Sticker Found in Greenpoint

We recently received a somewhat disturbing email from a reader. Local Greenpointer, Sabrina Stein, was walking home on Calyer Street last week in the late afternoon with her headphones on, when something out of the ordinary happened.

Here is her story:

I saw an old lady walking towards me who seemed to be speaking and appeared a bit distraught. I turned off my music thinking maybe she was lost and needed directions. As I walked closer to her, I heard that she was yelling at me: “YOU ARE BROWN, GET OUT OF THIS NEIGHBORHOOD, YOU HAVE BROWN EYES AND BROWN SKIN, YOU ARE HISPANIC, WE DONT WANT YOU HERE.

Street Harassment Incidents via "Hollaback" a self-reported map

I have to say, I was in complete shock. I told her that she should take her racism back to wherever she came from because this is NY and that kind of hate is not welcome and then I walked away.

I am indeed Hispanic, I was born and raised in Uruguay and have been living in the United States for 14 years. I went to high school in Miami, University and Graduate School in Orlando, and have been living in New York for a year and a half and this is the first time since I moved to the US that I have experienced racism directly. I love Greenpoint and I think it is the best neighborhood in New York and I am sure horrible people like this are everywhere, I just hate that this encounter happened to me in Greenpoint.

As many of you know, Greenpoint does have a small Neo Nazi community, but we doubt this woman was in any way connected to an actual organization.

Sabrina’s experience just goes to show that although this city can seem like a culturally diverse, accepting, and liberal place, especially when compared to other cities in the US, strong, ingrained racist attitudes do exist and overt racism does happen here.  America is still a deeply racist country and although vast strides have been made, we’re a long way from eliminating these attitudes.

Is Greenpoint any more or less racist than the rest of New York City?

Feel free to share your support and/or your own experiences here. 

And although this app is designed for gender harassment specifically, it can’t hurt to report these incidents.

Join the Conversation

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  1. It’s so HARD to forget how deeply racist this country is. Here’s an informative infographic that just skims the surface, not diving into the [structural, overt, covert] racism/discrimination faced by non-whites and minority groups of New York City, the US and the world:

    http://www.upworthy.com/think-racism-isn-t-an-issue-anymore-oh-have-i-got-an-infographic-for-you-css

    1. Thank you for this! I was searching for some statistics for overt racism in Greenpoint, particularly and have not been able to locate any yet, so if you see anything useful, please send my way!

  2. I live close to the corner of Eckford and Calyer and had a “run in” with an elderly woman as well. I had just gotten my puppy and would walk her around the block every morning. One morning right at the corner of Eckford and Calyer, this woman came out of her apartment with a broom and yelled in my face with profanities saying I didn’t clean up my dog sh%^t. She waved her broom at my face and told me to get out of here and go back home, go away where I belong.
    Now, I ALWAYS clean up after my pup. Quite diligently if I might add. She was very aggressive and there was no reasoning with her. I’ve seen her again and she followed me down the street one time to my apartment. But since then I haven’t seen her. This was last year.

    I’m wondering if this is the same woman that yelled at Sabrina. I really don’t think that woman was stable at all.

  3. I have, on multiple occasions in my 2 years living in greenpoint been called the N word. Coming here from Harlem, it was a shocking wake up call that indeed racism is still alive and well in even the largest of cities. As much as I love this neighborhood, it is certainly a reason I could never chose to raise my family here. Especially seeing as I’ve been called this word my mostly older Polish men, twice my size I’ve felt defenseless and of course had no one stand up for me. Thank you for bringing attention to this sad yet important issue our neighborhood is struggling with

    1. Hi Sarah!

      I know this post is from a while ago, but I am a reporter for Crain’s New York writing a story about Williamsburg and Greenpoint and hoping to talk to some residents (or former residents) who aren’t white about what it’s like living in the neighborhood and I cam across your comment in this thread and would love to talk to you more if you by any chance see this reply haha. My email is rachelrippetoe@gmail.com. Reach out if you want to talk!

  4. That old woman’s comments are surprising given the fact that there’s a very strong Hispanic population in G’pt from Huron Street on up, and there has been for a very long time. Maybe she’s never traveled that far north, or better yet, maybe she’s just a racist loon. I’m black, and have lived in Greenpoint for 7 years. I felt self-conscious at first but no one has ever said anything racist to me (yet). I feel like my old school neighbors are slowly getting used to seeing more cultural diversity. Which is a good thing for the neighborhood.

    1. Hi Michelle!

      I know this post is from a while ago, but I am a reporter for Crain’s New York writing a story about Williamsburg and Greenpoint and hoping to talk to some residents (or former residents) who aren’t white about what it’s like living in the neighborhood and I cam across your comment in this thread and would love to talk to you more if you by any chance see this reply haha. My email is rachelrippetoe@gmail.com. Reach out if you want to talk!

  5. as an asian, i endure a plethora of of racist comments from the newcomers, not the older greenpointers. yup, from the folks who ‘should’ know better. i get questions in weird asian sing-song, non-english babble at asian-owned businesses. i guess we all look alike.

    sabrina, as much as we NYers like to think we’re above it all, racists are everywhere. in fact, you’d be surprised where you hear racist comments. for the most part, greenpoint is okay. collect those comments and start a blog about your life in NYC.

    1. When I lived on Graham Ave off of Grand in Wburg I never ever experienced or felt racism but when I moved to Greenpoint racism was REALLY felt. I am Asian American female btw. Granted but not all Polish people in Gpoimt are racist but there were enough on a daily basis where living there got to be pretty uncomfortable and they make a point of making you feel it. A polish owned shoe store refused to help a friend and I, The Driggs Ave Laundromat across the street from Warsaw is racist, a lot of the elderly women stare you down and yell racist remarks, neo-Nazis now march around and some drunk Polish men would yell at my husband who is Bulgarian and Swedish, odd. I don’t think that I would ever live in Gpoint again unless the apt was right at the Wburg/Gpoint border by McCarren Park. Even an apt with cheap rent wouldn’t lure me back there.

  6. Native Greenpointers (not those recent newbies within the past 10 years) have grown accustomed to living in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood, which was rarely diversified until gentrification occurred. I think the main issue is how the Polish community and original residents are coping with these changes

    1. You hit the nail on the head. We don’t like change and hipsters are bad enough to have to deal with. What rustled my jimmies more than her skin color though is the fact that she moved here recently from another state. GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM HIPSTERS

  7. Greenpoint has ALWAYS been racist. Seriously, before the locals hated on hipsters they hated on each other. Germans and Irish hated the Polish, Polish hated the PR’s, PR’s hated the blacks, etc. etc. Not new. Not right, and I would like to be very clear that I am certainly not defending it.
    Someday we’ll all get along. I just know it <3

  8. I’ve been called “gringa” by little Puerto Rican girls on Java. I giggled.

    I think this woman was probably more mentally disturbed than racist.

  9. from my experience, Greenpoint is more racist and intolerant than many other NYC neighborhoods (though not the worst).
    ]i’m a light skinned mexican so i’ve never gotten slack for my race as people assume i’m white/anglo but i’ve seen many dark skinned mexicans treated badly and ignored in stores. i’ve seen black people get jeered at in the street. i’ve been called a derogatory names for gay and i’m not even gay.
    if any of this comes as a surprise to anyone reading this, then you’re not paying enough attention when you walk the streets.
    the story you told is not an isolated incident. it’s not about a crazy racist lady, it’s about a close minded culture that is very much a part of Greenpoint.

  10. In my opinion, having been around the world and being a ‘lover’ of difference myself, as well putting this example of racism or ‘difference’ in ‘appearance’ type hatred in perspective, believe that the comments ‘most racist place/country are only legitimized by the fact the melting pot includes every nation and creed available on earth. In other words, it’s a bit ignorant to call a metal car the most rusty car in a field of plastic automobiles.

    Goodness gracious. Focus on positivity and beauty. Besides, what makes someone or someplace more racist, more bigoted or more fascist? The level of intolerance or the amount of mediocre unacceptance?

    There is a huge stark difference and contrast between monitoring and measuring. I urge everyone to quit exacerbating the scenario of a ‘racist’ world by reacting in name calling ( calling someone racist is name calling ) and personal forms of hatred.

    God bless.
    tellurian, global citizen,
    Your brother, always,
    Simon Lonergan

  11. I’ve lived in GP for 11 years and am brown as brown can be. Don’t judge the neighborhood by its ignorant cranky old folk. Their antiquated thinking will die off when they do. GP is a beautiful neighborhood for all. No, It’s not Harlem, but white people get heckled by brown folks up there just as often, if not more often, for being white by idiots with the same mentality. Treat everyone you encounter with sincere respect and we can all solve this problem eventually. except bigots…. fuck those guys.

  12. Back in 1995, when we first moved to Brooklyn, (first to Williamsburg and now Greenpoint), the real estate office on the then “desolate” street of Bedford Ave and North 6th turned away my husband and myself (who are white). Reason: We were not Polish. They outwardly refused us based on this fact and they had no trouble telling us so. Hard to believe now, since both of these neighborhoods have so drastically changed in its demographics and the rents have skyrocketed. Of course, we took it upon ourselves and found a railroad for $565 a month on our own— back when it was cheap to live here. No more. Now they are laughing all the way to the bank, renting to anyone who will pay these exorbitant rents.

  13. A few weeks ago I was in Natural Garden on Manhattan Ave and found myself waiting on line behind a relatively normal looking woman with an Eastern European accent who was calmly ranting to the shocked cashier about how she doesn’t celebrate JEW holidays and events (the event in question being New Years Eve, so she was waaaaay off) and how “they” make everything theirs. She also threw in some stuff about being constantly monitored through a camera in her own home. I would not be surprised if this was the same woman.

    As hard as it is to believe, I don’t think she’s racist, just absolutely off-the-effing-wall. Pity her and don’t bother wasting your anger on such a sad case.

  14. I have to say, Sabrina’s story and Antoni’s comment ring strangely familiar with me. I’ve had two run-ins with the same elderly woman in Greenpoint (she looked pretty disheveled, and on both occasions was wearing a mini skirt in the dead of winter, while wobbling in heels.) I presumed she was talking to herself, until I got closer and realized her mumbling/yelling was directed at me. She “kindly” pointed out that I shouldn’t be walking on the same sidewalk that she walks on. I’m Persian, so maybe darker skin tones set this chick off. In all honesty, she’s the only person I’ve ever had a seemingly racial run-in with in my years in Greenpoint. Even as such, her words made my heart race, and I had to call a friend just to calm me down. There IS a strong hispanic population beyond Huron Street, and diversity (I hope) is continuing to come to the hood, but any confrontation like this is unsettling. Just wanted to say, Sabrina, you’re not alone! This lady is SAD inside and out.

    1. Hi Nazy! I know this was so long ago, but can you perhaps tell me where you ran into her, if you remember? I am Indian and am having trouble with a woman harassing both me and my dog around Franklin St and Green St. It’s happened a couple times now. Am wondering if your encounter was in the same area. She is a woman with long grey/brown hair, maybe in her early 60s. I’m sorry you had to go through this :(.

  15. I am a white Hispanic and my husband is Indian. He is the only Indian guy for miles in Greenpoint, it seems, and for this we attract a lot of not-so-nice unsolicited attention to ourselves as a biracial couple in laundromats, bakeries, and supermarkets. I have never felt more uncomfortable living here in my life, and I am a native new yorker from Washington Heights.

  16. The old woman reminds of the remnants of pre-gentrified Balkanized Brooklyn when it seemed more apparent of ethnic zones.
    Though I have been spared of this indignation, I can presume the old woman is seething with anger with the occasional interacial couple & even young families- her anger is probably boiling if its white woman with an ethnic man of either African, Hispanic, & Asian origins. Or it’s over the top if she sees an attractive white man with an attractive black woman.
    And it has been the gentrifiers or the hipsters that have been perpetuating these social interactions in north Brooklyn.
    The old woman is on the losing side of history.

  17. I am black and have five years of history in Greenpoint. Greenpoint is racist. I just had an incidence of housing discrimination and when I moved into the building I am in now, the all Polish neighbors definitely reacted to my presence. I still love living here. I experienced the same “shock” when living in Astoria. I feel like at least the overall Greenpoint vibe is more accustomed to, even if not completely welcome to anything “alternative” than Astoria. For instance, I still get the same looks because of my race, but in Astoria I get extra looks for my “artsy” aesthetic. Plus, Greenpoint has more to offer overall.

    Every New York neighborhood does have some race “issue”. In Crown Heights there was the awkwardness of me being a black “gentrifier” and witnessing white newcomers being harassed. The only neighborhood I have felt little racial tension is in Fort Greene, but I am sure it still exists there in a small degree. New York is no better off than many places in the country, we just co-exist more than other parts of the country.

  18. I’ grew up here and while you do realize that most of our polish neighbors are rude, I have never had anyone ever say anything racist to me. I have also seen and heard derogatory comments made to the elderly in the neighborhood by individuals that have recently moved in. So I guess it goes both ways. Btw, I’m Hispanic and it’s definitely a large community.

  19. I love on India St, and I have on several occasions had run-in’s with older Polish guys. One guy called me a brown criminal (mind you I had a suit and tie on, not that precludes suit and tie types from committing crime) and to go back to Puerto Rico. He then threatened to pour ‘cancer’ on me which was quite interesting. A few other times I gotten the cold stare with the full turn around as I walked past, but no words were exchanged.

  20. i was grabbing a slice of pizza at best margarita late one night and a very drunk man came in and asked the owner where he was from. he then started saying that only italians know how to make real pizza and they should go back to pakistan. i yelled at the guy to shut up and leave but it was really upsetting and has stayed with me.

  21. I am always surprised by how racist NYers can be… I lived in Bushwick in the late 1990s and there was a strong anti-white thing going on…but Greenpoint doesn’t shock me… After the shooting in the community bias meeting ere where some anti-Irish comments. It all around us.

  22. I am a young black woman and I lived in Greenpoint from 2002 – 2007 and then again for a short stint in 2011. One of the best things I learned was from my old landlord Carmella who was a little Italian lady who’d lived there since the 60s. She told me when she came there Greenpoint was a very mixed poor working class neighborhood. She said they’d have great block parties “All colored people. It was all kindsa people.” At some point (late 70s/early 80s maybe?) she told me there was a large influx of Polish and life got markedly more difficult for her. People would literally come to her door and say “OK tell us how much you want for your house. This is our neighborhood now and it’s time for you to go.” I was actually handed one such letter for her at one point and was quite taken aback. Coming from California, I’d experienced bigotry between races but didn’t know there was so much enmity between different groups of whites, so that was an eye opener to be sure!

    Aside from my landlords anecdotes, I heard many stories from Jewish friends and queer friends and other friends of color and I of course had many uncomfortable experiences of my own in the neighborhood. In fact, at one point just made the decision not to go to any more Polish restaurants since I got almost no service. My white friends at first didn’t believe it but many of them eventually saw with their own eyes.

    I still go to church in Greenpoint but I don’t spend any more time there than I have to. I am married to an Eastern European and lived in Eastern Europe for many years, so I understand that small-mindedness quite well but I don’t want to go out of my way to live in it.

    1. Hi Camille! I know this post is from a while ago, but I am a reporter for Crain’s New York writing a story about Williamsburg and Greenpoint and hoping to talk to some residents (or former residents) who aren’t white about what it’s like living in the neighborhood and I cam across your comment in this thread and would love to talk to you more if you by any chance see this reply haha. My email is rachelrippetoe@gmail.com. Reach out if you want to talk!

  23. I know the woman that this article is about. By “know” I just mean that I held the door for her at Dunkin Donuts near Greenpoint Ave – and got a slew of rude comments thrown at me. Get this – it all started because she asked me if I was Polish – and I answered yes.

    So, really, this whole racism slant, unnecessary. That woman is just bat-shit crazy. And it’s really sad. Try an article on homophobia instead.

  24. My grandmother was indoctrinated by the Elderly Defenders of Caucasus. This group lures unwitting seniors with hopes of bus trips to AC and Mohegan Sun. Instead they are taught hate. Gram is back to believing in the Great Mosaic and she even loves Jews.

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