The Many Local Legacies of Pete McGuinness

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-12-16-20-pmThere is a famous quote related to English architect Sir Christopher Wren: “If you seek his monument look around you.” The same could be said in Greenpoint of Peter J. McGuinness, the local ward boss who ran Greenpoint from 1923 to 1948. McGuinness profoundly altered Greenpoint and his many achievements are still visible everywhere.
How did you get to Greenpoint? If you arrived by subway it was McGuinness who secured the G train in 1933. The original route of the crosstown train did not go through Greenpoint, but McGuinness complained so loudly the route was changed. Did you drive over the bridge at Greenpoint Avenue? McGuinness also got that for our area in 1929 by being the firmest supporter of Mayor Jimmy Walker.

Greenpoint parks are one of his major legacies. He helped Greenpoint get the American playground in 1924 and the Barge Terminal Playground on Dupont Street as well. If you walk into McGolrick Park you can also see two of Pete’s lasting legacies. The beautiful World War I statue honoring local veterans was built thanks to money raised by Pete’s Greenpoint Patriotic League and the Monitor memorial built in 1935 was also the result of McGuinness’s ability to get $5,000 from Albany.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-12-17-13-pm
McCarren Pool

However, it is in McCarren Park that we see his greatest legacies. Automotive High School was built on park land, which required a special act of the legislature to create. Actually, when McGuinness found out that it was a trade school and not an academic high school he was furious and considered the trade school an insult to Greenpoint. However, his biggest legacy in the park is McCarren Park pool, which he used his influence to help the area receive in 1935. When the pool was opened McGuinness declared it the day the happiest of his life.

There is one legacy that you cannot see, but is very important. McGuinness never wanted public housing projects in Greenpoint and our area is one of the few in Brooklyn without projects.

The Aldermen who re-named Oakland Street McGuinness Boulevard were rightly paying tribute to a man whose many achievements still define our area.

About Geoff Cobb

Geoffrey Cobb is a Brooklyn high school history teacher and writer of the blog historicgreenpoint.wordpress.com. He has lived in Greenpoint for over 20years and is the author of a book on the history of the area, "Greenpoint Brooklyn's Forgotten Past."

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *