NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Longtime Little Italy residents and business owners have complained of being squeezed out by greedy landlords, but one man is appealing for help to save the historic district.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, the New York City landmark district, centered on Mulberry Street between Spring and Canal streets, is struggling to survive.

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“We are very concerned that we could possibly lose this community,” said John Fratta.

Fratta was born and raised in Little Italy, and is trying to save it from encroachment.

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“The landlords are just strangling the businesses in that area,” Fratta said. “They’re looking to double and triple the rents.”

Fratta, a Community Board 1 member, appealed to State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) after the closure this week of Ristorante SPQR, 133 Mulberry St. The restaurant had been open for more than three decades.

“We’re appealing to all the elected officials to get on board and help us find a way to work with these landlords and get them to realize, you know, that what they’re doing is destroying a community,” Fratta said.

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