By Matthew Monks
“A lot of Bangladeshi people live here so we decided to move here,” the 43-year-old Bellerose resident said. Figures from a new city Planning Department report indicate he made the right choice, showing that Bangladeshis flocked to the western Queens enclave in droves from 1990 to 2000 and are beginning to rival the number of Greeks in the traditionally Hellenic neighborhood. “Astoria is probably the top destination for the Bangladeshi immigrants,” said Joseph Salvo, director of the Planning Department's population division and co-author of “The Newest New Yorkers 2000,” the city's most sweeping and comprehensive look ever at immigration trends in the region. It puts Astoria as the city's third most immigrant-heavy neighborhood with 84,700 newcomers out of 165,200 residents, or 51 percent of the population. Flushing had 86,900 immigrants and Manhattan's Washington Heights topped the list with 90,300. Greeks are still the largest demographic in Astoria with 8,900 residents, or 11 percent of the population. But the report said new Greek immigrants are waning while Bangladesh leads the pack in a handful of nationalities that are on the rise. With 6,600 transplants, Bangladeshis account for 8 percent of all Astorians. Ecuadorians and Mexicans are close behind with 6,200 and 5,800, respectively. That puts them at around 7 percent each. The neighborhood also has substantial clusters of Colombians, Italians, Brazilians, Dominican Republicans, Indians and Chinese, the report showed. The diversity is reflected on the streets, Islam said. “On one block you can have Thai, you can have Burger King, you can have Mexican – that's multicultural,” he said. “I like multicultural things, personally. I feel more comfortable when all the nationalities are around.”And the same goes for Ripon Mirda, owner of the Dhaka Cafe Jhill on 33rd Street. The neighborhood has a special air, he said, with merchants from all over the globe chasing the American dream. It is why he said he moved here almost 25 years ago and opened up a Bangladeshi restaurant.”I like Astoria,” he said. “I know everybody.”Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.