHAIR; Deron Charkoudian; Linda Gerstman; Mariama James; Michael Ketring; Joel Kopel; Elizabeth Lamere; Megan McHugh; Patricia [...]
Wall Street Journal Piece on Little Syria (Jennifer Weiss)
March 26, 2013
This morning the Wall Street Journal has a wonderful print and video piece about our campaign to protect the remaining complex of three historic buildings on Washington Street in Little Syria. This is indeed an urgent situation, and we would ask that people contact the Landmarks Preservation Commission (Chairman Robert Tierney) and Mayor Bloomberg, asking [...]
Salaam Club in New York Hosts Holiday Hafleh To Benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
December 14, 2012
On Saturday, December 8, our friends at the Salaam Club of New York City hosted a holiday hafleh (the Arabic equivalent of “party”) to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the internationally-known pediatric treatment and research facility in Memphis, Tennessee. Some people may not realize that the hospital was founded by popular Lebanese-American entertainer Danny [...]
Walking Tour of Washington Street on November 10 (With Joe Svehlak and Esther Regelson)
November 6, 2012
During Hurricane Sandy, lower Washington Street was flooded to near waist-high levels. Power is still trickling back, and the basements of most buildings were flooded, leaving some damage. However, a few of the neighborhood’s great advocates — local historian Joe Svehlak and community activist Esther Regelson — are still going forward with a walking tour [...]