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Little Italy has been excluded from a $20 million New York State award for Chinatown.

After discovering that Gov. Kathy Hochul gave a $20 million economic and tourism subsidy to their Chinatown neighbors, Little Italy business owners are yelling, “Mi offendo!”

Despite the fact that their companies suffered alongside those in Chinatown during the COVID-19 outbreak, civil leaders in Little Italy claim they were not even asked to jointly apply for the state subsidy.

 

It’s hard to imagine that the State of New York would favor one ethnic Manhattan neighborhood over another, especially after what our nation has recently undergone with regard to equality issues.

In this case, Chinatown is being favored at the expense of Little Italy. Chinatown-Little Italy Historic District Improvement Association chair Victor Papa wrote to Hochul on March 8.

Many of Little Italy’s companies are facing financial difficulties and may have to close or go bankrupt due to the lack of participation by its citizens, leaders, and merchants in the application process.

Ernest Lepore, president of Ferrara Bakery on Grand Street, and John “Baby John” Delutro, the “Cannoli King,” both of whom run Caffe Palermo on Mulberry Street, both signed the petition.

The $20 million “largesse… by virtue of Little Italy’s equally distressed economic situation” should have been granted to Little Italy representatives a “seat at the table” and given a “equal voice,” according to the letter, which points out that Little Italy also “serves as a beacon of cultural richness and diversity.”

The Chinatown and Little Italy Historic Districts are so interconnected that they’ve been declared a unified historic district. Some streets feature a mix of Italian and Chinese businesses and eateries.

“Any Governor should endeavor to minimize the immediate simmering, underlying hostility,” Papa remarked of the harmony between the two ‘hoods.

Former Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, now a councilwoman on the Upper West Side, submitted a $20 million grant application on behalf of the city.

Chinatown has been hit hard by anti-Asian sentiment since the coronavirus outbreak, which was dubbed the “China virus” by certain media outlets. Brewer said on Sunday that she advocated for funding for the district to help it recover.

“Chinatown will now shine even brighter and fulfill its full potential as a lively neighborhood and international art and cultural attraction, thanks to this prize.” An upward cycle of regeneration that takes on a life of its own is created by strategic public investments like this that enhances community pride, generates good publicity, and attracts private sector investments.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the money would be used to create new art and cultural space, improve connectivity, increase housing and expand green space in Chinatown to attract tourists and create a cultural home for the 1.2 million Asian American Pacific Islanders who live in the metropolitan area.

There were phone calls between Hochul’s staff and Brewer’s, as well as Little Italy activists, after The Post inquired Sunday.

A representative from Gov. Chris Christie’s office called me. A place at the table will be reserved for the Little Italy neighborhood. Brewer indicated that the money had not been released.

Governor Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement that “Governor Hochul is committed to rebuilding all of New York’s diverse communities from the pandemic, and we will continue our ongoing engagement with stakeholders and local leaders to determine the best uses of this transformative investment that will revitalize the area,” Hochul’s spokeswoman said.

There is a growing chorus of criticism from Italian-Americans in New York, pointing to the removal of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mother from a state website mentoring program and the downgrading of Columbus Day by combining it with Indigenous People’s Day, as examples of recent snubs by elected officials.

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