July 27, 2020 By Christian Murray
An online petition has been launched calling for a stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside to be co-named “Little Manila” Avenue.
Advocates want a street sign installed at the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and 70th Street as a way to pay tribute to the contribution Filipinos have made to the community. The petition was launched five days ago and has so far generated 1,450 signatures.
This stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside is known to many as “Little Manila,” with its Filipino restaurants and stores.
The “Little Manila” street sign would go up across the street from Phil Am, a popular Filipino grocery store that opened in 1976.
Joseph Castillo, whose parents established Phil Am, is among the group behind the push for the street co-naming. He grew up living above that store in the 1980s and says he has watched the Filipino population and business community grow in Woodside over the years.
“I have seen what it has become in the last 10 to 15 years. It’s extraordinary,” Castillo said. “We learned about Chinatown and Little Italy [at school]… but it’s amazing to watch Little Manila come about first hand.”
Filipinos have been coming to Woodside in significant numbers since the 1970s, many as registered nurses. During the last census, about 86,000 Filipinos and Filipino Americans were estimated to be residing in New York City with about 54 percent living in the borough of Queens.
The petition notes that many Filipino nurses and healthcare workers were recruited to work at Elmhurst Hospital and decided to settle in nearby Woodside. The neighborhood soon became a hub for new Filipino arrivals.
The decision to advocate for a sign was prompted after a mural went up in June on the corner of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue paying tribute to the Filipino healthcare workers who have risked their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
The mural reads “Mabuhay,” a Philippine expression that has several meanings, including “cheers”, “welcome” and “may you live.”
Xenia Diente, a Filipino-American whose mom immigrated to the country as a nurse, is also behind the movement. She helped launch the petition.
She said the petition has received universal support from both Filipinos and people of other backgrounds. The petition has received supported from all over the world.
Organizers plan to submit the petition to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who has already expressed his support.
Street co-namings are passed by the city council.