by Alex Poole
Frank Sinatra wrote of New York that “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere”. Many immigrants from Southern Italy indeed made it in New York in the early 20th century and settled in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx. The heart of the Belmont neighborhood is Arthur Avenue, which is just blocks from Fordham’s campus. As a Coverdell Fellow, I have the tremendous honor working with the Belmont Business Improvement District, whose mission is to promote and expand the economic wellbeing of the business community, and the community at large, by promotion of the “Little Italy in the Bronx” brand, its strong ethnic heritage and leadership in the culinary marketplace, and by leveraging the mercantile, social, political, and cultural assets within and around our community. This gives me the exciting exposure to work with historic Italian business, many of whom are over 100 years old and have been family owned for 5 generations.
My daily responsibilities in the office include working in QuickBooks, editing the website, and drafting letters. However, the part that really makes my job exciting is visiting all the Italian businesses and learning more about their history and community contributions. These include restaurants, delis, bakeries, and meat shops. Speaking with business owners and hearing their concerns about the neighborhood provides me greater insight about the area where I live. It also provides me with greater awareness into how city government operates at a local level, as we help businesses work with the department of sanitation, transportation, and design and construction.
So far, I have had the pleasure of participating in several community events. In my second day as an intern, I helped with our annual Ferrogosto Festival on Arthur Avenue by distributing fliers and directing patrons. Ferrogosto is our largest event and is an Italian celebration that dates to Roman times. I also helped with our toy giveaway for the annual tree lighting ceremony by organizing donated toys by type and age group. Held jointly with Love Holds Life Children’s Cancer Foundation, Santa Claus gave donated toys to children battling childhood cancer.