Bangladeshi Hub Grows in North Bronx

Bangladeshi bodega in the Bronx

The Norwood area has become a destination for Bangladeshi immigrants. (Photo by Jasmeet Sidhu via The Bronx Ink)

If someone lands in London’s Brick Lane it’s hard to tell that you are not in Bangladesh. The combination of songs in Bengali playing from cassettes, shops’ signs in Bengali, gossip gatherings in restaurants and the Sylheti dialect of the Bangla language being spoken in streets makes one forget the distance of this microcosm from the location where it originated far, far away. Similarly, the huge crowds of people shopping in Singapore’s Seaman road every Sunday evoke memories of the busy commercial streets in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In New York, various commercial districts make Bangladeshis immigrants nostalgic, among them: 30th and 36th Avenue in Astoria, Queens; Church and McDonald Avenues in Kensington, Brooklyn; the Bangla Bazaar area in the Parkchester section of the Bronx as well as Hillside Avenue in Jamaica and parts of Ozone Park and Jackson Heights.

But there is another, emerging, little known Bangladeshi hub growing in the Norwood neighborhood of the Bronx. One evening last week, I got to know a place there, a jam-packed restaurant.

I was having a conversation with a prominent Bangladeshi community organizer and businessman, Alhaj Solaiman Bhuyan, at his Norwood office. He is an established contractor in New York, involved in politics in the city while while also managing his business enterprises.  “I have lived in New York for a long time and set roots in the north Bronx more than 24 years ago,” he said. “Not that it is any different than places in Queens or Brooklyn,” he reassured. “For the last decade the number of ethnic Bangladeshi’s have been constantly growing. A number of groceries have set up shops where Bangladeshi goods are available and the area has Bangladeshi restaurants. Walking through the streets one can easily smell the aroma of Bangladeshi foods in the air. The area has easy subway connection to the city center which may be a possible reason for the increased eagerness of Bangladeshis to come and settle here.”

According to Hussain, the owner of New Sobuj Bangla Grocery on Perry Avenue, sales are good due to the Bangladeshi community’s growth. In addition, Muslims who frequent the area’s mosques also report an increase in the number of congregants. 

The growth of the Bangladeshi presence in the area has also helped sprout new community organizations such as the North Bronx Bangladeshi American Association. “We are gearing up to organize the first ever Bangladeshi street fare in this community next summer,” the association’s general secretary, Kauser Ahmed, said. “In addition,” he added, we have taken a number of steps to address the increased needs of the growing community.”

In the evening, I came across a group gossiping inside Sodesh restaurant on Bainbridge Avenue over cups of desi tea. A variety of Bengali, Indian and Pakistani snacks and dishes are served at the eatery, said owner Shaid Shamim, originally from Fenchugonj, Bangladesh.

“Business is brisk, the place is open seven days, and local residents of various ethnic backgrounds also occasionally come by to have a taste of food from the [South Asian] subcontinent,” he said.

Voices of NY had previously featured an article on the emergence of Norwood as a destination for Bangladeshis, click here to read it.

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