McLean Avenue in Yonkers

New wave of Irish immigrants revive New York neighborhoods


McLean Avenue in Yonkers

As new Irish immigrants settle again in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx and McLean Avenue of Yonkers, the New York neighborhoods are seeing a resurgence of Irish culture.

The area is known as the Irish mile and you could be back in Ireland with the number of Irish businesses and activities that form part of the busy neighborhood

As the Irish economy worsens, business owners and residents of the historically Irish enclaves are noticing a “resurgence of Irish lilts,” according to an article in the New York Times.

It is not only the buisnesses, the church too notices. Msgr. Edward Barry, pastor of St. Barnabas Church, told the paper he has noticed  “a slightly more bountiful collection plate”  thanks  to the new arrivals. who, he says, are “a little bit better” about coming to Mass.

“It’s like living in my Irish village,” said Jackie Murray, a native of the Bronx, who was taken by her parents to County Limerick at age 4 but has now returned to New York. “I come home and within three blocks there’s a lot of people from my village living in the area.”

The executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, Siobhan Dennehy, said there had been a 5 to 10 percent increase in the number of immigrants the agency was helping this year.

“When you notice all the new arrivals on the street, you feel quite hopeful, and that resonates throughout the community and creates a sense of vibrancy,” said Orla Kelleher, executive director of the Aisling Irish Community Center on McLean Avenue.

The boost to the New York neighborhoods is good news for local businesses.

“It keeps the neighborhood Irish because they come here to get their Irish products,” said Oliver Charles, owner of The Butcher’s Fancy in Yonkers.

Despite the influx of Irish immigrants, the neighborhood still has fewer Irish residents than in the late 1990s, when nearly half of the people there were of Irish descent. The booming Celtic Tiger economy drew many back to Ireland.

Ms. Kelleher, who herself emigrated from County Kerry in 2004, says that Woodlawn is about as close to Ireland as you can find in America.

“Anything you can enjoy at home you can enjoy here,” she said.

“The only thing you don’t have is family and friends. That you have to live without.”


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