Little Manila Avenue: ‘Let’s make this official’

Woodside has been home to Filipino nurses and their families following the passage of the  Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

Will the Filipino American community get its honorary street sign Little Manila Avenue by October 2020? Organizers are hoping that would happen.

The street sign will be placed at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 70th Street in Woodside, Queens.

“It would be particularly meaningful to be able to install this historic Little Manila Avenue sign by October 2020 as a symbol of recognition for the contributions of the Filipino community to NYC history,” said Isabella Villacampa, Filipino American National Historical Society Metro New York Chapter president. The FilAm community celebrates October as Filipino American History Month.

At least 2,600 signatures have been gathered by the petition drive started by the organizing committee, the Little Manila Honorary Street Co-Naming Initiative. The results of that campaign will be submitted to the New York City Council, principally through Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who has thrown his support behind the proposal.

After the councilmember approves the proposal, it will be brought to a larger committee for further discussion, said Xenia Diente, one of the organizers.

For now, support continues to pour in from longtime Queens residents and business owners.

Cheryl Apicella La Rosa of Woodside stated, “This is long overdue. I mean c’mon, we have a Jollibee and a Red Ribbon here.”

Rob Jason Enate, another Woodside resident, said, “I’ve always called it Little Manila since I was 5 years old. Let’s make this official!”

“As Little Manila has been a mainstay of the Filipino American community in New York City, and with the contributions of Filipino Americans to both the city and state, the organizing committee and coalition members believe an honorary street sign highlighting and celebrating our community is needed,” the organizers said in a statement. “Especially during a time of global pandemic, in which Filipino Americans are on the front lines in both health care and small business, now, more than ever, is the time to honor this community.”

Core members of the Little Manila Honorary Street Co-Naming Initiative. From left:
Xenia Diente, Steven Raga, May Marandang, and Jaclyn Reyes

The organizers said the history of Little Manila dates back five decades.

“After the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, the U.S. became open to skilled workers from around the world. In the 1970s, New York hospitals faced nursing shortages and recruited from the Philippines, bringing many Filipino nurses and their families to Queens. Those who worked at Elmhurst Hospital settled in the surrounding neighborhoods, including Woodside, where the Filipino community has since thrived. By the 1990s, 72 percent of Philippine immigrants in New York were registered nurses,” they said.

“Presently, 54 percent of New York Filipinos live in Queens. In 2009, 13,000 of the 85,000 residents of Woodside are of Filipino descent, thus making up 15 percent of the neighborhood’s population. An estimated 86,000 Filipinos and Filipino Americans reside in NYC, making them the third-largest Asian group in New York today,” they said further.

Joseph Castillo from Phil-Am Food Mart said, “As somebody who has grown up in this neighborhood, and seeing this community come together and coalesce into Little Manila, I think this is a special moment. It captures the spirit of this community.” The Phil-Am Food Mart located at 70th Street and Roosevelt Avenue has been a family-owned and operated business since 1976.

Paz Tanjuaquio, the co-founder and director of TOPAZ Arts, a multi-use art space in Woodside, commented, “This street signage would not only be an important marker of the contributions that Filipinos have had in New York City and America. The naming of Little Manila Avenue would be profoundly uplifting at this difficult time, especially when many on the frontlines of the pandemic are Filipino health care workers.”

Waiting for a decision may take any anywhere from six to 12 months, if approved, Diente told The FilAm in an email interview.

While awaiting a decision, the organizers are suggesting keeping the campaign alive by signing and sharing the petition

Members of the community can also write letters to Van Bramer stating why 1) Little Manila is important to you and 2) How this tiny enclave has comforted you during Covid-19.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer
District Office
47-01 Queens Boulevard Suite 205
Sunnyside, NY 11104
718-383-9566 phone/ 718-383-9076 fax — With Cristina DC Pastor

© The FilAm 2020

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