Between Mott and Mulberry

Little Italy Has Official Edge in Neighborhood Turf War

City Council member Kathryn Freed accuses city agency critics of playing the race card and lauds the February raid, saying, "It took [the city] long enough!"

But the mayor did little to allay suspicions of bias when, at his March 30 town hall meeting in Chinatown, he cracked jokes at the expense of an Asian constituent who suggested that the special district designation "no longer reflects the makeup of the neighborhood."

To titters from an audience packed with supporters, the mayor responded, wide-eyed, "You want me to remove the name of Little Italy!" When the constituent reminded him, "You're the mayor of all the people," Hizzoner joked, "I'm usually good at making tough decisions, but if I have to go against my mother and ancestors and family, this could be really tough!"

Perhaps his hilarity was merely an aftereffect of having just had six Asian protesters thrown out of the public meeting (and subsequently arrested), but meeting attendee Debby Corper believes the mayor took liberties based on the assumption that the Asian community "is not a very strong constituency."

Mott Street merchants advise their Mulberry Street counterparts to crank pasta while the sun still shines. Mott retailers are surmounting what Chan calls a "lack of unity" by forming a business association, and the Little Italy-loving mayor's term will soon be up.

But with wealth and the latest trends flooding south from hip Nolita, one community board member observed, the Mott-Mulberry rivalry may soon be outmoded.

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