Skip to content
CityLab
Justice

Keeping the Memory of Manhattan's 'Little Syria' Alive

Community activists are trying to preserve what’s left of the old New York neighborhood, and to memorialize what’s gone.
A man wearing a fez sells drinks in the Syrian quarter of New York City in the early 1900s.
A man wearing a fez sells drinks in the Syrian quarter of New York City in the early 1900s.Bain Collection/Library of Congress

In recent months, numerous politicians—from governors and mayors to presidential candidateshave spoken out against accepting the Syrian refugees that President Obama pledged to take in. The rhetoric presented an image of immigrants of the Middle East, often ominously referred to as “that part of the world,” as threatening, untrustworthy, and foreign.

But Syrians, among other Arabs, are no strangers to America. They have a long and rich history in the U.S., and have made a place for themselves in cities around the country. And it all started in New York.