|Out Of Ireland:
The Smiles, Struggles And Success
Of The Irish In Queens
is a story born out of trying times and the desire for an opportunity
for a better life — the story of the Irish and Queens.
A City And A Better Life
the years after the American Revolution, New York City saw an influx
of immigrants from the island of Ireland where a population explosion
coupled with low crop prices and the eventuality of the Potato famine
made emigration to the United States a desirable option.
Author Malachy McCourt and Trib Assistant Editor Stephen
McGuire, two Irish Americans who identify themselves as New Yorkers.
the early years of Irish immigration, many new arrivals built
close-knit communities and settled in various areas throughout the
five boroughs – including sections of Queens.
those communities, they built their families, lives, successes and in
some cases, positions of prominence.
local example of such success came in the form of Maspeth’s Dewitt
Clinton who served as Mayor of New York City and Governor of New York
State in the early 1800s.
Clinton, a third-generation Irish-American, was the nephew of George
Clinton – the first Governor of New York State.
the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th Century, many of
New York City’s Irish earned jobs as teachers, nurses, police,
firefighters and civil servants.
labored on major public works projects, like the construction of the
subway system and the Brooklyn Bridge.
culture groups, with chapters throughout the borough, are havens for
the preservation of Irish music and culture.
outward from Manhattan led to the establishment of summertime havens
like the “Irish Riviera” – better known as the Rockaways.
where they often stayed,” said Kevin Callaghan, a retired FDNY
lieutenant who served as the coordinator of the Rockaway Irish
Festival – a get together that enjoyed a 19-year run in south Queens
before ending in the early 1990s.
said that some families enjoyed the summertime bungalow community so
much, they decided to remain there, even after the bungalows were torn
down to make way for urban renewal during the 1960s.
and grandparents, many of the Irish stayed,” Callaghan said.
their families remain in neighborhoods like Rockaway Beach, Rockaway
Park and Belle Harbor.
Uniquely Irish Experience
and Irish immigrant Malachy McCourt told the Tribune, the
Irish-American experience is one that is both individual and part of
who recalled spending time in Middle Village after arriving in the
United States, described his experience in Ireland as difficult – a
childhood that was detailed in part in his brother Frank McCourt’s
best-selling book, Angela’s Ashes.
is a place where American opportunities and Irish tradition meet and
many dreams begin.
left the slums of Limerick, Ireland in 1952.
me, Ireland was a miserable place,” he said. “Some people have a
sentimental attachment. They think of it as this lovely green place
with mom in a cottage doorway handing out buttermilk. I came from a
slum. It was dreadful.”
said there are minuses on both sides of the phrase
“Irish-American” referring to the hyphen in the expression.
then there are the stereotypes.
didn’t eat corned beef and cabbage,” McCourt said. “We are not
the ‘fighting Irish.’ If that were the case we wouldn’t have
been occupied for the past 800 years.”
it all, the Irish are a decent and generous people” McCourt
2000 saw the first line of march for the Queens St. Patrick’s Day
Parade in Sunnyside.
it comes to a cultural identity, McCourt likes to think of himself
simply as “a New Yorker.”
were born in Brooklyn,” he said.
after, his family returned to Ireland.
we went back to Ireland we were Yanks. When we came back, we were
Irish. I am a New Yorker. Here you are anything you want [to be].”
new Irish immigrants who find themselves in Queens, McCourt advised,
“Dive in and have fun. This land is your land.”
And The New Immigrants
the last 20 years, a younger generation of Irish has joined the older
immigrants and their American-born children in neighborhoods
throughout the borough – especially in places like Woodside and
Sunnyside where there has been a reinvigoration of existing
traditional Irish culture.
a reaction to the influx of new immigrants, groups with the aim of
helping the Irish assimilate into American life were born.
such group is Woodside’s Emerald Isle Immigration Center (EIIC),
which was established in 1988.
center’s purpose in its early stages was to help Irish immigrants
obtain bank accounts, driver’s licenses, housing, insurance,
education and protection under the law.
then, EIIC has grown to include job-training and placement services
and has placed an emphasis on citizenship and voter registration among
has become so well-known among the Irish-American community that it
has garnered visits from Irish President Mary McAleese in 1998 and
then-Irish President Mary Robinson in 1995 – the same year that
Chair of EIIC’s Board of Directors Brian O’Dwyer accompanied
President Bill Clinton a historic trip to Ireland.
Emerald Isle Immigration Center is located at 59-26 Woodside Ave.
Woodside. For more information, call 478-5502.
Patrick’s Day In Queens
March of 2000, the Queens St. Patrick’s Day parade stepped into the
line of march for the first time.
has been billed as an alternative to the largest-in-the-world
Manhattan parade organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
the Hibernians have traditionally disallowed gay and lesbian groups to
march under their own banner, the Queens parade has banners from all
2002, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Mayor Jimmy Mulroy of Drogheda, Ireland
led the march along Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside.
more information, log on to www.stpatsforall.com or call 670-7039.
Irish Tradition Alive
Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), formed in New York City in 1836, is
a place where Irish culture and heritage remains fostered and
group has several local chapters in Queens, in neighborhoods,
Bayside, Whitestone, Woodhaven, Rockaway and Bellerose.
information about the Queens chapters of AOH can be found at http://www.angelfire.com/ny2/aohqueens/.
of Queens’ Irish Americans have found a home away from home at the
Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens located in
society is a place where “good Irish music” is alive and well,
according to Bellerose resident and member Francis Lozito, whose
maiden name is McHugh.
Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens is located at 279
Willis Ave. in Mineola.
more information, log onto www.irishamericansoc.com.