Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Why is NYC’s Chinatown able to thrive next to Little Italy? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
The reason Little Italy has shrunk is simply because Italians over the past 50 years have integrated fully into American society. No longer are Italian immigrants denigrated with racial slurs and physical attacks and overt (or even hidden) discrimination: I’d bet there’s an entire generation of American kids and young adults who don’t even know that words like “dago” and “wop” and “guinea” are abhorrent racial slurs or who they refer to. I bet most have never even heard of these words.
Consequently, Italian immigrants no longer feel a need to cluster in a single neighborhood for familiarity, for safety/protection, or for close access to Italian ingredients like basil or parmesan cheese or good olive oil or good Italian cured meats or whatever. And as a result, Italians have moved out of Little Italy and dispersed throughout the greater New York City metropolitan area. And as they sold those properties in Little Italy, Chinese immigrants seized the opportunity and bought. There’s no reason for a turf war: Chinese immigrants aren’t taking over territory for which Italian immigrants have any continued desire or need.
It might interest you to know that one of the reasons Chinatown is so close to Little Italy is because the Italian-Americans were one of the few groups willing to sell or rent real estate to Chinese American buyers back in the day. I don’t think the Italians ever had much of a problem living alongside their fellow immigrants who happened to come from China.
Little Italy is now mostly just a tourist trap — you know that, right? If the leaders of the NYC Mafia have any interest in Little Italy, I’d bet that like most Italian Americans, it’s tangential and minor at best. They probably don’t give a rat’s ass about Little Italy at all.
Worth noting that Manhattan’s Chinatown is following in the footsteps of Little Italy. It’s mostly just a tourist attraction now as well, as the Chinese slowly follow the Italians in becoming more integrated into American society, not needing the protection of a “Chinatown” and dispersing. And Chinatown is slowly being taken over by an insidious, evil, despicable, sleazy group deserving of contempt and hatred: GODDAMN DIRTY HIPSTERS.