Guided Visits with Françoise Terzian
From France-Amerique
New York – August 2003

By Fabienne Boulineau

“Today, a friend visiting New York told me, 'I walked in the Lower East Side. Do you know,' he asked me with a passionate tone, 'that this neighborhood tells practically the entire history of the immigrants that came to New York in search of refuge and liberty?' 'Really,' I respond to him, sharing in the curiosity and the frustration." But why must it be that the tourists know more about the city than its own inhabitants?

It is because no New Yorker ever poses the question that Françoise Terzian, a French citizen who has lived in New York for 12 years, has organized as a tour for the French of New York, and of course also for the tourists - guided walking tours in the neighborhoods of Manhattan: the Lower East Side, Chelsea, City Hall, Wall Street, Harlem, and Central Park. In complete simplicity, with just a small notebook, a true encyclopedia where dates, names and other small details are written by hand, Françoise takes you “off the beaten path,” where the “city bus tours” don’t take you, where the tour guides remained silent.

Certified by the Guide Association of New York City, Françoise invites you to discover a New York you have never seen in French for three hours. In contact with the New York tourism, referred by the Lonely Planet guides, the tours are organized by the demands of the “clients.”

Free for children under the age of 16, the tours cost $25 per participant - a price rather modest and almost ridiculous compared to the richness of information dispensed by Françoise in her company.

Piquing the curiosity of everyone, without revealing all the mysteries of the Lower East Side, here you can learn, discover, or deepen your knowledge with a guide unlike all others.

Now 85 percent Chinese and 10 to 15 percent Jewish, the Lower East Side was, the stage of historically, politically, socially, and ethnically important events in the 19th Century, not only for that neighborhood, but for the city of New York.

In 1881 and 1914, 2 million Russians, mostly Jewish, chased out by the tyranny of the czar who forbid them to practice their religion, took their chance in the west, arriving at the port of Ellis Island, and going to live in the Lower East Side. 600 synagogues would be constructed, and nowadays, Yiddish is still mixed in with English and Chinese on the face of buildings. But without Françoise and her informed attention, it is highly probable that you wouldn’t see them.

“I love this neighborhood that my fellow-members almost forsook,” explains Françoise. “I love the smells, the dirtiness. Here, all this that one could have read in books is still visible!” And this is the magic of these tours. It is like going to the Museum of Ellis Island and reenacting the way of the immigrants. But better that a recording, this is Françoise’s voice speaking to you and explaining everything.

Continuing, the establishment of the first communist newspapers the first strikes, the first housing aids, the first orphanages, the first big stores, the first lending library, in short all that was seen that day in the Lower East Side, and all that New Yorkers owe to that population of immigrants, Françoise recounts, turning onto a street in front of a fresco or the façade of the buildings.

A original concept, Françoise is the only one to propose guided walking tours of Manhattan in French. Residents or simply tourists, succumb to the charms of the forgotten treasures of New York that Françoise Terzian invites you to discover.

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Translated from French by Charlotte Triggs

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