By: Raymond Guarini
In a recent poll among Dyker Heights community members, there was an overwhelming warmth for the concept of designating the strip of 13th avenue between 75th St. and 86th St. into a Little Italy commercial and historic district. Neighboring Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Bay Ridge and Borough Park, Dyker Heights has long maintained an Italian identity reinforced by many Italians in its neighboring communities. The stretch specified in our poll includes at least a dozen Italian American businesses and an Italian National Parish, St. Bernadette. The fact that the avenue is cut off by the Golf course on 86th and there is a Knights of Columbus building on that corner as well, provides a strong anchor to the north side of the avenue and would help give the district designation the feeling of a beginning and an end. If you would like to sign a petition that can be submitted to local political leaders to express your interest in this designation please click the link: http://chng.it/rDYtxH8qtV
Although 18th Avenue has always been known as the cat’s meow of Italian avenues, it’s recent transformation into a multicultural community, mainly Chinese and minutely Italian, has left less inspiration to declare any part of the avenue an historically significant Little Italy district and even less so a commercial district.
I recently touched base with Nick Pesce, the owner of La Bella Marketplace, to ask his opinion about such a designation for these eleven blocks along Dyker Heights Boulevard and his response was very positive. Nick said he absolutely supports the idea. La Bella serves as a virtual hub for all things Italian and is a beacon of old world delicacies that attracts Italians and everyone alike from near and far.
It would also be inspiring to see other Italian businesses open in the area supported by such a community designation. The businesses that exist along this strip presently are mostly Italian, and in light of the pandemic, it wouldn’t hurt for this concept to serve as an economic booster shot to an area that’s been hard hit.
Our concept would include wall murals, lamp post banners with portraits or photographs of community veterans of Italian descent, feast lights going across the avenue, fire hydrants painted in green, white and red, and possibly more ways to symbolize the Little Italy designation.
Such a designation is certainly befitting as Dyker Heights is one of the last true Italian enclaves in the five boroughs, especially Brooklyn.