Greenpoint was once known as “The American Birmingham” because, like the English industrial town, almost everything was manufactured here. Greenpoint has been manufacturing items for so long that many of the factories predate zoning laws intended to separate toxic factories and residential areas. No one was more aware of the tooth- and-jowl nature of Greenpoint manufacturing than the people of Clifford Place between Calyer Street and Meserole Avenue around the corner for the post office. Since 1947 the sounds and vibrations of stamping metal and rolling steel have resounded up and down the street weekdays from the Pinquist Tool and Die Factory. However, the din of clanking metal has ended and neighbors now wonder what will replace the old metal shop. The old Pinquist logo still sits above the building, a sad reminder of a faded past.A few months ago large trucks pulled up on the corner of Meserole and Clifford and for a few days the workers hauled out the huge old metal stamping and turning machine that formed the core of the business. The African-American and Hispanic men who once worked in the factory and now were dismantling it looked glum, realizing that the factory that had given them a paycheck was soon to close. One of the neighbors said that the firm was relocating to Utica, New York, but no one was certain. One thing, though, was sure- another part of industrial Greenpoint was leaving.
What will replace the factory: a trendy bar, a fancy clothing shop, a Ferrari dealership or a lingerie boutique? No one knows, but a sign advertising it as a retail location has appeared. The site is not the healthiest place to open a business. For years Pinquist used lead, and the building is most likely highly toxic. Would you like to buy your fruit or cheese from a shop laced with lead? Not me. Will the retailer who opens his or her business even care about its toxic industrial history? Who knows?
One thing is certain. The sound of stamping metal and the hiss of the machines that once resounded from Pinquist will never be heard again.