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Irish-Americans in New York


Posted 5/06/2019

The Irish community is long-established in New York. Millions of people have emigrated from Ireland to New York since the 1700s. Today, Irish-Americans are one of New York's biggest groups, making up 5.3% of New York's total population. 

The largest wave of Irish emigration to New York came during the Great Famine, between 1845-1849. Over a million Irish people were forced to leave their country and headed to the east coast of America on the slow boat. These people led the way for the Irish who followed for decades to come. Irish families settled in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island and there is still a large Irish presence in many of the boroughs today. Places like Hell's Kitchen, Sunnyside, Breezy Point, Woodlawn and Bainbridge will forever be linked to Ireland. 

Hell's Kitchen
Hell's Kitchen, on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, is the historical home of Irish in New York. Irish people first settled here in the mid-1800s. This period was recalled in the 2002 film Gangs of New York starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo di Caprio. The Irish presence in Hell's Kitchen isn't as strong as it once was but there are still close ties with the area. 

Woodlawn or 'Little Ireland' is the home to many newly arrived Irish immigrants in New York. The area in north Bronx is home to The Emerald Isle Immigration Center and the Aisling Irish Community Center. There is many Irish pubs and restaurants on the neighbourhood's main street Katonah Avenue.

Bainbridge, also known as Norwood, is a more recent Irish neighbourhood in New York. Irish people started to come here in the 1970s, during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Bainbridge Avenue picked up the name Little Belfast in the 70s due to the large population from the north of Ireland living there. The Avenue itself had as many as twenty Irish pubs at one point and the whole neighbourhood eventually became known as Bainbridge. It was in one of these pubs that the well-known band Black 47 played its first gigs. Many of the Irish that lived here have since returned home but the area still has very strong links to Ireland, particularly the north. 

There are nods to Ireland all over New York City. St. Patrick's Cathedral is one of the dominant landmarks on Fifth Avenue. The cathedral was completed in 1879 and said to have been paid for with the pennies of Irish immigrants. The oldest bar in New York is still a popular drinking spot for Irish in New York. McSorley's Old Ale House on 15th Street was opened in 1854 and still has a traditional Irish-American feel. Glucksman Ireland House just off Washington Square Park is NYU's home for Irish-American Studies while Fordham University was founded in 1851 by Archbishop 'Dagger' John Hughes. The University has been a flag-bearer for Irish culture in New York. 

Famous Irish-Americans from New York
Jimmy Walker. 'Beau James', former Mayor of New York City.
Tim Mara. Founding Owner of the New York Giants. The team is currently run by his grandchildren. 
Rooney & Kate Mara. The great-granddaughters of Tim Mara are famous actors. They have appeared in films such as The Social Network and The Martian.
Charles Dolan. Owner of Cablevision and the New York Rangers.
James Dolan. Son of Charles, owner of Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks. 
John McEnroe. Winner of seven Grand Slam tennis tournaments.

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