If you walked past 118 Mulberry Street (where Umberto’s Clam House is located) over the weekend, you might have noticed this creation, “Christmasaurus,” from Philly street artist NoseGo. It was part of a larger collaboration between the Little Italy Merchants’ Association and the Little Italy Street Art Project. But the mural did not last long. It’s now been crudely painted over.
There’s always been a close relationship between adjacent neighborhoods Chinatown and Little Italy. One of the most visible demonstrations of these ties occurs during the East Meets West Christmas Parade (Dec. 22 this year), a joint celebration that’s taken place during the past several years. This year, however, groups in the two communities are trying to form even closer bonds — in an effort to save local businesses struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Ralph Tramontana, head of the Little Italy Merchants’ Association, told us this morning he fears up to 30% of the small shops and restaurants in the two neighborhoods could be forced to shutter by early spring. At his own business, Sambuca’s Cafe on Mulberry Street, Tramontana estimated losses from spoiled food could total $20,000. Given the very small profit margins at most Little Italy and Chinatown restaurants, he said, “it’s very tough to pay a month’s worth of bills with a week’s worth of business.”
On Saturday, it was the fifth annual “East Meets West” Christmas Parade in Little Italy and Chinatown. There were five floats; marching bands from the Boy Scouts of America, the NYPD Emerald Society and Little Italy’s own Red Mike Festival Band; Chinese Lion and Dragon Dance troupes; pop singers, including Jenna Esposito and marching groups from local community organizations; and, of course, Santa Claus. Valarie D’Elia, contributor to NY1, and New York City Comptroller John Liu were the grand marshals. Click through for more photos.
Until early spring, Most Precious Blood Church on Mulberry Street is hosting an imposing guest: an original bronze cast of “Moses,” Michelangelo’s 16th Century masterpiece. Last week, Ralph Tramontana of the Little Italy Merchants Association (and Sambuca’s Cafe) arranged for a small press showing of the statue, which has been appraised at more than $8 million.
Chuck Huller, the art dealer who helped bring “Moses” to this country said he’d love to find a buyer who will be willing to keep the statue in New York permanently. The replica is the first bronze cast made of “Moses,” the world-famous work that is part of the tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome.
Huller told us it’s fitting that the statue is on display at Most Precious Blood, not only because the church is celebrating its 125th anniversary, but because of the institution’s importance to Catholics in New York City. The church was built in 1888 because Italians were not permitted to attend Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 269 Mulberry Street.
The statue will be on display until April 1. Most Precious Blood is located at 109 Mulberry Street.
In his 20 years as a small businessman in Little Italy, Joe Maino has learned a few things. The owner of several accessory shops along Mulberry Street, he knows most of his customers are visitors from someplace other than New York City. He also knows his stores are almost totally dependent on foot traffic.
Our friends at The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council will be hosting the second annual “Marco Polo Day” on Saturday. The occasion is a celebration of the co-existence of two communities, Chinatown & Little Italy, which was inagurated last year after the creation of the Chinatown Little Italy Historic District. This year’s festivities will include marionette puppet displays from the NYC Village Halloween Parade, Superior Concept Monsters, and musical performances by ALFIO, Chinese Fremasons, The New York Chinese Opera Society and more. Grand Street, between Mott & Mulberry Streets, we be closed off for special events, which begin at noon.
Victor Papa of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council is fond of saying that Italians and Chinese in Lower Manhattan have enjoyed more harmonious relations than any ethnic groups in the city. Living side by side in Chinatown and Little Italy for generations, they’ve always (literally and figuratively) found common ground. It was this fact that led Papa to push for state and federal designation of the two neighborhoods as a single historic district.
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