By Ben Weiss

Greenpoint’s Hidden Waters Explored at A/D/O

Pratt’s Astral Oil Works on the East River at Bushwick Inlet (Scientific American 1872)

Walk alongside the western Greenpoint waterfront and you’ll eventually hit a jut of water bordered by a weathered fence, marsh plants, and a lingering stench of seawater. Unlike the mammoth Hudson or Superfund-famous Gowanus, Bushwick Inlet is easily lost in the hierarchy of remarkable city waters.

This humble inlet, however, joined the limelight this past Thursday, thanks to Sergey Kadinsky, an analyst at the New York City Parks Department and adjunct professor at Touro College. Speaking at A/D/O, a design hub and workspace on Norman Avenue, Kadinsky gave a wide-ranging talk exploring the “hidden waters” across the metropolitan area.

Kadinsky took the stage as the final speaker in a series on water and design. Once a tour guide on Gray Line double-decker buses, he channeled that same brio as he barreled through the five boroughs, pointing out disappeared bodies of water at a blistering pace.

Suffice to say, the city hasn’t been kind to its ponds, streams, creeks, or lakes. Take the now-defunct Collect Pond, which used to be Manhattan’s main source of freshwater. As the city grew, so did the surrounding industry. Contaminated wastewater from breweries, tanneries, and slaughterhouses seeped into the small lake, leading officials to fill it in.

1924 NYC Map aerial survey of Bushwick Inlet to McCarren Park (via Hidden Waters blog)

Bushwick Inlet had a similar history. Fed by the disappeared Bushwick Creek, it had an illustrious career, home to a notorious rumrunner during prohibition and was also the launch site for the first ironclad warship constructed in the United States.

City officials then filled in Bushwick Creek in the 19th century, which ran through north Williamsburg and present-day McCarren Park, leading to the contraction of the inlet.

While there’s little hope for the resurrection of Bushwick Creek (its path was projected to run through the location of A/D/O), Kadinsky argued that this doesn’t prevent us from “daylighting” previously forgotten waters.

View of Bayside Oil Tanks through the weeds at Bushwick Inlet Park. Photo by Megan Penmann
Bushwick Inlet Park. Photo by Megan Penmann

For example, Collect Pond is gone for good, but city officials named a park in the same location in lower Manhattan Collect Pond Park, connecting past geography to present.

Bushwick Inlet has fared better than Collect Pond, but by all accounts needs a facelift. Luckily, it projects to be part of the northern extension of what will eventually be a complete Bushwick Inlet Park, a move to put the inlet “back on the map.” 

Via Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park
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A Fruit Salad More Than a Decade in the Making

Mr. Berry in Greenpoint (via Google Maps)

His first day in Brooklyn, Joon Yoon was baptized in true New York City fashion—with bird poop. While others would consider this an ill omen, Joon saw his unexpected baptism as a harbinger of success. “Some people say it is good luck if you get pooped on,” he explained matter-of-factly over email.

His optimism was warranted. More than two decades since his 1997 arrival in New York from South Korea, Yoon—along with his brother, Jun Yoon—now manages a small green-grocery empire. The brothers own 11 stores (including two in Greenpoint), all of which are a gentlemanly variation on the original store’s name, Mr. Kiwi at 957 Broadway in Brooklyn. They have even expanded into Queens, opening Mr. Avo this year in Long Island City.

Although now bonafide American entrepreneurs, the Yoons originally lived in a provincial capital of middling size in South Korea. Rootless and with financial difficulties, they moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s, knowing no one in the New York area. When Joon first arrived at age 23, he began working in grocery stores from the Bronx to Queens at an exhausting pace—seven days a week at 14 to 18 hours a day.

Mr. Plum (photo: Ben Weiss)

In 2006, he was faced with a choice. The Woodside grocery he worked at was closing, soon leaving him without work. Joon and his family decided to take a leap and open Mr. Kiwi, the idiosyncratic name chosen spontaneously during a road trip. In the beginning, it was hard to gain traction. “They didn’t come with a lot of money or anything… When you don’t have money, there is no one who will give you money. So, they had to start with very little product in the store. Literally, maybe a one-item-per-shelf situation,” explained Jae Lim, their office manager, over the phone.

Mr. Plum (photo: Ben Weiss)

The brother-and-father team operated the store 24 hours a day, working in shifts. Junseok Yoon, their cousin, came soon after and became an integral part of the operation. Customers appreciated the cheap produce—sourced from Hunts Point Market—and generous portions from their juice bar, detailed Lim.

13 years later, one store became 11. And Mr. Kiwi was joined by Mr. Coco, Mr. Piña, Mr. Melon, Mr. Lime, Mr. Berry, Mr. Mango, Mr. Lemon, Mr. Plum, and Mr. Avo. The Yoon family has even recently opened a salad bar in Bushwick. Continue reading

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