85 Calyer Street looks like many other frame houses in Greenpoint, but it was the home of the greatest mechanical genius to ever live in Greenpoint, Thomas Fitch Rowland, and one of the most important short conversations in American history took place in the parlor there. First, though, lets get a little background on the owner of the house, Thomas Fitch Rowland.
Rowland was born in Connecticut in 1831 and became a railroad engineer, quickly becoming one of the leading experts in the design and construction of steam engines. However, he decided to leave railroad engineering, switching to the construction of steam engines for sailing ships and also developing an expertise in metallurgy. He was soon invited to come to Greenpoint to build ships because of his twin areas of expertise. By 1859 he founded his own company, the legendary Continental Iron Works on Quay Street. Two years later, he would help make history when visionary Swedish naval engineer John Ericsson approached him about building a revolutionary ship in Greenpoint, the ironclad Monitor, which would revolutionize warfare making wooden ships obsolete. Continue reading →
One of Greenpoint’s oldest buildings, the Episcopal Church of the Ascension (127 Kent St.), although beautiful, does not feel as if it belongs in Greenpoint. It feels more like a church from North London transported across the Atlantic and placed on Kent Street. It is also not hard to imagine the structure in some quaint English country town.
The British feel to the building is not an accident, as it was designed by Englishman Henry C. Dudley just at the end of the Civil War and dedicated in 1866. Dudley, a major American ecclesiastical architect who built in the English Gothic Revival style, designed a few churches so lovely that they were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although Dudley built a number of American churches, Ascension is one of only four remaining Dudley churches in New York City and the only one in Brooklyn. Dudley is most famous for his buildings in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his partner Frank Wills designed the elegant Church of the Holy Trinity, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Continue reading →
The holidays are over, but now that the swell of volunteers has come and gone, extra hands are always needed. The Church of the Ascension (127 Kent St) is moving their Hunger Program to Saturdays, serving meals for over 80 men and women in need every week. Volunteers (including children of all ages) can chip in from 9am to 1:15pm, with the option for early or late shifts. Don’t be deferred by the Church location; you don’t have to be Catholic, or any religion for that matter, to participate.
Father John Merz (not Misty) explained, “Greenpointers know about the needs of our community. Everyday we run into familiar faces in our neighborhood who don’t have enough to eat. Our team of volunteers work to provide a meal, a warm space and hospitality to these familiar faces.”
So if you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to be a better person or do good deeds or all of the above, this is your chance.
Register for a time slot here. And check out their site for more info about the program.
Church of the Ascension on Java Street has been Occupied. The church, which began helping coordinate relief efforts (with Councilmember Steve Levin) for Hurricane Sandy survivors immediately after the storm, has just been more formally Occupied by Occupy Sandy, an off-shoot of Occupy Wall Street. The Greenpoint site is largely replacing the 520 Clinton Street location at the Church of St Luke and St Matthew in Clinton Hill, after a December 23rd two-alarm fire at that location which fire officials have called “suspicious” and Church Father Chris Ballard called “arson.”
The church, Occupy Sandy’s first Greenpoint location, will serve as an office hub for the various Occupy Sandy locales in the city and as a headquarters for “volunteer dispatch operations” to the Rockaways, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook, Coney Island, Staten Island, and Sheepshead Bay, where survivors continue to struggle with little help aside from volunteers like Occupy Sandy and others.
Occupy Sandy will also use the locale to offer a regularly scheduled orientation for new volunteers interested in helping in the ongoing long-term relief effort. More information is available on the Occupy Sandy website.
Greenpoint’s response to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath began immediately after the storm through City Councilmember Steve Levin, and both Church of the Ascension and Greenpoint Reformed Church.
As reported in the Greenpoint Star and DNAinfo, there are Greenpoint residents still suffering the affects the storm including moldy basements and problems getting insurance or government to help with necessary cleanup funds.
Written by: The Reverend John Merz Priest-in-Charge Diocesan Missioner to Greenpoint and Williamsburg
127 Kent Street
“When we arrived Naomi Klein was addressing the crowd. There were about 3 or so thousand people it seemed in the entire park and environs…that kind of thing is hard to tell. There is no public address allowed since the group has no permit to actually be in Zuccotti park, a private piece of property next to the building that houses Brooks Brothers at the base off WTC site. The manner people use to amplify the speaker is that the speaker speaks a line and then it is re-said in concentric circles out from the speaker by the crowd.
She spoke for a while about the inequalities in the economic structures and stressed the need for people to remain disciplined and non violent during demonstrations. She also took questions from the crowd.
The General Assembly Meeting started at 7pm in a corner of the park and the same manner of vocalizing was used. These meetings happen 2x per day, 1 and 7. There was a facilitating group and several ground rules for participation including an agenda. It is both highly structured and inclusive of anyone there, there is a clear process by which people can be heard and even for perceived violations of the processes of the meetings.
The agenda had several reports from working groups: Media, Public Relations, sanitation, Consciousness, Medical, Arts and Culture etc to state what is happening in their areas.
The park is broken up into various areas as you probably know from the press: food, media, camping, sacred space for prayer and mediation, a drum area and area for recycling and sanitation etc. The whole endeavor is super duper organized.
It is very much bottom up in terms of ideas and input. It would be hard to generalize on the age but the dominant age seemed to be 20’s 30’s although people right up through 70-80’s could be seen. The general message seemed to be a redress of wealth inequality and the “corporatization” of the public and political discourse.
The General Assembly meeting was still going on when I departed at 10:15pm which was somewhat painful….kind of like a vestry meeting or board meeting that would never end but at that point it was taken up with people from other occupy movements…..DC and LA etc sharing thoughts and experiences.
We spoke to a young man who was up from North Carolina and was part of the Catholic Worker movement. I spoke with a young woman who worked on wall street late every night but said she had been there every night after work for the last 8 days. In another instance I spoke with a young man who was a Roman Catholic Priest who had been silenced in that denomination for various what he called liberal social practices and criticisms of the hierarchy: he said he had been there every day for 2 weeks inspired that he found such a peaceful and hopeful community of people. Bob and I were warmly received by various people who took note of, appreciated and desired greater clergy presence (or people in various Official Religious Garb).
All in all an interesting and inspiring evening was had. I also might add that the food that they were cranking out in the food station looked really great. I was tempted to chow down and shouldn’t get too greedy. One serious problem is the issue of bathrooms and people seem to use the local restaurants. I, fortunately am armed with a book an old NY acquaintance wrote which gives you ideas in such situations (enough with the levity, I know). Actually I did find a bathroom at a local bar.
Anyway, this thing is clearly not going to be snuffed out and it looks like it is just getting started. Especially on weekends and other times when larger groups join in like Unions for demonstrations. To my mind from what I witnessed the issue is one of disgust with the inequities tolerated by our market culture and not with the idealistic and unrealistic vagary of scrapping a whole capitalist system.”
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Chelsea Elliott wishes that her move to the front lines of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests had been under better circumstances. On Saturday, September 24th, she was herded into an orange mesh barricade and subsequently assaulted with pepper spray by an NYPD officer whose name and rank has been published elsewhere. The videos depicting this event have become a touchstone for the protest and a source of anger for those watching the events unfold. It’s hard to guess what the thoughts of the officer behind that canister may have been, and Chelsea hinted that he may have been acting more as an individual rather than as part of a coherent strategic enforcement method. Whatever the motive, the effects of his actions are going beyond what he would have expected.
The simple facts of this incident aren’t what drove me to contact Chelsea. I knew other writers would be calling for her version of the events and indeed there was a pad and paper ready to take her story the moment she opened her eyes. It was a comment on the Greenpointer’s Facebook wall, when we mentioned our neighbors were among the women assaulted in this incident, which perked my interest. A reader wrote that these girls, she guessed were “Not lifelong Greenpointers…” Was this true? Did it matter? I decided to find out how Chelsea fits into our neighborhood, and how our neighborhood fits into events that make these questions important now.
As we chatted at Black Rabbit I learned that Chelsea is not a lifelong Greenpointer. As her story unfolded I found we cannot call her a lifelong resident of any place as she’s moved at least once every five years throughout her life. This has taken her from her birthplace in Arkansas to Georgia, Montana, and Florida before landing in New York. Like many of us, she moved here for work. Her ascent through New York is a familiar story, from the first bedbug-infested Harlem apartment to couch surfing the Upper West Side to being chased out of LES by rats before finally arriving in Greenpoint. First on Kent St and now by McGolrick, Chelsea says, “I felt for the first time since I’ve lived in New York that this is my neighborhood. I didn’t even feel that in most of the places I grew up in. I just loved it.”
This is a common feeling among those who try different places in New York before settling here. We know that the simple comfort of being here is one of the reasons why Greenpoint works so well as home. This is a function not only of the place itself but of the people here, old and new, who continue to build and develop it.
“It’s really important for me… to be around older people and to be around family. I’m far away from my family and it’s so important to interact with people who are different and have a different perspective.” In short, the feeling of home, of belonging, is contagious, and helps to define livable space.
She detailed her relationships with the septo- and octogenarians with whom she shares her building. Living downstairs is Frank, whom she met originally when he complained about her dog, but soon their relationship progressed to sharing his “amazing movie collection” and having lunch dates.
Her neighborhood integration isn’t limited to her building. Chelsea grew up in a religious family, and “is still figuring out where that falls in [her] life.” She found a source of community in the Church of the Ascension. “Father John… [is a] very bright man. I’ve never been particularly religious, but his sermons were… what’s the right word… you would go into the history, he’d break down the words, the syntax, the translations, and his sermons weren’t fluffy. It was very educational.” Finding community, a place to explore spirituality, and intellectual stimulation prompted her to return the favor, and she found herself cooking community dinners among a diverse group of neighbors at the church.
We spoke about the sentiments some raise concerning newcomers to the neighborhood and Chelsea raises a legitimate question: “who are you to claim it?” Chelsea herself admits that she may not stay for life – “who wants to stay someplace forever?” she asks, but she presents a great example of someone who has come to a new place, engaged with and added to it.
Concerning the protests on Wall Street, she mentioned the distinct blue-collar qualities that have historically defined Greenpoint and how the feelings at this rally are a modern expression of the loss of those ways of life, which are associated with manufacturing, building, and designing real things. This anger and confusion towards the global finance system parallels the same local sentiment towards the incoming class of people. However, the primary complaints about gentrification – the loss of neighborhood character, a generational gap, being priced – can be seen in places without a large incoming population.
Before living in Greenpoint, I spent a year or two in Housatonic, Massachusetts. There, older neighbors lament years of change, but it can’t be simply chalked up to newcomers since there largely weren’t any. Instead, it was the same problems against which the protestors on Wall street chant and raise signs: global economic conditions shifted, causing the well-paid blue collar jobs to disappear as the paper mills closed. What remains is a vacuum of cheap rent and the inevitable vacancies created by an aging population, into which newcomers can either move (gentrification) or not (stagnation.) In this way, newcomers are a symptom and not a cause, and the cure has more to do with rebuilding the local economic base through encouraging local production than raising walls against newcomers like Chelsea. It’s important to note that this protest is, for many, as much about listening and learning about the forces against which many of us feel opposed as it is about being heard.
Chelsea’s energy and spirit are not diminished by the week’s events despite a slew of interviews with everyone from the New York Times to yours truly. She’s glad to lend her voice and, to a lesser extent, her mucous membranes to this cause just as she has been glad to lend her time, care, and attention to Greenpoint. While she’s “not a lifelong Greenpointer,” I’m not the only one who’s glad she’s here.
It was a busy weekend in Greenpoint. The Fowler ArtsOne Year show was a great start on Friday night. The artwork was impressive for a mixed group show, which doesn’t surprise me because of the many talented artists who have studios there. Plus the raffle extravaganza, with over 20 prizes generously donated from local shops and restaurants made the night a lot of fun! I can’t wait to blow my $2o Word gift certificate!
These lovely ladies were holding down the Kent St block party on Saturday, which was stoop sale and kids running in street like lunatics central.
On Saturday night Project Collective had an art and music bash to raise funds for the Brooklyn High School of the Arts. Any party on a perfect evening at The End is amazing because the killer views from the roof deck are spectacular.
I usually don’t like to rush the weekends but I couldn’t wait for Sunday when The Richardson had its Templeton Rye event. For $6 you got a Rye Cocktail plus a Pulled Pork Sammie from Edan Farms prepared by Tom from The Meat Hook. While I was shoving my second sandwich in my mouth (that’s 2 cocktails and 2 sandwiches for $12!), Tom, the pulled pork genius, explained that he braised smoked pork butts overnight with bacon. I call this sandwich divine perfection. It was the best pork sandwich I have ever had and I eat pulled pork any chance I get. MORE PLEASE! Peter, one of our Greenpointers writers, was the champion after eating a whopping three! Go Peter!!!