Take the A Train to Little Guyana

Little Guyana. South Ozone Park, Queens, New York City.

Sri Lankans have gathered on Staten Island, Arabs in Brooklyn, Ghanaians in the Bronx: A guide to the new immigrant enclaves of New York City, by KIRK SEMPLE for The New York Times. I have just included here the Guyanese neighborhood, as that is the only Caribbean community featured. For the rest of the article, photos and maps follow the link below.

On an old building at 12 St. Marks Place, hovering above the sushi counters and tattoo parlors, is an inscription chiseled in the stone facade: Deutsch-Amerikanische Schützen Gesellschaft. It marks the location of the German-American Shooting Society clubhouse, long defunct, and is a rare vestige of the German immigrant community that dominated the East Village and the Lower East Side for much of the 19th century.

Known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany, the community had German saloons and social clubs, German theaters and churches, German stores and workshops, and, of course, tens of thousands of German residents.

Little Germany is long gone — the clubhouse now houses a Yoga to the People studio — and other European enclaves that once defined immigrant life in New York City have also faded or disappeared altogether.

But in their place, a welter of immigrant neighborhoods have formed, populated by newcomers from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. This shift was triggered by the passage of immigration reform legislation in 1965, which opened the door to greater numbers of non-Europeans and changed the ethnic composition of the United States.

Since 1970, the number of foreign-born New Yorkers has more than doubled, to about three million, or 37 percent of the city’s total population, according to the Census Bureau. About 32 percent of the city’s immigrants today came from Latin America, 26 percent from Asia, 20 percent from non-Hispanic Caribbean nations, 17 percent from Europe and 4 percent from Africa.

As with earlier waves of immigrants, many of the newcomers fled economic hardship, armed conflict and other adversity, and have settled near their compatriots for convenience and mutual support, organically forming communities within the ethnic mosaic of the city.

Here are 10 such newer enclaves — the Kleindeutschlands of the 21st century — in various states of evolution. Because the foods and goods of home are such a central part of these communities, we have included places to find typical fare in each neighborhood, as well as retail spots that cater to the immigrant population. Think of them as possible starting points for exploration.

Guyanese

On a Friday afternoon in early spring, his work done for the day, Kawal P. Totaram leaned back in his desk chair in his Richmond Hill law office on Liberty Avenue and dreamed of summer.

“You will be inundated by the different whiffs of curry and roti,” he began. “Your ears will be jarred by chutney music and Indian music. You’ll see women wearing short skirts and saris, men without a shirt, people with their cups, vendors yelling, the guys cursing. You’ll have the bars packed with young men drinking rum.” He smiled. This, he said, was Guyanese Richmond Hill at its fullest.

There are about 140,000 Guyanese immigrants living in New York City, according to the latest American Community Survey figures, making them the fifth-largest foreign-born population in the city. While many Afro-Guyanese immigrants have settled among other Afro-Caribbean immigrants in places like Canarsie and Flatbush in Brooklyn, Guyanese of East Asian descent are concentrated in large numbers in Richmond Hill and neighboring Ozone Park.

The lively Liberty Avenue and its tributaries are lined with roti shops, restaurants and bakeries like Sybil’s Bakery & Restaurant (132-17 Liberty Avenue; 718-835-9235), two branches of Little Guyana Bake Shop (116-04 Liberty Avenue, 718-843-6530, and 124-11 Liberty Avenue, 718-843-4200), and The Hibiscus Restaurant & Bar (124-18 101st Avenue; 718- 849-4225); shops selling all manner of goods, from spices to saris, like Dave West Indian Imports (98-07 97th Avenue; 718-323-1200); dancing schools and political clubs; “rum shops”; and community associations. The neighborhood is peppered with mosques, temples and churches to accommodate the population’s Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

Describing life in the diaspora, Mr. Totaram said, “As I put it, you go to bed in America, you sleep in Guyana and you wake up back in America.” Still, for Guyanese immigrants, Richmond Hill, when viewed from the right angle, can be a pretty good approximation of home.

For the original report go to http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/06/09/nyregion/new-york-citys-newest-immigrant-enclaves.html?hp

One thought on “Take the A Train to Little Guyana

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