Little Germany Became Little India
Our Town downtown
July 17, 2006
On the corner of 2nd Avenue and 6th, there’s a bright mural of a beach scene. “A Sunny Fort Lauderdale Day,” it reads. It could be a joke; this is a shady street with cheap bicycles chained up in front of graffiti-blemished shop gates. A quick Web search reveals that it’s just an ad from the Greater Fort Lauderdale visitors bureau.
A long line of cars is oddly, double parked. Most of them are empty. Several of the bicycles have baskets and a few of them have handmade signs stuck to their seats instructing their owners to park elsewhere in the future.
When the gates roll up at around noon the garbage that’s been sitting in front of the shops will disappear, and so will the graffiti.
The garbage bags are too thin, and residents can tell when one of them has a tear, because that’s when they hear the seagulls, Chuck Walsh, who has a real estate company here, says in a telephone interview.
At dinnertime, the hawkers will emerge from the shops and urge all passersby to take advantage of their dinner deals.
This is Curry Row or Little India, not Curry Hill. (That’s in Midtown.) To Richard Ruben, a chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), it’s Curry Lane.
Ruben says it’s “highly doubtful,” that this strip of South Asian restaurants shares a single kitchen, despite an urban legend that says as much. “If anything it’s [because] they all serve the same food” he says.
Juventino Avila, who also teaches at ICE says it just wouldn’t be possible for the restaurants to share a kitchen. “…It’s an entire block.” He knows that some of the restaurants have open kitchens, so if cooks were going back and forth between the buildings, customers would know it. And it would be discovered by food inspectors no matter what.
What happened here
One of the greatest tragedies in New York history was set in motion.
The Greek Revival at 323 has been the Community Synagogue (orthodox) since 1940, but was St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church several decades earlier.
In the late 19th Century, the neighborhood was known as Kleindeutschland or Little Germany. St. Mark’s’ congregants were German, and on June 15, 1904, they chartered a steamboat, as they often did, to take them to a recreation spot called Locust Grove on the Long Island Sound. Just after their boat, the General Slocum, passed through the Hell Gate (the channel of the East River between Wards Island and Astoria) it caught fire. Over 1,000 people died, eclipsed only by the number killed in the 2001 Trade Center attacks.
By 1910, Yorkville was a much bigger German area. Only 10 percent of German-born residents lived in Little Germany.
Walsh says he is not aware of any sale properties on the block at the moment. Most of the buildings are “walkup tenements with four apartments per floor.” The other buildings are “20-footers,” several of which are 1-family houses.
1,800-2,100/month for one bedrooms, and 2,300-2,600/month for 2 bedrooms, which are rare. Studios average between 1,500-1,600/month. “The apartments hit the market and they’re gone in the blink of an eye” Jim Taipovic of Matel Realty, says.
Food and Drink
South Asian Brick Lane Curry House; Taj Mahal; Angon; Raj Mahal; Calcutta; Spice Cove; Sonali; Panna; Mitali East; Banjara; Gandhi; Baluchi’s (2nd Avenue). Other restaurants Bamboo House (on 2nd, Chinese/Japanese); Gasparino’s (Italian); Awash (Ethiopian); Mara’s Homemade (Southern/Cajun); Mancora (on 1st Avenue, Peruvian); Zerza (Moroccan)Groceries Met Foodmarkets (2nd Avenue); Village Magazine Cigar & Gourmet Food (2nd Avenue)
Chuck Walsh’s Apartment Agency; Matel Realty
Village Magazine; Bamboo House (2nd Avenue)
Self Reliance (NY) F.C.U.
97 2nd Ave Launderette
Community Synagogue/Max D. Raiskin Center; Middle Collegiate Church (2nd Avenue)
Health and Wellness
Block Drug Stores (2nd Avenue); Odyssey House Teen Leadership Center
Zhou’s Service, Inc. (bodywork, including acupuncture)
Internet Access (Mr. Fresh Bread, 2nd Avenue); Payphone bank (2nd Avenue)
Sources: Community Synagogue/Max D. Raiskin Center Web site; NY Songlines; general-slocum.com; Bartleby.com (The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition); “AIA Guide to New York City, Fourth Edition”; Lower East Side Tenement Museum Enclopedia online.
-- Matt Elzweig