Legendary Writer Henry Miller Recalls Williamsburg of The 1890s

The NY Times 1971

Henry Miller is not only one of the greatest writers Brooklyn ever produced, but also a chronicler of the now vanished North Brooklyn before the building of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903. Honestly, there are times when I do not like Miller’s writing: it can be macho, self-obsessed, vain and highly egotistical, but when writing about old Williamsburg he approaches literary genius.

Henry Miller (via Carl Van Vechten collection at the Library of Congress)

In 1971, the New York Times (PDF) invited the then 80-year-old Miller back to Williamsburg to recollect on his childhood. Though he had been away for five decades, Miller had a crystal clear memory, recalling many fascinating stories from that vanished world of his childhood. Miller was born of German-American parents in Manhattan in 1891, but moved to the area as an infant, living at 662 Driggs Avenue, a house that still stands.

The Henry Miller House (662 Driggs Avenue vias Google Maps)

His fondest memories, which occupy much of his writing, concern his boyhood friends from the neighborhood. He said, “As I walked the streets the names of my boyhood companions, or better said, my idols, came back to me: Johnny Paul, Eddie Carney, Lester Reardon, Jimmy Short, Tim Buckley; Matt Owen, Gus Fowler, and last but not least, my first real chum, Stanley Borowski. With Stanley I maintained a friendship until I left for France in 1930. Like myself, he wanted to be a writer; I doubt that he ever made it however.”

Reading Miller’s writings, the neighborhood comes into focus through the eyes of a mischievous young lad who would later be censored by the United States Post Office for his shocking prose. Miller recalled first being rebuked for his language at the police station at Bedford Avenue where he was dragged by the arm one afternoon by a babysitter at the age of 6 or 7 years old; the crime he had committed was to use dirty language in her presence – the first of many times Miller would shock people with his language.

Miller’s writing later shocked another, more prominent Williamsburger, Presbyterian Minister John D. Wells. Today John D. Wells Middle School on S. 3rd St. is named for the preacher Miller knew as a child. He recalled, “Later, on some crazy impulse, I sent this rather pompous and aristocratic minister one of my first pieces of writing from Paris. He replied that he had thrown it in the garbage can; he wondered, he said, how one of ‘his boys’ could ever have conceived such filth.” At 7 years of age, Wells had presented Miller with a handsome little New Testament, his name inscribed in gold letters, for reciting by heart the 23rd Psalm. Continue reading

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North Brooklyn Angels Hosts First Annual Luncheon Gala (3/27) in Greenpoint

The Angelmobile in action

The non-profit organization North Brooklyn Angels, that prepares fresh and healthy meals for the hungry, is hosting its first annual Neighbors Helping Neighbors Luncheon on Wed. March 27th, at 12 p.m. at Warsaw (261 Driggs Ave.); tickets are available here.

Angels at work

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Lottery Opens for Nine Affordable Williamsburg Apartments

A total of nine affordable apartments in Williamsburg are now available via the affordable housing lottery at NYC Housing Connect.

Ainslie Tower (467 Keap St.) (Google Maps)

At Ainslie Tower (467 Keap St.) there are three affordable apartments accepting applications through April 3rd. A one-bedroom apartment is $1,058 per month for one to two people with an annual household income between $36,275 – $43,860. Three two-bedroom units are $1,280 per month for two to four people with an annual household income between $43,886 to $50,100.

Via NYC Housing Connect

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Manhattan Avenue Petland Discounts Closing (3/19)

Greenpoints’ Petland Discounts (846 Manhattan Ave.) is shutting down on Tuesday, March 19th, along with the closure of Petland retail stores across New York state, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

The announcement of the closures came just a few days after the passing of Petland founder, Neil Padron, Newsday reports.

The Brentwood, Long Island-based company has 78 stores in the tri-state region (18 in Brooklyn) with over 360 employees and was founded approximately 54 years ago in 1965.

The Manhattan Avenue store had many items remaining as of Friday afternoon and the store is offering discounts on select items. Continue reading

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Recycle And Exchange at the Stop ‘N Swap in Williamsburg Saturday (3/16)

The environmentally focused non-profit organization GrowNYC is hosting a “Stop ‘N’ Swap” on Saturday, March 16th, at the Williamsburg Community Center (195 Graham Ave.) from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Attendees can bring their unwanted housewares and clothes (see below) to donate and exchange for other items; from GrowNYC:

Bring clean, reusable, portable items such as clothing, housewares, games, books, & toys that you no longer need, and take home something new-to-you, free! You don’t have to bring something to take something.

Please do NOT bring: furniture, large items, tube televisions, expired or open food, unsealed personal care products, medicine, dirty or ripped clothing, fabric scraps, incomplete toys and games, non-working electronics, magazines, or sharp objects.

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Anchor Mistaken for Sea Mine Discovered in Newtown Creek

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek (courtesy of Jim Henderson)

A homemade anchor that was first reported to be a sea mine was discovered in Newtown Creek on Friday afternoon causing street closures, NBCNY reports. Sea mines are bombs used to sink and destroy ships and submarines; to prevent injuries, surrounding streets including the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge were shut down during the two-hour investigation.

Sea mines (courtesy of Andre Kaur)

FDNY was notified of a possible explosive device in Newtown Creek near Grand Street on Friday around 1 p.m. and a bomb containment squad was dispatched to the scene, according to NBCNY. Continue reading

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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Drink Specials & Free Food on Grand St! (Sunday, 3/17)

This SUNDAY (March 17), 13 bars along Grand Street celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with 29 drink specials and free food. This 8th edition of the Grand Street Business Improvement District annual Pub Crawl makes your Sunday Funday easy – walk or stumble along just 6 blocks to eat and drink to your lucky charm’s desire.

Huckleberry Bar

Offers include $5 shots of Jameson Caskmates at Crystal Lake, $7 Irish Margaritas at Los Tacos McOndo, $5 grilled cheese at Noorman’s Kil, and $5 beer and shot combos at Redd’s Tavern. Free food will also be available at Dar 525, a free pizza with the purchase of a draft beer; Bushwick Country Club, free BBQ; and Thompson Brooke will have free Irish snacks. Continue reading

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A Greenpoint Irish Primer for St. Patrick’s Day

Most people associate Greenpoint with the Polish community, but our area has a long and deep connection to Ireland. Let’s answer a few questions to prepare you fully to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day locally.

1) When, how and why did the Irish come to Greenpoint?

Greenpoint really began to be a community in the 1850s, just after the Irish famine devastated the country. Already in 1855 a third of the local residents were Irish. The Irish dominated the local waterfront. The McAllister family from Cushendall, Co. Antrim started a tugboat and lighter fleet and brought over many family members and neighbors from Northern Ireland and many Greenpoint Irish families have Cushendall roots. By the 1880s The Irish were a large and growing presence in the area.

McGolrick Park, photo by Megan Penmann
McGolrick Park, photo by Megan Penmann

2) What local places have Irish associations?

Perhaps it is better to ask what places do not? McGolrick Park was named for local parish priest Monseigneur Edward McGolrick who was born in Donegal and rebuilt St. Cecelia’s Church. McCarren Park was named for Irish-American State Senator Patrick McCarren. McGuinness Boulevard was named for Peter J. McGuinness the politician who popularized Greenpoint’s nickname “ The Garden Spot” and brought the area the McCarren Park pool and the G Train.

McCarren Park
Connie O’s (via Google Maps)

3) What local Irish pub are around to celebrate in?

Sadly we lost Shayz Lounge, which was run by two Dubliners. Connie O’s on Norman Avenue is the last real Irish-American Greenpoint bar. The Capri Lounge, once known as Murphy’s, resurrects its Irish past and throws a great party with many locally born Irish- Americans. The Palace bar was for many years run by an Irish-American family. Derry man Stevie Howlett at Lake Street gives an Irish aura to the Minnesota bar on Manhattan Avenue.

4) Did Any Irish Greenpointers affect Ireland?

Yes and how! Thomas Clarke who lived at 175 Russell St. returned to Ireland and took part in the Easter Rising. He formally declared the existence of the Irish Republic before he was captured and shot by the British. He and his wife are honored heroes in Ireland.

Pete McGuinness

5) Which Irish Greenpointer became a local icon? Continue reading

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Dine & Donate Supports Local Causes While You Eat (March 15-24)

Clinton Hall (247 Metropolitan Ave)

Starting this Friday, March 15th through Sunday, March 24th, feast at over 15 local restaurants while supporting a local cause! Whether you want to help abused and abandoned animals find their forever homes or support early childhood education & more, Dine and Donate” makes it easy – All you have to do is eat delicious meals for a discount! 

The deets: Go to a participating restaurant and pay using the Cinch app. 10% of your bill will go to a local non-profit and you will also get 10% or more off their bill. Not a Cinch user yet? Download the Cinch App here   

Oh and if you are snapping shots of your meals “for the gram” no judgment here cuz Cinch is also donating an extra $5 every time you share your experience and tag @cinchwallet + the restaurant you ate in or the non-profit you donated to. Be selfie to be selfless, y’all. Continue reading

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Calico Relaunch, Cabinet of Curiosities and Art @ Three’s — What’s Happening, Greenpoint? (3/13 – 3/19)

WEDNESDAY 3/13

♦ Outside the Lines: A Monthly Artmaking Program for Adults @ Bushwick Library (340 Bushwich Ave.), 6:30pm, FREE, looking to create and connect with other artists in a relaxed setting? Brooklyn Public Library’s Bushwick branch is proud to bring you a brand new, therapeutic, and fun artmaking program just for adults. More Info
^ WORD Presents Hampton Fancher and Mary-Beth Hughes @ Word (126 Franklin St.), 7:30pm, $5, a guide to the craft of screenwriting and an evening with the screenwriter of Blade Runner, Buy Tix
♫ Ilegal Wednesdays: Night Powers, TaDA!, China Wyte @ Our Wicked Lady (153 Morgan Avenue), 7:30pm, $10, More Info
♫ Paul Arámbula, Kindnεss, Basil Leaf, Mitchell Keaney @ Secret Project Robot (1186 Broadway), 8pm, $7, More Info

THURSDAY 3/14

# Timballo Dinner @ Archestratus (160 Huron St.), 6:30pm, $30, Buy Tix
♫ Alex Zhang Hungtai (fka Dirty Beaches) @ San Damiano Mission (85 N. 15th St.) 8pm, $20, Buy Tix
♫ Frank/ieConsent Album Release w/Holy People,Cal Fish,Boiled Wool @ Rubulad (Secret Location), 8pm, $8-10, More Info
♫ Tropical Past & Future Residency @ Black Flamingo (168 Borinquen Pl.), 10pm, $10, More Info Continue reading

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