Gateway: The Immigrants


“I strive to link your ordinary experience – what you see, hear and feel – with the history and culture of New York.”

Peter Laskowich: Historian, Lecturer and Guide

Classes, Lectures & Tours

Gateway: The Immigrants

Doorway to the new world

New York is mother of exiles.

Forty percent of all Americans today trace their lineage through Ellis Island. Of the 12 million who came through, one-third remained in New York City. Why did they come? What did they find? How did they make it?

An understanding of Manhattan’s growth tells why it was the Lower East Side that grew into the nation’s main immigrant quarter, and how its center came to be occupied by today’s Courthouse District. We see how conditions within the tenements inspired a visiting nurse to lead the way in establishing as common the practice of birth control in the United States. Our walk through the area shows that within decades the Irish Five Points became in turn the Jewish ward/Little Italy and then Chinatown, and eventually, it would seem, something else again.

Never before has there existed a city like this, so welcoming of the forsaken regardless of circumstance. And so it falls to the Lower East Side to accept the lonely, the miserable and the lost from around the world and turn them into Americans.

This is New York as engine of history’s greatest migration.

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