A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 05, 2010
Little Afghanistan (Flushing, Queens)

New York City is home to a small Afghan community. Flushing has been called “Little Afghanistan” since at least 1988, although the community numbers only a few thousand. Habibullah (Habib) Mayar has been frequently described in news articles (see below) as the unofficial mayor of Flushing’s Little Afghanistan. Most Afghan Americans are Muslim, by many of those who live in Jamaica, Queens are Jews.

A restaurant called “Little Afghanistan” opened at 106 West 43rd Street in Manhattan in 1980. Another restaurant called “Little Afghanistan” opened at 25-70 Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens, in 1996.


Wikipedia: Flushing, Queens
Flushing, founded in 1645, is a neighborhood in the north central part of the City of New York borough of Queens, ten miles (16 km) east of Manhattan.

Flushing was one of the first Dutch settlements on Long Island. Today, it is one of the largest and most diverse neighborhoods in New York City. Flushing’s diversity is reflected by the numerous ethnic groups that reside there, including people of Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, European and African American ancestry. It is part of the Fifth Congressional District, which encompasses the entire northeastern shore of Queens County, and extends into neighboring Nassau County. Flushing is served by five railroad stations on the Long Island Rail Road Port Washington Branch, and the New York City Subway Number 7 subway line has its terminus at Main Street. The intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue is the third busiest intersection in New York City behind only Times Square and Herald Square.
(...)
The northeastern section of Flushing near Bayside continues to maintain large Italian and Greek presences that are reflected in its many Italian and Greek bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants. The northwest is a mix of Jews, Greeks, and Italians. Most of central Flushing is an ethnic mix of European Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.

An area south of Franklin Avenue is a concentration of Indian, Pakistani, Afghan and Bangladeshi markets.

Wikipedia: Afghan American
An Afghan American refers to an American with heritage or origins in Afghanistan.
(...)
According to the United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 65,972 Afghan-Americans living in the country. According to the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC, the over-all Afghan population in the United States is around 300,000. While 30,000 reside in Northern Virginia, approximately 65,000 Afghans comprise the diaspora community based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some figures estimate that there may only be about 80,000 Afghan-Americans but the actual number may be 200,000 to as high as 300,000. Nevertheless, such higher figures may be an exaggeration, as a recent census from early 2000s found approximately 9,000 of Afghan ancestry living in New York metro area, considerably lower than the 20,000 regularly cited. Although, the 300,000 figure is a commonly accepted number. Flushing, Queens has a substantial amount of Afghan Americans.
(...)
Religious background
The overwhelming majority of Afghan Americans are Muslim, which includes both Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. There is a small community of Afghan Jews in New York City, numbering about 200 families many of whom speak neither Pashto or Dari (Persian), with some even emphasizing that they “weren’t really Afghans by definition” but that they “just lived over there” in Afghanistan.

New York (NY) Times
RESTAURANTS; by Mimi Sheraton; From Afghanistan and south of border.
Published: January 2, 1981
‘’DO you realize we are eating in the only Afghan restaurant in New York?’’ a man asked his friend at the two-month-old Pamir. ‘’I doubt that,’’ the other man said. ‘’I can’t believe there is only one of anything in this city.’’

Such pride in New York is well-founded, because Pamir, on Second Avenue, between 74th and 75th Streets, is indeed the second Afghan restaurant in town, the first being the one-star Little Afghanistan, which opened a year ago on West 43d Street.

Two restaurants may not indicate a trend, but there must be enough evidence of a sympathetic clientele to inspire a second investment in the presentation of the exotic, entertaining and satisfying cuisine of Afghanistan.

13 May 1988, Christian Science Monitor, “Afghans in US look homeward” by Sarah Talalay, pg. 3:
Habibullah Mayar, chairman of the Afghan Community in America, an organization dedicated to refugees here and in Afgharustan, is a kind of mayor of the so-called Little Afghanistan section of Flushing.

4 August 1996, Newsday (Long Island, NY), “Going Afghani” by Peter M. Gianotti, pg. E4:
LITTLE AFGHANISTAN 25-70 Steinway St Astoria 718-932-9380. A newcomer in Queens, Little Afghanistan, opened last month. 

New York (NY) Daily News
BOROUGH BITES AFFORDABLE DINING
BY DICK SHERIDAN
Friday, September 5th 1997, 2:03AM
LITTLE AFGHANISTAN
25-70 Steinway St.
Astoria
CUISINE: Afghani.
PHONE: (718) 932-9380.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $3.95-$8.95; main courses, $8-$17.95
3 STARS Daily News ratings from zero to four stars are based on the total dining experience - food quality, atmosphere, service and value.
COMMENTS: Astoria is usually associated with fine Greek restaurants. While there are many of these, the community also plays host to outstanding purveyors of other international cuisines as well.

One such restaurant is Little Afghanistan.

11 October 2001, Newsday (Long Island, NY), “Afghans on LI Denounce Taliban” by Bart Jones, pg. A44: 
Habib Mayar, the longtime unofficial “mayor” of Little Afghanistan in Flushing, home to New York’s largest concentration of Afghans, said his position is…

Village Voice (New York, NY)
The Mayor of Little Afghanistan
A Local Face in the Effort to Form an Interim Government in Afghanistan

By Matthew Craft Tuesday, Nov 20 2001
On Habib Mayar’s glass coffee table in his Long Island home stands a large, framed picture of Mayar with Ronald Reagan. Mayar was summoned to Washington in 1985 for Reagan’s annual Afghanistan Day.
(...)
Mayar, walking at the head of local parades, got to be back-slapping buddies with then senator Alfonse D’Amato and earned the nickname “the Mayor” of Flushing’s Little Afghanistan.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
U.S.: Afghan Jews Keep Traditions Alive Far From Home
June 19, 2007
By Nikola Krastev
NEW YORK, June 19, 2007 (RFE/RL)—More than 200 Jewish families of Afghan descent live in the New York City borough of Queens—the largest group of Afghan Jews outside of Israel. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, there is officially only one Jew left, Zebolan Simanto, a 45-year old caretaker of a synagogue in Kabul.

The focal point for Afghan Jews in New York is the congregation Anshei Shalom, which is also a spiritual home to Jews from Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Russia, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
(Anshei Shalom is located in Jamaica, Queens—ed.)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • (0) Comments • Sunday, September 05, 2010 • Permalink