Brooklyn

A Pair of Greenpoint Locals are Your One-Stop-Shop for a Low-key Wedding

Bláth & Danny - McGolrick Wedding - Johnny Cirillo
Bláth & Danny tie the knot in McGolrick park. Photo by Tatiana Katkova

Say yes to the dress and get ready for your big fat whatever wedding, ‘cause as they say, the more the merrier. Big weddings are the bomb, but often they can leave the bride and groom feeling bombed out. These days, people are getting married later in life, and a massive wedding often seems inappropriate past a certain age. Plus, many Brooklynites have a desire to elope, and keep things simple by inviting only a couple key people for a brief and intimate celebration. Living in New York is hectic enough, so let’s not make this too complicated, right? Also, wouldn’t it be nice to save your nest egg for oh, I don’t know… New York real estate? A trip around the world? A lifetime supply of La Croix?

More than a year ago local photographer Johnny Cirillo and his friend, officiant and planner Grace Steite started talking about the world of weddings, and realized that no one in Brooklyn was tuned in to the small wedding phenomenon—people were having the kind of low-key weddings that seem naturally suited to a neighborhood like Greenpoint, but no one was helping plan them. And so, Bodega Weddings was born. The pair focus on elopements and small weddings under 30 people (occasionally up to 50 on request), and “swoop in, get the romance of it, and then it’s over,” Cirillo says. Continue reading

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Williamsburg’s Cocaine Bar of the 90’s, Kokies is Back—and it’s Fitting

photo via Kokie's
photo via Kokie’s on Bigcartel

Depending how long you’ve lived in North Brooklyn, you may have heard tale of the legendary bar Kokie’s, which, about 20 years ago sat on the corner of Berry and North 3rd Street. In a true twist of hipster irony, the name Kokie’s really said it all—for $20 you could actually buy small baggies of cocaine out of a closet tucked away at the back of the bar. A longtime Williamsburg resident who wishes to remain anonymous says, “I heard about Kokie’s from friends. They filled me in on the protocol and a few times I was asked to tag along. I was kinda young and pretty intimidated by the place. So, I declined, preferring to rely on the bravery of friends. By the time I finally got up the nerve, it was gone.” The bar closed in 2001 after being raided by the cops, and then turned into a short-lived bar called Antique Lounge, and then the space became The Levee (212 Berry Street). Our anonymous source says, “A frito pie doesn’t compare to Kokie’s special. I heard a rumor that Luxx on Grand [where Trash Bar used to be and where Overthrow boxing gym is now] sorta picked up Kokie’s mantle. But that’s all heresay.” Continue reading

Category: Eat & Drink, Historical Greenpoint | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

North Brooklyn Then & Now: _missing_the_point_’s Amazing Instagram Account

Frost Street / Union Ave by _missing_the_point_ on Instagram
Frost Street / Union Ave 2005 vs 2017, by _missing_the_point_ on Instagram

There’s no doubt that North Brooklyn’s skyline has rapidly changed in the last decade plus. In place of one-story bombed out warehouses, high rises stand tall. An old sludge tank in Greenpoint has been seemingly effortlessly replaced by luxury apartments. Those who lived in the neighborhood before “the change” began probably remember a slightly different vibe: the area was rougher, with locals playing the role of war-torn veterans. The hip coffee shops and restaurants were fewer and farther between, and the pioneers that were there had worn yet comfy thrift store furniture instead of the minimalist high design stuff you might see today. Piles of trash and industrial waste have disappeared and been replaced with waterfront parks and bike racks. Still, there was something special about North Brooklyn back then in its less polished state. It was way more punk rock.

An Instagram account with the handle _missing_the_point_ has been quietly posting side-by-side comparison photos of North Brooklyn from “then” (most of them about 13 years ago) and “now”. Greenpoint native and amateur photographer Jack Olszewski says, “I’d be walking around my own neighborhood and certain blocks had become completely unrecognizable to me. I’d think, ‘Wait… what used to be here?’. That led me to revisit my old photos. I thought it might be something other Greenpointers could relate to, which led to me start  _missing_the_point_ .”

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

Greenpoint Winter Survival Guide: Winter Cocktails to Warm You Up

Jeremy Wilson, Bar Manager at Ramona with the Painting the Daybreaks cocktail

Need a new signature drink as your summer of frosé becomes a very distant memory? Ramona’s bar manager Jeremy Wilson takes this tricky life decision off your plate in this week’s installment of our winter survival guide. Check out our previous winter guide interviews here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

COCKTAILS: RAMONA | 113 Franklin Street

Jeremy Wilson, Bar Manager

Greenpointers: Is there a favorite cocktail that you have on the menu that you could recommend if you want to feel more uplifted in the winter months?

Jeremy Wilson: We usually come up with a couple of hot drinks for the winter. We have the hot toddy that we always do called Elsa’s Toddy, named after our sister bar.  Especially when it’s snowing, people come in and ask for it.  It’s rye whiskey, lemon juice, maple syrup that’s cut with water, fresh mint, hot water and angostura bitters on top. It’s pretty clean and refreshing and just makes you feel better.

GP: What are some other drinks that you’d recommend at this time of year?

JW: The other drink would be the Black Book which is bourbon, honey, lemon, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and jalapeño. The cinnamon really comes out in the forefront and the jalapeño lingers at the end. A lot of people think it tastes like Christmas. We also have a cocktail called Painting the Daybreaks which is for the relief fund for Puerto Rico and it’s coconut, tequila, cinnamon, cassis, orange rind, lime juice, and coconut La Croix on top. It’s a very big, loud drink and it’s really good. When you use cinnamon, coconut and tequila with other ingredients, you can make a pretty great holiday cocktail. Continue reading

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“Canners”—A Documentary About NYC’s Can Collectors—Screening + Q&A This Saturday (1/27) at City Reliquary

Canners Film

You’ve certainly heard their carts clanking down the sidewalks of NYC, and maybe you’ve also seen them sorting through your trash bins before recycling day. These are NYC’s “canners”—people who collect giant piles of cans and bottles and exchange them for money at a nickel a piece. The recent documentary film Canners examines the lives of these dedicated folks who are just trying to earn some cash, and according to the NY Times, “delivers a powerful ethical message about what it means to live in a city, and how each of us can choose to acknowledge or ignore our fellow citizens”. The film is screening this Saturday (1/27) evening at City Reliquary (370 Metropolitan Ave) at 7pm, with a Q&A session from director Manfred Kirchheimer. Also in attendance will be team members from Sure We Can, a nonprofit recycling center and community space featured in this film.

Get tickets now through Artfully. $7 General/$5 City Reliquary Members

This event is part of the public programming for NYC Trash! Past, Present, & Future, on view at The City Reliquary until April 29, 2018. Continue reading

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The Story Behind Brooklyn’s Iconic Water Tanks

Courtesy of Ted McGrath on Flickr.
Via Ted McGrath on Flickr.

PARIS has its world famous Eiffel Tower. Pisa, of course has its leaning tower and London has its ancient tower. What about New York? We have towers, too, but here, they hold water.
Although the skyline of New York city has changed dramatically over the years, one element has remained constant; the city’s romantic wooden water towers, which are every bit as iconic as the Empire State building or the Chrysler Building. There are more than 10,000 water towers around the city, which feature prominently in the works of famous New York artists Like Edward Hopper and the Ash Can School.

In the 1880s, steel was transforming the New York skyline, allowing buildings to reach above five stories, but also creating a design problem. As the buildings soared upwards, water pressure could only reach the fifth floor. Taller buildings needed water for the upper floors and that’s why the water towers were built. Water towers use gravity to help create pressure in pipes on the upper floors. These wooden towers are still the water source for many of the city’s buildings, and they also contain enough water to feed the sprinklers if there’s a fire.
With demand spiking for water towers in late nineteenth century New York, Brooklyn’s large barrel making industry was perfectly positioned to build the city’s water towers. One of the firms that achieved market dominance was the Rosenwach Water Tower Company, which for decades was located in the Northside.
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Category: Historical Greenpoint | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dandy Be Good” Offers Sizzling Tales in Bitter Weather

Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk
G.J. Dowding. Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk

Vital Joint’s venue is tiny, but the amount of pre-show audience chitchat was enormous. Most was facilitated by a a suit-donning and larger-than-life Rhinelander (more on him later), but some was organic: “Did you make that necklace” or “Hey, the bar serves beer” pleasantries were also exchanged. If there was ever a lull, our German friend was quick to fill it with a quip or suggestion that the cash-only bar is steps away. “This is experimental theater,” he said. “You’ll need a drink.”

This is all the prelude to Dandy Be Good, queer artist GJ’s storytelling cabaret now playing through January 27 at Vital Joint (109 Meserole Street) as part of Brooklyn’s Exponential Festival. Like the pre-show banter, Garlan Jude (GJ)’s show fosters community and togetherness. They lip sync to songs from Judy Garland (a fun reversal on the performer’s name?) and interviews from socialite women of yore. But GJ doesn’t hog the stage — they share it with a trio of guest performers: a vaudevillian-reminiscent actress, a consummate orator, and — yes — our chatty German pal.

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A Brief History of the Puerto Ricans in Greenpoint

Members of the Assembly of God Church in 1928

Sunday, January 14th is a day of pride for the Puerto Rican community in North Brooklyn. It is the celebration of the feast of the Three Kings and there is an enthusiastic parade and celebration of Puerto Rican culture on Grand Street. In traditional Puerto Rican culture, the feast day was a day of celebration and gift giving that was actually bigger than Christmas for many Puerto Ricans. So it’s a good time to reflect on the long history of Puerto Ricans in our part of Brooklyn. Continue reading

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The Amazing Philanthropist Who Founded Williamsburg’s First Public Schools

Grahams Polley

So many of the wealthy in today’s world are both so selfish and self-interested that it’s easy to believe that rich people do not think of those who have nothing. The story of Grahams Polley, the great Williamsburg philanthropist, however, shows that wealth and concern for the poor and for public education are not mutually exclusive. Polley only lived to be thirty-four years of age, dying in a riding accident in 1860 and leaving behind a wife and ten children. His charity was legendary and left a legacy still felt today.

Polley was born in Manhattan to a poor family. He never had the chance to go to school for himself and he never learned to read or write, but he died as a bank president with a fortune of $40,000. He was determined to use his wealth for the public good and his chief interest was ensuring that all of Williamsburg’s children got educated. Continue reading

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January 9th: The Anniversary of the Great Fire that Destroyed the Domino Refinery in 1882

January 9th marks the one hundred thirty-sixth anniversary of one of the most destructive fires in North Brooklyn. On a frigid January night, the Havemeyer and Elder Refinery, which would forty years later be renamed as Domino, went up in one of the most spectacular fires the area had ever witnessed.

The refinery, the largest building in Williamsburg at the time, was nine stories high, covering an entire block on Wythe Avenue between South Third and South Fourth streets and stretching some two hundred feet in from the street to the East river shore. Having been in the sugar business for more than eighty years, the Havemeyer family knew the danger that fires often broke out in sugar refineries. The presence of steam, thousands of moving parts that could cause sparks in the refinery and the highly flammable sugar all made fire a grave risk. For a quarter century they had refined huge amounts of sugar without incident, but their luck would run out that January day.
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