Woodlawn in the Bronx was abuzz with excitement on Tuesday, July 7, as New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn brought an entourage of reporters and staff to visit “Little Ireland” in an effort to make other New Yorkers aware that you don’t have to get on a plane and travel 3,000 miles to visit the Emerald Isle.
“You just have to get in the car or get on the subway and you’re in Little Ireland,” Quinn told the Irish Voice and IrishCentral during her walkabout in Woodlawn on Tuesday.
Quinn, who was accompanied by Council member Oliver Koppell, began her tour of the Irish enclave in the Rambling House bar and restaurant on Katonah Avenue where she received her Cead Mile Failte from Irish stepdancers and Irish musicians.
Dozens of member of the community gathered to welcome the speaker to their neighborhood, and she spoke eloquently about her duty to let the rest of New York know that they must visit Little Ireland to get a real taste of Ireland.
Quinn’s visit is part of the “Nine in 09” tourism campaign, which highlights various ethnic restaurants, shops and cultural treasures in New York. The speaker first proposed the idea in her State of the City speech as a way to support local small businesses during challenging economic times.
“We at the council are working to support New York City’s local businesses during tough economic times, and the Nine in 09 campaign highlights the many treasures we have within our five boroughs. Not only are these cultural jewels a way to help New Yorkers explore unknown areas, but they will also help tourists maximize their experience here and show off all we have to offer,” said Quinn.
Tuesday’s tour also included stops at Mary’s Celtic Kitchen, Prime Cuts Irish Butchers and a visit with a knitting group at the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.
Quinn’s father, Larry Quinn, 83, who spent two years of his youth living in County Cork (both his parents were Irish), said that he enjoyed his trip to Woodlawn and was taken aback at the amount of Irish people in one area.
“I’ll have to come back again,” smiled Larry as he purchased a loaf of soda bread from Prime Cuts on Katonah.
“I’ll also be back,” said his daughter.
Quinn was “amazed” at the concentration of Irish businesses on the one street.
“The really interesting thing is that you expect the Irish pub or the Irish butcher to be run by an Irish person, but you don’t expect the hardware store, the carpet store and the deli to be run by Irish people too, so when we say there is a concentration of Irish businesses here we are not kidding,” added Quinn.
On who should visit Little Ireland on their “staycation,” Quinn said. "
Obviously Irish folks should come and be supportive of their brethren, but we want people who were dreaming of going to Ireland for the summer but now can’t afford it to realize that all you now have to do is get in your car or a bus or a subway and come up here, and you will absolutely get a feel for Ireland.”
Quinn was amused that the locals were introducing all the shop owners to her by the counties they hail from. “You really feel like you’re at home,” she smiled.
“Woodlawn is a unique community in New York City, and if you just walk down Katonah Avenue, you could well believe you are in Dublin,” said Koppell.
“Restaurants, food shops and merchants bring you the touch, taste and feel of Ireland."