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.
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.
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.
5) Which Irish Greenpointer became a local icon?
Local politician and larger than life character Peter McGuinness so embodied Greenpoint that it was said that it was hard to think of the one without immediately thinking of the other. The amateur boxer and former lumber handler ran Greenpoint from the end of the First World War until his death in 1948. A slew of the public works he spearheaded still define the area.
6) Most Surprising Fact about the Greenpoint Irish?
In the 1880s a local physician Thomas Gallagher started a terrorist cell that tried to bomb England. The plot was uncovered and the Greenpointers involved in it did many years in prison.
7) Who was the Greatest Irish Greenpoint athlete?
Local heavyweight prizefighter Jake Kilrain fought and lost the last bare-knuckle heavyweight title bout to the legendary John L Sullivan in 1889. The bout, which lasted over two hours in hundred-degree temperatures, is considered one of the greatest prizefights ever. Kilrain was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame.
8) What is the greatest local monument to the Irish?
Irish Greenpointers built St. Anthony of Padua on Manhattan Avenue in 1875. The church’s architect was the great Irish-born church builder Patrick Keely.