A Guide to Staten Island’s Little Sri Lanka

Spices often used in Sri Lankan cuisine
Spices often used in Sri Lankan cuisine | © Taken / Pixabay
Julia Goicochea

Made up of areas like Koreatown and Little Athens, New York City is a world unto itself. Over the past decade, this world has grown to include a record-setting, tourist guidebook-topping enclave known to locals as Little Sri Lanka. To the world’s largest Sri Lankan population outside of Sri Lanka, however, the neighborhood is simply called home.

Not only do the approximately 5,000 Sri Lankan people living on Staten Island constitute the largest community of Sri Lankans outside of the South Asian country, but they also account for over one-third of New York City’s entire Sri Lankan population. The neighborhoods of Tompkinsville and St. George, collectively known as Little Sri Lanka, burst with island authenticity, from the grocery stores stocking Sri Lankan products to the numerous eateries lining Victory Boulevard and its adjacent streets. The latter is what put Little Sri Lanka on the radar of The New York Times, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, and others.

A group of Sri Lankan women

Considering recent Sri Lankan history, it makes sense why immigrants have gravitated to the oft-forgotten New York City borough. The decades-long civil war between Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic groups, along with its following financial crisis, prompted people to flee in droves in the 1980s. At this time, Staten Island, with its affordable housing and suburban atmosphere complete with grassy front lawns and clapboard structures, embodied just the domestic stability that so many Sri Lankans had been missing. Completing this utopic scene was the community which greeted new residents—a community that has only grown in recent decades.

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