Creating a Park as a Tribute to the Memory of the Historic Downtown Area known as Little Syria

 

 

 

Images to be used in Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza by artist, Sara Ouhaddou for Percent for Art

The Department of Cultural Affairs of New York City, through its Percent for Art Program, issued a call for artists to submit plans for artwork that would recognize and honor the history of the downtown neighborhood known as Little Syria. The winner, French-Moroccan-artist, Sara Ouhaddou, was announced and moving forward with her installations, she has given us a glimpse of what now graces Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza, using Arabic calligraphy in asphalt and stone.

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has brought together two green spaces, creating a 20,000 square foot park, to commemorate the influential writers and poets associated with Little Syria. The location is at the convergence of Trinity Place, Greenwich Street, Edgar Street (known to be the shortest street in Manhattan), and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Exit the former neighborhood known as Little Syria whose immigrant community was displaced with the construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in 1953.

 

Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza, which will pay tribute to the Little Syria community, will also provide a pedestrian link from the 911 Memorial to Battery Park. It must also be noted that the Park’s namesake, Elizabeth Berger, who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan, was president of the Downtown Alliance for thirty years

In 2017, the New York City Department of Records held the exhibit, Little Syria: An Immigrant Community’s Life and Legacy at Metropolitan College of New York.

Exhibit, Little Syria, New York from 1880-1940

The exhibit was a pictorial timeline of the thriving community that existed from the 1880s to the 1940s.

The mostly Christian Syrian/Lebanese immigrants settled in the Lower West Side.  Educated and multilingual, it became a hub for writers, poets, newspaper editors, essayists, and novelists of Arab descent, and it is where the Pen League was formed.

Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza proposed design. Image via nycgovparks.org

 

Descendants of the original group of immigrants in Little Syria can still be found in this neighborhood today. Three remaining structures still stand and tours of this historic area are given by the Washington Street Historical Society.