brooklyn  greenpoint

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[1] McCarren Park Pool [2] Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration [3] Public School 34 [4] Greenpoint Historical District [5] Greenpoint Savings Bank
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[6] St. Elias Greek Rite Catholic Church [7] Church of the Ascension [8] 114-124 Kent Street Houses [9] 130 Kent Street [10] Originally Mechanics and Traders Bank
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[11] The Astral Apartments [12] 93-103 Milton Street [13] 118-120 Milton Street [14] 119-121,123-125 Milton Street [15] 122-124 Milton Street
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[16] 128-134 Milton Street [17) Greenpoint Reformed Church [18] 140-144 Milton Street [19] 141-149 Milton Street [20] St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
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[21] St. Anthony of Padua Church [22] 128-132 Noble Street Houses [23] Union Baptist Church [24]Greenpoint Home for the Aged [25] 133-135 Oak Street
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[26] Sidewalk clock [27] St. Stanislaus Kortka Vincentian fathers Church [28] 650 Humbboldt Street [29] Monsignor McGolrick Park

Greenpoint (pronounced Greenpernt in those gangster movies of the 1930s) is a quiet, ordered, and orderly community of discrete ethnic populations, with a central charming historic district all but unknown to outsiders, even those in neighboring sectors of Brooklyn.

Its modern history began with the surveying of its lands in 1832 by Dr. Eliphalet Nott, president of Union College, in Schenectady (America's first architecturally planned campus), and Neziah Bliss. Much of it was purchased for development by Ambrose C. Kingsland, mayor of New York (1851-1853), and Samuel J. Tilden, who went on to fame in politics and who is happily remembered for leaving a bequest for the establishment of a free public library in New York, an act that triggered the merger of the Astor and Lenox Libraries, and the establishment of the New York Public Library.  

The area soon became a great shipbuilding center. It was here, at the Continental Iron Works at West and Calyer Streets, that Thomas F. Rowland built the ironclad warship Monitor from plans created by John Ericsson. The "Yankee cheesebox on a raft" was launched on January 30, 1862.

By 1860 the so-called five black arts (printing, pottery, gas, glass, and iron) were firmly established in Green Point, as it was first known. In 1867, Charles Pratt established his kerosene refinery (Astral Oil Works)—the first successful American oil well had flowed in 1859 at Titusville, Pa. Pratt's product later gave rise to the slogan, "The holy lamps of Tibet are primed with Astral Oil." Astral Oil provided the wealth that later made possible Pratt Institute, myriad Pratt family mansions, as well as Greenpoint's Astral Apartments.  


with thanks to "The AIA Guide to New York",

From the (1939) WPA Guide to New York City: 
Greenpoint, Williamsburg's neighbor to the north, was so named after it was purchased (as a part of Bushwick) from the Indians in 1638, but the grime and smut of industry have long since obliterated the original verdancy. Factories, warehouses, lumberyards, coalyards, and gas storage tanks line the Greenpoint shores of the East River and Newtown Creek, and occupy large parts of the neighborhood. Many of the workers in the plants live near by. The unemployed living here constitute one of the largest relief groups in the city. 
Greenpoint is the birthplace of Mae West, the actress. The district's residents are credited with originating the widely publicized "Brooklynese" diction, wherein "err" stands for oil and "poll" for pearl. "Greenpernt" ranks with Canarsie and the Bronx as a butt for New Yorkers' jokes. 

Kent Avenue, now lined with dilapidated piers and abandoned buildings, was a center of shipbuilding after the Civil War. Street names such as Java and India recall the once flourishing trade in coffee and spices with remote lands. The largest contemporary factories are those of the American Manufacturing Company (rope), and the Eberhard-Faber Company (pencils ) . 

An Inviting Area, Once You Get There 

As the G train approaches Nassau Avenue, Greenpoint's arrival is signaled by teenage girls switching from English to Polish as they talk. At the top of the subway stairs at Nassau and Manhattan Avenues, Manhattan gleams in the distance like Oz, though no one seems to notice. A florist, coffee shop, deli and cleaners are lined up around the corner, along with a meat market and the words "Mowimy po Polsku" — "We Speak Polish" — in many storefront windows. 

On Manhattan Avenue, the main thoroughfare, and its vicinity, the concentration of Polish businesses and residences is high. But farther north, past Greenpoint Avenue (another stop on the G train), Spanish can be heard, and on the south side of the area the language may be Italian. 

Still, said Shana Fried, who works at the United Nations and lives in Greenpoint, "It is by far a Polish neighborhood." She was chatting with friends in the Java and Wood Cafe on Manhattan Avenue one February afternoon. "It's also a Latino neighborhood," she said, "with lots of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. And a Muslim community." Ms. Fried hails from Iowa. "It's definitely become more gentrified" in the four years she has lived here, she added. 

Alex Sevakian, a clothing designer, moved to the neighborhood in July from the East Village. "It's quaint here and comfortable," she said. "There's a nice commercial feeling and it's cheap." 

Another coffee drinker, Charlie Campbell, an audio engineer, complained there were no good restaurants. "What about Acapulco, Thai Cafe, Christina's?" asked George Diaz, the cafe's owner. 

The neighborhood is at the northwest corner of Brooklyn, where the borough meets Queens. Its boundaries are generally Newtown Creek, the border with Queens; the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and North 11th Street on the south; and the East River on the west. 

One frequent complaint involves Greenpoint's relative inconvenience to Manhattan. The G train, which runs through the core of town, travels only from Brooklyn to Queens; the L can mean a 15-minute walk to the Bedford Avenue station in Williamsburg, but then a speedy link to 14th Street in Manhattan. 

Some commuters walk over the Pulaski Bridge to the Vernon-Jackson station in Queens to catch the No. 7 train to Grand Central Station, a 10-minute trip. A ferry from Hunters Point in Queens runs to Midtown. And New York Water Taxi has begun to discuss the possibility of providing service from Greenpoint to Manhattan. 

"The main drawback is coming home late," Ms. Fried said "The G takes forever. But taking cabs home is a quick shot over the Williamsburg Bridge." 

Some residents do not need to rush off to Manhattan. A study published in January by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council of New York, a nonprofit group, estimated that 13 percent of Greenpoint's residents walked to work, as opposed to 6 percent citywide. Shopping, churches and schools are within strolling distance. 

The minimal public transportation is only part of the explanation for a sense of isolation in Greenpoint; the industrial waterfront is another contributing factor. Nevertheless, the area took in an overflow of artists who flocked to Williamsburg 15 or so years ago, and it continues to make room for bohemians and young professionals, thanks to its cleanliness and reasonable rents. 

Ms. Fried is certainly content with her rent. She and her husband live in a two-bedroom railroad flat on Eagle Street that costs $936 a month; the Chrysler Building is visible from their bedroom window. The couple found their place through a notice posted on a streetlight. 

Larry Anderson, a graphic designer who has lived near St. Stanislaus Kostka Church for five years, likes the feeling that he's in a "European seaside town," where he can get "sauerkraut and sausage for takeout." His rent-stabilized apartment, which he located through The Greenpoint Gazette, a weekly newspaper, is $750 a month. 

Now is a good time to hunt. Danuta Blejwas, who owns Blue Jay Realty on Manhattan Avenue, said rental prices have dropped 20 to 30 percent since the attacks of Sept. 11, when some single people lost their jobs and left. Bozena Pietrucha of Bo Realty concurred, saying that many apartments are remaining empty for two to three months before a tenant is signed up. 

MOST people rent in Greenpoint, and many buildings are owner-occupied. According to Ms. Blejwas, one-bedroom apartments range from $950 to $1,200 in a typical two- or three-family house, and a two-bedroom apartment can rent for $1,200 to $2,000. Ms. Pietrucha's figures for similar apartments are slightly lower. 

Although few co-ops or condominiums exist, a new loftlike condo at 102 Clay Street is selling spaces. A two-family house in good condition (usually wood-frame and vinyl-shingled or brick) costs $300,000 to $500,000, Ms. Pietrucha said, with the higher priced buildings in the historic district. (Single-family homes are rare.) 

Not many houses come on the market in the historic district, an area of about six blocks designated in 1982 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. It is roughly bounded by Manhattan Avenue on the east, Franklin Street on the west, Java Street on the north and Calyer Street to the south. Interspersed among elegant 19th-century churches, houses in Italianate, neo-Grecian and Victorian styles abound. 

Milton Street, one of the loveliest, is an assemblage of renovated brick, limestone and terra cotta houses and old churches, including St. John's Lutheran, the Greenpoint Reformed Church and at the head of the street, St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church. On Kent Street, pristine town houses, some dating from the 1800's, claim the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. 

Parking is primarily on the street in Greenpoint, and lots are small, often landscaped with fenced yards and rose bushes and shaded by low trees. The overall housing stock is working class, with small frame houses and brick row houses split into walk-up apartments. 

Architectural purists may sniff at the proliferation of vinyl siding and metal awnings, but Greenpoint grew as a bastion for immigrants, largely from Russia, Italy, Ireland, England and Poland, and remains proud of its tastes. 

Unlike other immigrant enclaves in New York, residents do not necessarily move on when they have reached a certain financial comfort, and a relatively solid base of middle-class homeowners and renters remains. 

Long before there were apartments, Greenpoint was farmland for the Dutch and then the English. Shipbuilding days of the 1800's culminated about 1862, when the Navy built the Monitor on the waterfront. (A museum to honor the ship is being proposed.) About then, the area was becoming a center for kerosene refining, an industry developed by Charles Pratt, who founded Pratt Institute and whose business eventually merged with Standard Oil. 

After World War II, waste-treatment plants and garbage-transfer operations, which are still active, were set up on the shoreline. 

For some, the warehouses, factories and other low-lying industrial buildings that commandeer the waterfront, some just blocks from the historic district, are eyesores. But the buildings are home to a stable class of employers who are tapping the supply of newest immigrants to Greenpoint, mostly Hispanic people. Set along the East River and Newtown Creek, these once-abandoned buildings house companies producing canoes, furniture, billiard tables, surfboards and lamps. Artists also occupy the spaces. 

Near Newtown Creek, Commercial Street holds converted loft buildings, one of the largest one being the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, where woodworkers, artists, metalworkers and glassmakers rent studios. The Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning has proposed rezoning vacant and unproductive manufacturing land along the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront (and adjacent areas) for mixed-use and residential projects. The final proposal should be unveiled in a few months, but the public review process takes almost a year. The proposal includes public access to the waterfront, said Robyn Stein, the department's press secretary. 

The waterfront is currently virtually inaccessible, without trespassing. Proposals to expand the numerous garbage-transfer stations have been stalled, said Michael Rochford, a former organizer with Outrage, an advocate of community organizations. But a major issue on the waterfront is a plan by TransGas Energy Systems to build a power plant on the East River in neighboring Williamsburg, which grass-roots groups are fighting. And the city may turn part of the Greenpoint waterfront into sand-volleyball courts, if New York is host to the 2012 Olympics. 

There are three public elementary schools in the neighborhood. Two, P.S. 31 and 34, are exempt from the city's new standard curriculums. P.S. 31 on Meserole Street emphasizes rote learning and test prepping; 67 percent of the students met the standards on the English language tests in 2002, compared with 39 percent citywide. For math, 80 percent met standards that year, while 37 percent met them citywide. In 2001, 896 students were enrolled at P.S. 31, according to the school district's Web site. 

P.S. 34 at 131 Norman Avenue is smaller with 563 students; 73 percent were eligible for free lunch in 2001. Last year, 72 percent met the English language test standards, and 80 percent met the math standards. The school is in a former hospital built during the Civil War, and there are no hallways, so students pass through one another's classroom. There is no gym or auditorium. 

P.S. 110 at 124 Monitor Street had 707 students in prekindergarten through Grade 6 in 2001, with 64 percent eligible for free lunches. Last year, 50 percent of its students met the English language test standards and 49 percent met the math standards. 

For middle school, many Greenpoint children attend Intermediate School 126 for Grades 7 through 9 on Leonard Street. Local residents make up about 45 percent of the student body. 

On the other side of McCarren Park is the Automotive High School, offering a technical curriculum. Although security is an important priority and the school graduated only 46 percent of its students, Mercedes-Benz USA recently donated cars and money to start an engineering curriculum and create an auto shop specializing in Mercedeses, among other programs. 

Other local choices are Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens, and the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice and the Harry Van Arsdale High School, both in Williamsburg. At El Puente, graduation rate was 80 percent in 2001. Van Arsdale graduated 44 percent of its students. About a half-dozen parochial schools serve Greenpoint as well. 

McCarren Park is Greenpoint's crown jewel. Although an unused swimming pool is fenced off, 36 open acres feature a jogging track, tennis, boccie and handball courts and baseball and soccer fields — good enough to be renovated as a training center for the 2012 Olympics, said Laz Benitez, the NYC2012 manager of communications. That includes the pool, he said. 

nytimes  April 13, 2003 

Click here for an in depth Greenpoint history.