A collage of street and shop signs of different ethnic neighborhoods in NYC

Chinatown and Little Italy may be the first locations that come to mind when non-New Yorkers think of New York City’s diversity and immigrant history. However, there were dozens of other immigrant groups that migrated and clustered into various neighborhoods, forming smaller ethnic enclaves that contribute to New York City’s identity as a “melting pot.” The Endangered Language Alliance’s NYC Language Map notes over 700 different languages spoken across the five boroughs and the surrounding metropolitan area. As of 2019, about 37% of New York’s population, or about 3.1 million residents, were immigrants from almost every country in the world. Untapped New York took a look at 20 of the most populous (and popular) ethnic micro-neighborhoods across the five boroughs, many of which only developed in the last 2 to 3 decades.

20. Little Dominican Republic in Washington Heights, Manhattan

A street of colorful buildings in the micro neighborhood of Little Dominican Republic in NYC

Although Washington Heights saw many Irish immigrants in the early 1900s and European Jews escaping the Nazi regime in the 20th century, the neighborhood witnessed an influx of Dominicans after the 1960s. Puerto Ricans were previously the most populous Latino group in the neighborhood, but the number of Dominicans and Cubans later overtook them. Many Dominicans immigrated to the U.S. during the regime of Joaquín Balaguer, defined in part by high unemployment and poor economic conditions.

Washington Heights shows its tradition proudly: Dominican Republic flags hang in apartment windows; Spanish is spoken at establishments on every block; and street stalls sell food and drink along major corridors up through neighboring Inwood. Mixed with spoken Spanish is the sound of Bachata, a musical genre originating from the Dominican Republic.

Here, you’ll observe families and friends congregating in the streets and dancing in the nearby parks. It is a neighborhood of families and neighbors whose culture resonates throughout. Like many neighborhoods, the Washington Heights and Inwood areas are feeling the pressure of rising real estate prices – particularly with its strong stock of pre-war apartment houses.

Broadway serves as Washington Heights’ main commercial artery with a number of mom-and-pop specialty shops, Dominican eateries, and more recognized chain retailers. Among the numerous eateries, El Malecon proves to be a more popular presence in the neighborhood, specializing in authentic Latin cooking. El Malecon features traditional Dominican dishes such as mangu, or mashed green plantains, and sancocho, a Dominican-style stew. Other popular Dominican eateries in the neighborhood include La Barca Restaurant, La Casa Del Mofongo, and El Conde Restaurant.