The 2002 Census counted 2,802,459 people in Queens
who identified themselves as being of Irish ancestry.
Over 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.
They Got There
In 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.
In 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.
Makes Them Who They Are
During the latter part of the 19th century and
early 20th, many of New York City’s Irish
earned jobs as teachers, nurses, police, firefighters
and civil servants.
Others labored on major public works projects,
like the construction of the subway system and
the Brooklyn Bridge.
Building outward from Manhattan led to the establishment
of summertime havens like the “Irish Riviera,”
better known as the Rockaways.
“That’s where they often stayed,”
says 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
Irish food and specialties can be found
at Tommy Maloney’s in Woodside and
throughout Queens’ Irish enclaves.
Tribune photo by Ira Cohen
March of 2000, the Queens St. Patrick’s
Day Parade stepped in line for the first time.
Organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians,
it has been billed as an alternative to the Manhattan
parade, which is the largest in the world.
Although the Hibernians have traditionally disallowed
gay and lesbian groups to march under their own
banner, the Queens parade has banners from all
In 2002, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Mayor Jimmy
Mulroy of Drogheda, Ireland led the march along
Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside.
The Not-so-Good Life
Author and Irish immigrant Malachy McCourt says
there are positives and negatives on both sides
of the hyphen in the moniker Irish-American.
Like the stereotypes.
“We 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. Above
it all, the Irish are a decent and generous people.”
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