Culture

A History of Greenpoint in 25 Buildings #6: The Havemeyer Sugar Refinery

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The Havemeyer Sugar Refinery

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, North Brooklyn was the largest place for refining sugar in the world and Brooklyn’s largest industry. Although Williamsburg refined far more sugar than Greenpoint, the Havemeyer refinery at 85 Commercial Street on Newtown Creek was one of the most important American sugar refineries and was the scene of a near riot when the refinery’s workers fought for better conditions in 1886.

The members of the Havemeyer family were the crown princes of sugar. Multi-millionaire Henry Havemeyer formed an illegal cartel of sugar refiners around the United States that blocked competition, colluded to lower the amount of sugar refined and raised the price to consumers, while making all the refiners in the cartel spectacularly rich. He used his vast sugar money to buy a thousand pieces of art, which later became the basis of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. Continue reading

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In Conversation with Novelist & Playwright Nathaniel Kressen, Lead of the Greenpoint Writer’s Group

Dahlia Cassandra cover, artwork by Jessie T. Kressen
Dahlia Cassandra book cover, artwork by Jessie T. Kressen

The name Nathaniel Kressen may ring a few bells to anyone familiar with the lit scene here in Greenpoint – he’s the novelist and playwright who leads the Greenpoint Writer’s Group and is preparing to launch his second novel, Dahlia Cassandra, at the Strand Bookstore this Friday, June 17th.

His first book, Concrete Fever, was a labor of love – literally. In true renegade fashion, he and Jessie T. Kressen – his wife and the illustrator for both books – co-founded Second Skin Books and hand-bound the first 250 copies, which proved to be an indie best seller at the Strand.

They collaborated again on Dahlia Cassandra and the result is an equally stunning work that features Jessie’s dreamy artwork throughout. I spoke with Nathaniel about his upcoming book, his writing process, and what’s near and dear to his heart in Brooklyn.  Continue reading

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Matthew Ward: An Artist at Home in Greenpoint

Matthew Ward at his home studio. Photo: Dobrinka Salzman
Matthew Ward at his home studio. Photo: Dobrinka Salzman

Matthew Ward recognizes that ceramics are having a moment of great popularity, but that is not what brought him to the art form. Around five years ago, the painter decided to try his hand, literally, at something new and began to learn the process of creating ceramics. For Ward, working with clay is satisfying because it allows him to combine the elements of painting that he enjoys — design and problem solving — with the fun of sculpting.

Works by Matthew Ward
Works by Matthew Ward

Clay has become Ward’s primary medium as he crafts most of his pieces on the potter’s wheel and hand-builds a few. He uses the eye he honed as a painter as he designs each piece, etching into its surface. The products of this process are a variety of simple —but not simplistic — forms marked with loosely geometric and primitive patterns, in rich but subdued colors. Ward strives to create what he calls “fine art pottery”, pieces that he feels will stand the test of time, ones that he hopes will be valued by their owners and passed from one generation to the next. Continue reading

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Go Before It’s Cool: Brooklyn Film Festival Comes to Greenpoint

Last week, the Brooklyn Film Festival kicked off its 19th year of showcasing local and international feats of independent cinema in a handful of venues, including two Greenpoint landmarks: The Wythe Hotel and Windmill Studios. With a number of networking events and screenings, there’s plenty of action for filmmakers, film supporters, and film lovers to get into this week.

This year’s festival premieres 12 narrative features, 24 narrative shorts, 9 feature documentaries, 18 short docs, 25 animated and 20 experimental films. The theme is “Experiment.”

With our 20th anniversary around the corner, the festival feels like floating in mid-air between our history and our plans for the future. It is this subtle sense of instability that fuels “Experiment” Edition. The experiment is reinventing ourselves, it is about allowing the unknown, and it’s about paying attention to the youngest storytellers. Every year we launch a new generation of talent, and this year’s selection is as experimental as mind-altering.

We were able to snag one of these new talents, Michael Irish, whose breezy serio-comedy narrative feature, Life of Significant Soil, premiered on Wednesday at Windmill Studios. Continue reading

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Weekend Art Roundup: June 10-12

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Oh man, we’ve got a lot cooking this weekend… I’m not the one to usually say things like “art is all around us,” but this weekend art is all around us: in the streets, wristwatch showrooms, back room bar shows, record label stoop sales, and a Mayan hip hop show. Hell, if that’s not art I don’t know what is. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Caroline Z. Hurley Finds a Home Away from Home in Greenpoint

Caroline is a painter and traveler; Caroline Z Hurley is a home-ware company based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Caroline is a painter and traveler; Caroline Z Hurley is a home-ware company based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Caroline Z. Hurley is an artist who is deeply inspired by place, so it makes sense that she chose to set up shop in Greenpoint, where she now mingles the energy of the neighborhood with impressions of far flung locations.

A visit to her new shop/studio, tucked into a small storefront at 155 Freeman Street, reveals a bright and calming space that neatly displays contemporary wares and Hurley’s chic textiles. Drenched in white, the shop feels like a calm haven. Not only does the zen-like space showcase Hurley’s beautiful textiles, but also her skillful, artistic eye for design. Continue reading

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Concert Review: Peter Bjorn and John at Baby’s All Right


On the night modern values caught up with Ted Cruz and he quit his principled electoral charade, a Swedish band in Brooklyn, long absent, was proving they were still relevant.

Peter Bjorn and John, performing in New York for the first time in five years and on their first tour overall in three years, played before a sold-out, schvitzy crowd and seizure-inducing lights at Baby’s All Right (146 Broadway) in Williamsburg on May 3rd. Though they had played a show the night before at the slightly larger Rough Trade venue, Baby’s All Right was the ideal setting for this band, whose aught-era music of the Apple Commercial genre, like the venue, is sleek and stylish, but not lacking in substance (listen only to the Bjorn’s driving-bass lines hidden behind expressionless shades for proof). Continue reading

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A History of Greenpoint in Twenty-Five Buildings #5: The American Manufacturing Company

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For decades the remains of the American Manufacturing Company buildings around West and Noble have stood, hulking and vacant, as a reminder of Greenpoint’s industrial past. Now all that is rapidly changing. Part of it is the Brooklyn Expo Center. Another building houses a furniture store. Part of the long vacant rope works is being transformed into a luxury hotel.

Screen shot 2016-04-03 at 2.44.17 PMAt one point the company occupied sixteen buildings and was Brooklyn’s largest employer with four thousand people, mostly females. The great local writer Margaret Wise Brown’s father was Vice President of the firm, but the majority of the people who worked there were newly arrived immigrant women who worked fifty-six hour weeks for low wages, making rope. Many of the immigrants who settled in Greenpoint first came to work in the plant. Initially, it was the Polish and later in the 1920’s, Puerto Ricans. They were recruited on Puerto Rico and brought here on a special ship. Continue reading

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Free Summer Concert Series at House of Vans Kicked Off with Jon Hopkins, The Field, and Black Madonna

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The first of House of Vans Summer Concert Series featured Jon Hopkins, The Black Madonna, The Field with Fixed NYC

On a crisp, first-glimpse-of-summer night, with nigh a sk8rboi in sight, Jon Hopkins and electro company kicked off the annual free concert series at House of Vans (25 Franklin St) in Greenpoint.

Capture d’écran 2016-06-06 à 12.33.38Exceedingly referential with sponsoredstreetart and a lightinstallation” that referenced a once-flickering warehouse marquee, Vans’ branded millennial pandering was never a distraction from evening’s chilled-out vibes, free orange-vanilla seltzer, nor the gaunt and smiley Hopkins’ superb set. Hopkins music, often slow to build, develops meditatively through repetition. You could even hear someone scream, “where’s the drop?”

Outdoor music, while often exchanging sound quality for experiential novelty, has the unique quality of gathering diverse groups of people together, especially when free.

There are five more shows coming up. Check them out: Continue reading

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Northside Music Festival 2016: What We’re Seeing

frankie cosmos
Frankie Cosmos is playing Sat (6/11) at Rough Trade

A festival that harkens to Austin’s over-saturated SXSW festival without the tasteless inundation of branding in the name of culture (yet), Northside Festival returns to North Brooklyn from June 6 – 12 and is still a great opportunity to catch bands you know alongside local groups you may have only heard mention of. As you skip around venues old and new, these are some of the acts that would be a shame to miss.
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