Just the other night I was interviewed by a college student in regards to my history in Greenpoint for a paper she’s doing. I’d never been interviewed before (why would I be?) but it was a pretty cool experience. I told her about the things she wasn’t able to read online or find at the library. Experiences.

She was particularly surprised to hear that McCarren Park was a shithole back in the day. Which it totally was. There were no Sundays in the park with picnics, dog runs and jolly games of petanque (don’t ask me). There were hoodlums, drugs and rapists in that place. Or at least that’s what we were all told. An old girlfriend of mine went to McCarren Park with a guy and he totally forced her to second base. It was all the confirmation I needed back then.

Which by the way, Tom Gilbert has a great article on McCarren Pool in his Beside the Point ongoing piece in The Brooklyn Paper this week that is a must read. And just for shits and giggles check out the Village Voices photographic journey of The Back Tattoos of McCarren Pool. My personal fave is the “psychedelic blimp” reference.

I told her about the old man bars like Goodmans and Walkers. And how me and a few of my friends had to run and hide in the basement of Walkers one night because the cops were raiding it for underage drinking. I think I was 16. Fighting at The Pit, watching the fireworks at the Alamo and drinking 40’s at 34.

I never see any kids down by The Pit anymore. The Alamo is burned down or at least even more dilapidated than it was fifteen years ago. And all the schoolyards are chained up so tight after school hours that Houdini wouldn’t be able to get in them. I wonder where all the kids do hangout nowadays.


She was curious how everyone got along. Back in the day it was mostly the White kids, the Polish and the Puerto Ricans. It seemed like the White kids were fighting both the Polish kids and the Puerto Rican kids. But I didn’t really remember the Polish and Puerto Ricans fighting.

In fact, a bunch of them were making sweet love and created quite the baby boom of Polo-Ricans around town.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hey Justine,

    It is so wild for me to read your posts because I did almost the same exact stuff you did but as a guy. Going to Steinway for a movie or the Chopin. I hung out mostly in Franklin Street park where I learned to drink 40’s. I don’t recall the Pit? Where was that? We did hang out over on Meserole or Norman at the weigh in station for awhile? Where was the Alamo? I do recall the park being a S-hole back in the day. A place you did not want to go at night. Do you remember the Burger King? Or way back there was an arcade across from the Associated. I use to love going into the Greenpoint savings bank because it was the biggest building I was ever in. There was also a great hot dog guy that was across from the bank on Cayler. I know you guys went to 126. My dad was a teacher there and the gym is named after him. I also have a cousin who teaches there. Roman Dobiac or something like that.

  2. The Pit was pretty much the general area between Meserole & Calyer down by Jewel and those blocks. At least when I hungout there. There were a lot of kids, different ages and such that called their hangout The Pit – I was not part of the ‘first’ nor the ‘last’ generation to call it that.

    Right next to Franklin St park in that abandon building where we used to um, pee out our 40’s was what we called the Alamo. lol

    I do remember the Burger King in the middle of Manhattan Ave (not talking about the one where the new Starbucks is now). I think my sister had a birthday party there.

    What’s your Dad’s name? I can’t say that I remember what the Gym was named!

  3. Ahhh…Alamo there was one with oil drums and stuff and there is the one where the water tower is. Someone was always climbing the tower when I was younger.

    How about the piers down on Huron…We didn’t go there much but I remember those. Glad to see that Franklin is booming. It is a nice to have a few places where to drink and eat. What street did you guys grow up on?

    I will go really old school and ask do you remember the bowling alley.

  4. Yeah I remember people climbing the water tower, too. I definitely hungout down at the piers on occasion, though I don’t remember which piers they were. It could’ve been Huron.

    I grew up on Humboldt Street. I definitely don’t remember a bowling alley!

  5. Bowling alley was located on Humboldt and Norman I think. It is some non profit design place now. I went to St Stans. How about the candy store near the church was really good for candy. I cannot recall the name of it. There was also a sweet Toy store on corner of Humboldt and Nassau. Did you ever know Jennifer Lasker she lived on Humboldt.

  6. Oh I remember that candy store, definitely a good one. The guy who owned it was really cool too. And the toy store on Humboldt & Nassau – Mickey’s! OMG I loved that place. I knew all the families that lived in that building and I practically lived there myself.

    I did know Jen Lasker though she was a bit older than me. I was more friendly with her brother John. All those kids had the most beautiful blond hair.

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