How New York’s ‘Little Sri Lanka’ became a tourist destination

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More than 45 years after the first Sri Lankans settled in Staten Island, New York has designated the island’s ‘Little Sri Lanka’ a tourism destination.
“NYC & Company’s Neighborhood x Neighborhood initiative was designed to showcase the diverse range of offerings throughout New York City’s five boroughs and highlight some of the lesser known neighbourhoods available to both New Yorkers and visitors”, says Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company.
“Staten Island’s Tompkinsville neighborhood is a perfect example of a vibrant community that might not be known to visitors – it’s not only home to one of the largest Sri Lankan communities in the United States but is the perfect place to visit for those seeking authentic southern Asian food and culture.”
One family on Staten Island has seen the development of one of America’s largest Sri Lankan communities. The Guneratne family arrived here more than 45 years ago Hector Guneratne his wife Rose and four sons made Staten Island their home becoming some of the first Sri Lankans to reside in Staten Island and by 2000 nearly 700 hundred Sri Lankans called the borough their home.
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Sadly Hector Guneratne passed away suddenly in 2007. His family remembers him as man who supported new immigrants to find employment and settle down in the community and build their way to the American dream.
Today the island is home to many mouthwatering Sri Lankan eateries, groceries a Buddhist temple and a hub for traditional Kandyan dance in North America.
You find an array Sri Lankan cuisine from quick take-out, bakeries, to sit-in restaurants serving all you can eat buffets on Sundays.
The community has a strong cultural base, and one of the first places in America to perform ‘Pahim Path Mangalya’ graduation ceremony for Kandyan Dance recently. The Staten Island Buddhist temple was established in 1990 and a larger Buddhist Vihara was inaugurated on July 11, 1999.
Staten Island itself is easily accessible to Manhattan by ferry which runs free of charge or an express bus which will cost around $6.
The Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island is 10 minutes from Newark Liberty International Airport and only 25 minutes from Manhattan. The hotel is located in the heart of the Corporate Park of Staten Island, and offers complimentary shuttles to and from the airport and ferry terminal.
For More information on New York city visit nycgo.com
Exterior of Lakruwana Restaurant in Staten Island painted with the theme of Kandy Perhera Pageant. Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene

Exterior of Lakruwana Restaurant in Staten Island painted with the theme of Kandy Perhera Pageant. Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene

Hector Guneratne was among the first Sri Lankans in Staten Island.

Hector Guneratne was among the first Sri Lankans in Staten Island.

New York has become a hub for Sri Lankan culture and arts. Recently Sri Lankan students performed in traditional Kandyan Dance form ceremony.

The ceremony was the first of its kind in North America and received special attention in the Wall Street Journal in the summer.

All this comes on the heels of New York declaring its Little Sri Lanka a tourism destination.

Yet the history of Staten Island’s Sr Lankan community dates back more than four decades.

“NYC & Company’s Neighborhood x Neighborhood initiative was designed to showcase the diverse range of offerings throughout New York City’s five boroughs and highlight some of the lesser known neighbourhoods available to both New Yorkers and visitors”, says Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company.

“Staten Island’s Tompkinsville neighborhood is a perfect example of a vibrant community that might not be known to visitors – it’s not only home to one of the largest Sri Lankan communities in the United States but is the perfect place to visit for those seeking authentic southern Asian food and culture.”

One family on Staten Island has seen the development of one of America’s largest Sri Lankan communities. The Guneratne family arrived here more than 45 years ago Hector Guneratne his wife Rose and four sons made Staten Island their home becoming some of the first Sri Lankans to reside in Staten Island and by 2000 nearly 700 hundred Sri Lankans called the borough their home.

 For the first time in North America, eleven dancers from the National Women’s Dance Troupe performed in a graduation. Picture NWDT

For the first time in North America, eleven dancers from the National Women’s Dance Troupe performed in a graduation. Picture NWDT

Sadly Hector Guneratne passed away suddenly in 2007. His family remembers him as man who supported new immigrants to find employment and settle down in the community and build their way to the American dream.

Today the island is home to many mouthwatering Sri Lankan eateries, groceries a Buddhist temple and a hub for traditional Kandyan dance in North America.

You find an array Sri Lankan cuisine from quick take-out, bakeries, to sit-in restaurants serving all you can eat buffets on Sundays.

The owner of New Asha Restaurant showcases a Sri Lankan dish. Picture by NYC & Company/ Julienne Schaer

The owner of New Asha Restaurant showcases a Sri Lankan dish. Picture by NYC & Company/ Julienne Schaer

The owner of Papa's Chicken displays Sri Lankan baked goods.

The owner of Papa’s Chicken displays Sri Lankan baked goods.

The community has a strong cultural base, and one of the first places in America to perform ‘Pahim Path Mangalya’ graduation ceremony for Kandyan Dance recently. The Staten Island Buddhist temple was established in 1990 and a larger Buddhist Vihara was inaugurated on July 11, 1999.

Staten Island itself is easily accessible to Manhattan by ferry which runs free of charge or an express bus which will cost around $6.

The Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island is 10 minutes from Newark Liberty International Airport and only 25 minutes from Manhattan. The hotel is located in the heart of the Corporate Park of Staten Island, and offers complimentary shuttles to and from the airport and ferry terminal.

For More information on New York city visit nycgo.com

Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island.

Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island.