Tenement Museum Opens New Visitor Center with Naturalization Ceremony

Posted on: September 21st, 2011 at 6:41 am by

Eighteen brand new citizens from sixteen countries, getting sworn in here on the Lower East Side.  Now, that’s “tradition,” as Tevya once proclaimed.

This image has been archived or removed.

The Tenement Museum’s eagerly-anticipated Sadie Samuelson Levy Immigrant Heritage Center opened yesterday afternoon at 103 Orchard Street, celebrating with an official naturalization ceremony.

This image has been archived or removed.

One could spot the enthusiastic scene, festooned with red, white and blue balloons, at the new glass storefront from clear across Delancey Street. On our approach, we encountered crowds waving mini American flags, some wearing red, white, and/or blue accessories. Heading inside, we managed to wrangle a spot within a sea of photographers from the New York Times, Getty Images and other press outlets, getting an up-close view of the ceremony (even though a few of the shutterbugs photo-bombed some of our pics!).

This image has been archived or removed.

Andrea J. Quarantillo, New York District Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, was the master of ceremonies.

This image has been archived or removed.

[Morris J. Vogel]

Tenement Museum President Morris J. Vogel, speaking first, said “today is the very first day we’ve opened the door to people who weren’t in hardhats.” He told the soon-to-be-citizens, “all of your stories are now part of the nation’s history,” adding “this wonderful building is not quite finished – much like the American republic. We are not a completed work, but a work in progress.”

This image has been archived or removed.

[Andrea Quarantillo]

Donald J. Monica, Associate Director, Field Operations for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, up next, told the candidates, “you are the founders of the future of this country.”

Hon. Judge Robert Z. Katzmann (who, as the son of a refugee from Nazi Germany and grandson of immigrants from Russia, is also an advocate for the improvement of legal representation for immigrants), presided next over the ceremony, swearing in the enthused group of not-quite-yet-citizens. After making it all legal, Judge Katzmann then said, “Our country is even better than it was a few minutes ago.”

This image has been archived or removed.

Turns out, there is QUITE the singing talent embedded in the employee pool at the Tenement Museum. Who knew? Katie Barnard performed an almost operatic (and damn impressive) rendering of the National Anthem, which justifiably brought a long round of applause.

After all of this excitement, very vehrklempt guests accompanied the newly-indoctrinated-citizens at the reception. (We really must find out who made those mini Reuben sandwiches!) The crowd then migrated into the gallery area, where there was an exhibit of Harvey Wang’s brilliant photographs of the Lower East Side. (Many of the images were recognizable from one of our favorite books, Harvey Wang’s New York).

This image has been archived or removed.

Aside from the glass enclosed gallery, the new facility – which originally existed as three separate tenements built in 1888 – will also house a theater space, “smart” classrooms, and a demonstration kitchen, as previously reported.

Referring to the varied origins of candidates who were becoming citizens, Quarantillo summed up everyone’s feelings, declaring “That’s America, but that’s also New York!”

Writeup and all photos by Lori Greenberg

Recent Stories

Borough President Implores Parks Commissioner to Address Community Concerns in Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Two stabbings within a twelve-hour period last weekend highlighted the decrepit, yet dangerous state of Sara D. Roosevelt Park. The violence apparently pushed Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to exert pressure on the Parks Department to address certain core issues. In a letter to Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff this week, Brewer identified two key concerns – […]

Loved Ones Crowdfunding for Grubhub Deliveryman Stabbed to Death on the LES

Loved ones have taken to online crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to help raise money for the Grubhub deliveryman stabbed to death in Sara D. Roosevelt Park last weekend. As reported, the incident transpired early Saturday morning near the Hester Playground in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Surveillance footage shows that the attacker sat on the bench next […]

Coastal Resiliency Project Forces Lower East Side Ecology Center Compost Yard to Staten Island

The Lower East Side Ecology Center has its walking papers. The local nonprofit is amidst a move, relocating the East River compost yard it called home for the last two decades. Over the last week or so, the 22-year-old compost yard was dismantled, as the East Side Coastal Resilience Project is set to break ground […]

‘Citi Bites’ Takes Hell Square Corner

Another fast food option is coming to Hell Square. Citi Bites, not Citi Bikes, is described as a “modern deli,” this month signed a lease for the 2,000 square-foot cornershop at 101 Stanton Street. It takes the place of the former Prema hair salon which closed earlier this year. The bodega business reportedly agreed to […]

Police Release Chilling Video in Murder of Delivery Worker in Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Police released chilling new surveillance video showing the approached the defenseless delivery worker, moments before allegedly murdering him and stealing the electronic bike on the Lower East Side. As reported, the incident transpired early Saturday morning near the Hester Playground in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. The footage shows the attacker sitting on the bench next […]