After Astoria

During the mid-1900s, the terms ‘Astoria’ and ‘Greek’ often went hand in hand. The influx of Greek immigrants to Astoria led to Little Greece being almost immediately formed. However, although the demographic of Astoria had been predominantly Greek in the past, it has since changed to include many new ethnic groups. Through reasons of upward mobility and ethnic succession, the makeup of Astoria continues to change even today. The map below shows the most used languages within certain areas of New York City.


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Languages spoken in NYC. Image courtesy of Pappaspost


Greeks originally moved to Astoria because it was close to the city where most people worked and much more affordable than actually living in the city. As time passed, upward mobility occurred, and many Greeks started to leave Astoria. The number of Greek businesses in Astoria still remain high while the number of Greek residents have significantly dropped.1 This is because although the Greeks still want to maintain their Greek presence in Astoria, they also want to physically reside in better, more suburban areas (Sereti 251). Astoria resident and business owner, Panos Lemonidis, stated in an interview with the New York Times that the “rich people have moved out of Astoria to Long Island but they come back to eat. Our customers are 55 percent non-Greek, 40 percent Greek-American and 5 percent local.”2 This shows that the proportion of Greek businesses to Greek residences is not equal.

Where Do They Go?

Greeks started to flood Astoria in the 60s, reaching a population of 22,579 in 1980.3 Just 10 years later, they were able to move out of Astoria and into Long Island. Their successful businesses allowed them to move to the quieter, more desirable suburbs. As Moskos puts it, “Greek Americans, once they become financially able, moved to higher income–and less Greek–neighborhoods in the city or the suburbs” (81).4 As shown in this table below, although a large percentage is still in Astoria, a majority of the Greek population in New York today reside in Long Island.

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Percentage of Greeks in New York City. Image courtesy of ZipAtlas

Why Did They Leave?

Not only was upward mobility a common catalyst for Greeks emigrating from Astoria, crime and fear of ethnic change were also other factors. In the 1980s, many moved to quieter neighborhoods such as Bayside and Whitestone, “because of crime and fear of ethnic change” (Moskos 80).5 During that time, organized crime had risen in that area of New York and many people were reluctant to stay.6 However, it soon died out and did not remain as a prevalent problem. On the other hand, those who feared ethnic change are out of luck because New York has become one of the most diverse cities in the entire world over the past century.

Not all Greeks who moved out of Astoria moved into the suburbs. Some moved back to Greece to be with their family or just to be back in their homeland. However, some who returned to Greece soon came back to the States because of the social and economic issues that have recently hit Greece. Because there are so many ties to New York from previous family members who had immigrated here, most of the Greeks who come back head straight for New York (Phung).7

Greeks continue to move upward and their success is evident through the change in where they call home. Astoria is still a center for Greek activity, but its ethnic makeup has changed immensely throughout the years. There will always be a Greek presence in Astoria but it will never be as it was in the past. Even so, as they move away, Greek Americans will not forget their original home, Astoria.

-Author Angela (Inhea) Jun