MOUNT Everest is the tallest mountain in the world at just over 29000 feet (about 8849 meters) and sits on the border of China and Nepal, the mountain George Mallory died trying to climb in 1921 and of which Sir Edmund Hillary finally achieved the summit 30 years later. It’s also 7,530 miles from New York City as the crow flies. So why is the corner of 75th Street and 31st Avenue in Jackson Heights marked “Mount Everest Way,” as it has been since 2019?
The answer is the increasing numbers of Nepalese who make Queens their home. So many, in fact, that Nepalese has been added to the lists of languages translated at Elmhurst Hospital, which is increasingly becoming “The World’s Hospital” just as the #7 Flushing Line is known as “The International Express.”
Forgotten NY has touched on this subject before, by spotlighting the United Sherpa Association in Elmhurst at 41st Avenue and 75th Street. Then, I wrote:
The Sherpa are best known for their services as mountain guides and the provision of assistance to adventurers climbing Himalayan peaks. Tenzing Norgay, likely the most widely-known Sherpa in history, aided Hillary, the first European to attain the peak of Everest, the tallest mountain on the globe. The Sherpa language is unique to the region they inhabit, but can be written using the Tibetan language or Dravidian script used widely in the Indian subcontinent.
Prior to the mid-1990s, there had not been much Sherpa immigration to the New York City area, but a small coterie gained a foothold and established the United Sherpa Association of the USA (I’ve never heard it mentioned, but “The USA of The USA” can get somewhat awkward, no doubt) in 1996, with just a handful of members. A few years after that, a former Christian church constructed in 1947 at 41st Avenue and 75th Street was purchased for the group’s headquarters. Today, NYC’s Sherpa community numbers about 2,500 people, which sounds like a modest number, but is actually the largest number of Sherpa to be found outside of Nepal.
Just about every corner of the world is represented in NYC.
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An odd adaptation the Sherpas have developed is the ability of the women to have babies at such a high altitude. Women from lower elevations have trouble.