brooklyn history

Following the Flush: What we Learned on the Newtown Creek Digester Egg Tour

Participants on a tour of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant march towards the digester eggs. Photo: Megan Penmann
Participants on a night tour of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant wear safety vests and march towards the digester eggs. All photos by Megan Penmann

The NYC Department of Environmental Protection is in Love! The municipal organization hosted a Valentines Day tour of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on Saturday, and the complex’s iconic Digester Eggs (more or less affectionately known as Shit Tits) were all decked out in red for the occasion. Donning hard hats and reflective vests, we got a rare look at the inner workings of New York City’s largest wastewater treatment plant. From fascinating facts (did you know the DEP has its own Fleet!?) to  stunning views from the glass-enclosed pedestrian walkways that connect each egg, we picked up some exciting intel as well as some dope swag: I proudly display my NYC Sewer Manhole Cover pin.

Participants on a tour of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, inside the digester eggs. Photo: Megan Penmann
Participants on a tour of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, inside the digester eggs.

That pride and passion are evident at Newtown Creek! DEP personnel at the Treatment Plant brought a contagious enthusiasm to highlighting the Plant’s elegant engineering and environmental equity that made the tour’s amorous theme appropriate: for Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment Pam Elardo, this is a labor of love.

Elardo told us that her lifelong goal is to make sure people know what happens when they flush the toilet. Read on to find out for yourself!  Continue reading

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The Williamsburg Bridge Celebrates its Hundred and Fourteenth Birthday Today! (Dec 19th)

Via Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives

Today (Tuesday, December 19th) marks the anniversary of the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903. The Bridge was opened on a Saturday and was one of the greatest celebrations the Newly formed city had ever witnessed. The air all around Williamsburg that brisk winter morning was electric and buzzing with excitement. After six long years of watching the construction of the bridge, the span would finally open. There was jubilation in the area, especially amongst property owners who knew that the bridge would dramatically increase the value of their properties. Continue reading

Category: Historical Greenpoint | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A History of Greenpoint in Twenty-Five Buildings: The Old Meserole Mansion

Screen shot 2016-03-23 at 9.40.12 PM

Until the 1960s, New York had very little sense of the importance of historic preservation. It allowed the majestic Pennsylvania Station to be demolished in a tragic act of architectural homicide. The same was true in Greenpoint. In 1919, a similar local crime against posterity was committed with the demolition of the sprawling colonial Meserole family mansion.

The old wood-frame house covered a few lots at 1000 Lorimer Street between Norman and Meserole, but the structure actually pre-dated any streets in Greenpoint. It was an imposing edifice, set back off the street and surrounded in later years by wide lawns. The first part of the house was built in 1790, but as the family amassed considerable wealth over generations, the house grew to 13 rooms.

The original building was three stories high with a piazza. Later, a two-story extension was built on the west side of the house, and a single-floor extension was added to that western wing. A sitting room at the center of the house had all the original colonial hand-hewn boards, but other parts of the house were remodeled far more comfortably and elegantly.

Screen shot 2016-03-23 at 9.33.25 PMThe house was constructed at a time when Greenpoint was an isolated farming hamlet. Peter Meserole not only built the structure himself, but he even had to manufacture his own wooden “nails” to join the sections of wood together.

If the house was impressive, then the grounds were even more so. Once the house was surrounded by the famed Meserole orchard, which in its heyday produced hundreds of boxes of apples and cherries that were exported to Europe. The orchard was also famed for the many songbirds, which rid it of insects that ate the valuable fruit. The orchard extended east to Leonard Street, west to the river, south to Norman Avenue, and north to Calyer Street. Manhattan Avenue was once even called Orchard Avenue, so famous were the Meserole groves. There was a kind of clearing in the orchard with a fine view of 23rd Street in Manhattan in the far distance.

Adrian Meserole, Peter’s son, born in 1822, was the last occupant of the house. He was lonely as a young boy, because there were only five families in all of Greenpoint and only one boy his age. There was no local church or school, so he had to walk to Bushwick, unlocking the gates of the farms he passed on his way to school.

Adrian and his nine siblings were raised tending the orchard and harvesting its abundant fruit. The orchard was such a beautiful spot that it was compared to the Garden of Eden, which is perhaps the reason why the area came to be known as “ The Garden Spot” of Brooklyn. Meserole was old enough to recall his parents’ stories of slaves who cleared lumber in Greenpoint before the revolution.

Adrian loved the orchard, but he loved money even more, and he began to sell parts of the orchard off for real estate development. To facilitate his property’s development, he cut a lane through his groves later called “Meserole Avenue.” It became Greenpoint’s first street. Selling off the land made him a rich man, and he died a millionaire. He died 91 years after his birth—only a few feet away from the very spot in the house where he was born.

Category: (Not)Forgotten Greenpoint, Culture, Historical Greenpoint | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who was Patrick McCarren?

PatrickMcCarren

Recently there was controversy about the naming rights to the McCarren Park Pool. A company offered money for the naming rights and many locals became angry about the proposed name change. Truth is, few people know anything about Patrick McCarren.

I have been researching McCarren for a book I am writing about Williamsburg . He was a fascinating, amazingly corrupt figure. In his day he was not just a powerful local boss, but was also powerful on the national level. Born in 1849 in Massachusetts, he grew up locally. Too poor to afford higher education, McCarren started life in the local sugar mills, but was ambitious. Politics in the eighteen seventies was almost the only way a humble man could acquire wealth and power. Continue reading

Category: Historical Greenpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forgotten Greenpoint: The Astral

The Astral © Greenpointers

The Astral is undoubtedly one of Greenpoint’s most iconic edifices. So much so, it even inspired it’s own novel. It sure is a purdy old pile o’ bricks, straight out of Victorian London, and with a great history to boot. While you may not know the fascinating story of the Astral, you’ve likely been inside the building while brunching at Brooklyn Label, or maybe you have noticed its picturesque brickwork while exiting Dandelion Wine shop, bottle (or two) in hand. So what makes this historic building distinctive enough to be designated both a city and a national landmark? Well, as mama always told you, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Continue reading

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Missing Foundation – The Most Underground Band You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Recorded on Kingsland Ave (1988)

On an afternoon in 1988: I turned on my television set after school and saw an upcoming promo for week long “special report” on CBS about a band called Missing Foundation. The series was done by journalist Mike Taibbi, and it was dubbed “Cult of Rage.”

What caught my eye initially was their iconic symbol that was literally plastered everywhere below 14th street and parts of Williamsburg when it was a drug infested wasteland. The symbol which was an upside down martini glass with three lines below it and a strike through, was powerful and it invoked the message “the party’s over.”

That party being the rapid gentrification of the lower east side in the late eighties. I knew this symbol, but did not know at such a young age what it meant. The report was fairly inaccurate though it filled me in on some of what this was all about.

A bit sensationalized, the report basically let me know:  1. They are from the lower east side.  2. They were involved in inciting the Tompkins Square Park riots  3. They were beyond Punk Rock.  4. The singer used to set himself on fire.  5. They worshipped the devil!

I became an instant fan.
Continue reading

Category: Art/Music, Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Forgotten Greenpoint: Keramos Hall On Manhattan Ave

This article made possible by a donation to our Writer’s Fund Raffle by [email protected].

As Preservation Greenpoint reported last week, Keramos Hall at 857-861 Manhattan Avenue just won a Lucy G. Moses Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

What is Keramos Hall you say? Our thoughts exactly. Which is why we decided to devote a lil’ bit of research to this. Like us, you might have been surprised recently when the scaffolding came down from Milton St and Manhattan Ave, revealing a whimsical half-timbered Swiss Chalet confection where before was a drab vinyl-covered building. Where did this slice of Switzerland come from? Read on to be illuminated on a piece of forgotten Greenpoint architecture. Continue reading

Category: Culture, Historical Greenpoint | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments