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The Settlement House’s Long History and Continuing Role in North Brooklyn

The original Hull House in Chicago (courtesy of University of Alabama)

Local settlement houses have a long and honorable history in North Brooklyn and they have served as a cultural and educational oasis for generations of local youths. Still, many people might not fully appreciate the historic and current role settlement houses play in our area.

Settlement houses first appeared in England in 1884. Several young graduates from Oxford and Cambridge saw that the working class had little access to education or to culture, so they opened the first settlement house and hoped to share their knowledge and culture with their low-paid, poorly educated neighbors. The idea quickly spread to America where millions of illiterate, or semi-literate, immigrants with little or no English language skills began to populate the nation’s cities.

Many middle-class Americans feared that these immigrants and their children posed a danger to American culture and democracy. Something had to be done to help “Americanize” these newcomers and the settlement house quickly became the answer.

In 1889, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr founded the famous Hull House Settlement House on Chicago’s west side. Hull House served the needs of recently arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe and it served as a model for approximately five hundred similar institutions that sprang up around the country.

Two settlement houses based on Hull House were founded in North Brooklyn. One was funded by Brooklyn’s richest man, Charles Pratt, on the ground floor of his model apartment building, The Astral Apartments, which still stands on Franklin Street and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The settlement house in the building ran a kindergarten, English language classes, home economics courses and civics classes for many of the newly arrived immigrants from Poland, Russia, Lithuania, and Italy.

The Astral in 1903 (Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Social Museum Collection): Caption states: “Greenpoint Settlement in South End, 85 Java Street. Settlement end of Astral Building eleven flats – for work of settlement Resident’s Apartments, fifth and sixth floors.”

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Brooklyn Community Board 1 Meets Tonight (5/14)

(courtesy of INGA/Flickr)

Brooklyn’s Community Board 1 (Greenpoint and Williamsburg) will hold its monthly public meeting tonight (5/14) at the Swinging 60’s Senior Center at 211 Ainslie St. starting at 6 p.m. The meeting will be live-streamed here and the agenda is as follows:

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996 Manhattan Avenue Blights Street With Garbage Ahead of Demolition

996 Manhattan Avenue

As plans for a new mixed-use development loom, the existing building at 996 Manhattan Avenue has become a magnet for garbage and vagrants, according to multiple neighbors who said their complaints to 311 have yielded no action on the cleanup from the developer BHLD Capital.

The Huron Street side of 996 Manhattan Avenue

One woman who lives on Huron Street near 996 Manhattan Avenue said that she regularly sees people hanging out on the side of the building under the scaffolding, which received a summons from the Dept. of Buildings for lacking proper lighting. A second summons for the strewn garbage on the property from the Department of Sanitation was visible on the outside of the building on Monday afternoon.

996 Manhattan Ave. summons
996 Manhattan Ave. summons

“I called the developer last week and spoke to the management company and they said that they would take care of it but the garbage is still there,” the Huron Street resident said.

Huron Street side of 996 Manhattan Ave.

Jungle Cafe was the former groundfloor tenant at 996 Manhattan Ave. and has since relocated to 131 Greenpoint Ave.

The existing three-story building at 996 Manhattan Ave. is slated to be demolished for a seven-story development by BHLD Capital, who neighbors say is not doing their job to keep the site in order until work begins. Continue reading

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Delicious On-The-Go Bites in Greenpoint That’s Easy On Your (Cinch) Wallet

Greenpoint has its fair share of sit-down delicious brunches and creative dining, but sometimes you just want something quick, easy, and authentic. Whether you’re craving a good old New York bagel or a traditional lamb kebab, we’ve got you covered with these on-the-go places – AND you can take 25% off when you pay with the Cinch app for Toast to Greenpoint, which ends tomorrow (Sunday, 5/12)! Cinch helps you explore local spots and get exclusive offers like this one, all in your own backyard.

Download Cinch here and enter code TOAST25 when you pay.

Baker’s Dozen (788 Manhattan Ave)

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Vision for New Williamsburg School Settlement Gains Support

Rendering of the new community center (courtesy of School Settlement Association)

A rally in support of the School Settlement Association’s plan for a new building on Jackson Street was held last week with appearances by Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Senator Julia Salazar, News12 Brooklyn reports.

The event was held to bring attention to the more than one-hundred-year-old SSA community building at 120 Jackson Street, that is the association wants to be replaced with a modern 22,000 square-foot building at an estimated cost of $23 million, according to their website:

The new facility will consists of 22,000 sq. ft. of fully accessible community and classroom space including a state of the art auditorium-gymnasium. The new center will also provide in-home care services for frail elderly seniors through School Settlement Home Care.

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Pregnant Woman Recovering From Williamsburg Hit and Run

Middleton Street at Lee Avenue (via Google Maps)

A driver who fled the scene after running over a 25-year-old pregnant woman at the intersection of Middleton Street and Lee Avenue in South Williamsburg is being sought by NYPD.

The hit and run happened on Wednesday at approximately 3 p.m. and sent the woman flying into the air, she is recovering at Bellevue Hospital

The car, a 2007 Chrysler was abandoned by the driver after he sped away, even driving onto the sidewalk to escape, Pix11 reports.

With at least 63 fatalities this year, traffic-related deaths are up approximately 30 percent in NYC compared with the same time period in 2018, according to Streetsblog.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74682), logging onto the Crime stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enterings TIP577.

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Is This Board Game Shop a Front For a Gambling App?

Winners Corner in Greenpoint (Ben Weiss)

Greenpoint has a new gaming store—with very few games.

Nestled into a line of boutique shops inside a repurposed warehouse on West St., Winners Corner has an airbrushed, dystopian feel. It stands in stark contrast to other local gaming stores that spill over with board games, collectible cards, and puzzles.

“I have more inventory in one folder than they have in their entire store,” exclaimed gaming buff Stergios Kostakopoulos, a 35-year-old Greenpoint resident who owns his own real estate management company, in an interview.

Kostakopoulos, the self-professed leader of his “nerd group,” perused the store’s limited stock multiple times. However, he eventually told his friends that this wasn’t the neighborhood haven they were hoping for. The employees, he alleges, were “useless” and barely knew anything about gaming.

It was in a tense conversation with the store’s manager that Kostakopoulos’s suspicions were justified. The manager, he claimed, admitted that their board games and gifts are “secondary products.”

Winners Corner, it turns out, is owned and managed by Jackpocket, an app that lets users remotely play the lottery.

Neighboring storefront to Winners Corner in Greenpoint (Ben Weiss)

This connection was lost on Kostakopoulos. The store’s website does not mention the four-year-old startup, and the only evidence of their relationship is a neighboring, closed storefront covered with Jackpocket wallpaper.

Kostakopoulos felt “betrayed.”

The opening of Winners Corner coincides with the New York State Gaming Commission’s recent March 25th approval of regulations for lottery couriers, or businesses that buy tickets for customers at a surcharge, said a spokeswoman for Jackpocket in an email. Continue reading

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Getting Local History Right and Correcting Egregious Errors

Is this church in Greenpoint or Williamsburg?

Being a local historian, I acknowledge that all of us make mistakes. The problem is when mistakes in local history become fossilized over years and people accept these errors as fact. Let’s correct a few blatant local history errors.

The first glaring example of historians getting it wrong is on the markers set up by the Landmark Preservation Commission to demark the areas within the Greenpoint Historic District. If you read the Historic District Designation Report, then you are informed about the correct historical fact that our area was developed by Neziah Bliss in the 1830s. However, the historical signposts get it wrong, claiming that the area was developed by Samuel Tilden in 1834. Tilden did develop some of the area, but he developed it in the 1850s on land he purchased from Bliss. In fact, Tilden was still In upstate New York in 1834 and did not arrive in the city until two years later.

Local Historical Marker Misidentifying Greenpoint’s Founder

Benjamin Solotaire, the aide to local City Council member Steven Levin, has been in touch with the Landmarks Preservation folks in an attempt to right this error, but there is still no admission that Bliss, not Tilden, developed our area.

The Landmarks preservation people are not the only group making local history mistakes. The Brooklyn Historical Society also has two egregious errors in its publication about local history: Greenpoint Neighborhood History Guide. The good folks at the society put a picture of the striking Russian Orthodox cathedral at the south end of McCarren Park on the guide’s cover. Sorry, but that church is in Williamsburg, not Greenpoint. To add insult to injury the author Marcia Reiss adds a picture of a church on Meserole Street, which you well know is in Williamsburg, not Greenpoint. We have Meserole Avenue, not Meserole Street.

I love the Bowery Boys podcasts and I am grateful to them for their shout out on my book “ Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Historic Past” in their podcast on Greenpoint, but they too get an important fact wrong, the famous singer Pat Benatar was born in Greenpoint, but left the area as an infant and grew up on Long Island, but according to the Bowery Boys she grew up locally.

One of the more gobsmacking errors has recently been corrected. Wikipedia identified the legendary bank robber Willie Sutton as a Greenpointer. Sutton was born near the Navy Yard on Nassau Street, not locally on Nassau Avenue. The mistake did, however, lead to a local eatery being named Slick Willie’s in honor of the legendary robber. A new bar on McGuinness Boulevard is set to open called “Pete’s Tavern” with an image of Peter J. McGuinness, for whom the Boulevard was named. One might assume that Pete himself chugged beers locally, but McGuinness never drank alcohol, so his image inside Pete’s Tavern is quite misleading.

We have a duty to our posterity to pass local history on correctly. All historians, myself included, make errors, but we must correct the errors we make. Hopefully, we will see changes in the historic markers and a revised Greenpoint Local History Guide from the Brooklyn Historical Society.

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Brooklyn’s “Opportunity Zones” Among Wealthiest in the U.S.

View of the Manhattan skyline from Sunnyside, Queens, NY

A new report from consulting firm Webster Pacific breaks down the growth and concentration of households with an annual income of $200,000 or more in the U.S.’s 8,700 federal opportunity zones, and Brooklyn tops the list in growth.

Brooklyn’s “opportunity zones” are part of a federal designation for low-income communities to attract investment through tax breaks for real estate developers. The program was created in 2017 with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

(courtesy of Webster Pacific)

All totaled, New York accounts for 15 of the top 50 opportunity zones identified in the report. Here’s how the results were calculated:

To answer this, we calculated the growth in the percentage of households earning $200,000 or more in each of the 8,700 Opportunity Zones. (The growth is measured between 2000 and 2017 and is adjusted for inflation. We excluded any tracts that were recently created, tracts whose boundaries were significantly altered, or tracts with fewer than 100 households.

(courtesy of Webster Pacific)

At 22 percent growth, Gowanus experienced the largest gain during 2000 – 2017 of households with an annual income of $200,000 or more out of all 8,700 federal opportunity zones. Williamsburg ranks fourth on the list.

(courtesy of Webster Pacific)

The report’s major findings include that some opportunity zones, such a New York City’s, have already spurred major economic growth prior to the new designation:

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Hero and Dog Recovering After East River Rescue

Gabe, the hero is recovering from Saturday’s East River rescue

The hero and dog from Saturday’s epic rescue off of the shore at Transmitter Park have been identified.

Gabe, a SUNY Maritime College college graduate was celebrating his birthday at the Brooklyn Barge bar across from the park when he spotted the dog, Harper, in the water.

Harper received minor injuries to her paws and is recovering

Harper’s owner was at work during the incident that began when Harper’s walker was hit by a taxi that allegedly ran a stop sign. “I had a walker come to walk Harper and according to the walker and the company, they got hit by a taxi that blew through a stop sign” Harper’s owner said.

The two-year-old dog and her owner now live near McGolrick Park but used to live near and frequent Transmitter Park. Harper’s owner suspects that the startled dog was looking for familiar territory as it ran over a mile to Transmitter Park following the accident. Continue reading

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