Neighborhood Organizations Plan Marco Polo Weekend

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.

Last fall,  neighborhood leaders came together to celebrate New York’s decision to list the district in the state register of historic places (the federal government followed suit four months later). The occasion was declared the first annual “Marco Polo Day,” in honor of the Italian explorer’s fabled journey to China in 1271.

Recently, Two Bridges, as well as several key civic groups in Chinatown and Little Italy, announced elaborate plans for a Marco Polo weekend, a celebration to be held October 15-17. Among the events being planned: a fashion show, a parade dedicated to Marco Polo’s travels along The Silk Road (incorporating period costumes and floats), live performances, a Saturday night movie festival and family-style dinner and athletic events.

To produce and promote the event, Two Bridges has partnered with CSE, a sports and entertainment firm that works with many Fortune 500 companies. The Chinatown Partnership, the Chinese Benevolent Association and the Little Italy Merchants Association are all represented on the Marco Polo Weekend planning committee.

A main goal of the event is to re-establish the neighborhood as a destination for both New Yorkers and tourists. Many business owners in Little Italy and Chinatown have never fully recovered from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Marco polo Weekend is a major part of their strategy to increase foot traffic in the neighborhood and to generate positive publicity.

Papa said he believes the Chinatown-Little Italy Historic District adds to the neighborhood’s cache, not only as a tourist destination but also as a place businesses look to for investment and commercial opportunities. As an added benefit, the project has brought together many organizations with shared interests.

The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council is a developer of affordable housing and an advocacy organization that fights to protect the interests of the Lower East Side’s diverse communities.