Geoff Cobb

North Brooklyn Culture + History Roundup

Hey, Greenpoint! I know you’re always looking for that history fix, and North Brooklyn has you covered. There are several wonderful history events coming up this weekend and in the next few weeks! But, at any time, our lovely little ‘nabe is jam-packed with fabulous institutions where you can dive into an exploration of what has shaped our city, from sugar, to garbage, to oysters! The array is so gloriously wide, it helps remind us that everything is history, and there’s a history of everything!

City Reliquary

Perhaps the best place to learn about “the history of everything” in New York City, is our very own City Reliquary (370 Metropolitan Avenue). The museum’s collection of artifacts and ephemera includes everything from vintage seltzer bottles to Dodgers fan merchandise and memorabilia from the 1939 World’s Fair. The museum also features community collections and rotating exhibits. The current exhibit, NYC Trash!: Past, Present and Future, is on view until April 29, 2018. The Reliquary will host a screening of the film Canners THIS SATURDAY 1/27 @ 7pm.

The Williamsburg Art and Historical Center

The next day, head over to The Williamsburg Art and Historical Center (135 Broadway). The museum is housed in the landmarked Kings County Savings Bank Building, and has been supporting arts and culture in Williamsburg since 1996. The 19th Annual Salon Show is on view until February 18, 2018. THIS SUNDAY 1/29 @ 2pm Salon Members will hold special travel presentations.  Continue reading

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Weekly Art Round-Up: Jan 26 – 29

Miss ya, Bo.

Hey Greenpointers! How’s everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions going? Excited for the Super Bowl?

If you’re anything like me, you don’t really have any resolutions (just trying to live my best life) and you absolutely despise the Patriots (Tom Brady is a cheater and a T-supporter), so all the more reason to check out some art this weekend!

On Friday, the Greenpoint Gallery is hosting its first open call group exhibition of 2018.  Also Friday (and through the weekend), check out the politically-overt exhibition at SHIM/ArtHelix. And come Monday evening, we have two very interesting literature events: Geoff Cobb reading from his book Sugar King and the all-women publishing collective Mag Mob discussing the future of independent publishing.

You see, there’s a reason why you live in the center of the universe, even if it costs you 60% of your income to rent an apartment here!

See ya there,
Andy P. Smith

January 26, 6-8pm
For “Home”, Westergren combines recent works and two-site specific installations. Recalling a house in the country, the works use elements of elite traditional decor like Murano glass, wallpaper and hunting trophies to explore interior distress amid outer luxury. “Gut Renovation” combines trompe l’oeil and papier-mâché animal heads that glare back at the viewer to create a menacing domestic space. “Carolyn Glasoe Bailey June 25, 1969- November 16, 2015,” titled in memory of a friend, is a taut juxtaposition of images of Scandinavian domestic life with motifs of emptiness and loss. The final piece, “Gardening,” gathers natural forms and vintage glass pieces into a sculpture that invites viewing from multiple angles. Its structure of twisted brass pipe recalls rusted and rotting infrastructure even as its lights rise to transcendence.

Continue reading

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Amazing Photos of the Domino Sugar Refinery on Display Until January 14th

Inside the Domino Sugar Factory, from the "Sweet Ruin" exhibit, photo by Paul Raphaelson
Inside the Domino Sugar Factory, from the “Sweet Ruin” exhibit, photo by Paul Raphaelson

There’s been a lot of activity and news lately about the iconic Domino Sugar Factory on the Williamsburg waterfront. Our own historical writer Geoff Cobb recently published a new book about Domino titled The Rise and Fall of the Sugar King, and he’s been sharing some of those stories here on our site. Additionally, the redesign proposal for the Domino site was recently approved, and the architects shared the final plans for the waterfront park. And just a few weeks ago we were able to tour the first new building in the Domino Sugar complex at 325 Kent Street, with the major selling point seeming to be the stunning views of Manhattan and the Williamsburg Bridge.

From now until January 14th, photos taken inside the Domino Sugar complex are on view at former Williamsburg gallery Front Room (48 Hester Street) in Manhattan. According to the gallery, “In 2013, Paul Raphaelson received permission from the developers of the Domino site to explore every square foot of the refinery just weeks before its gutting and demolition. Raphaelson is the last photographer given access to the factory.” The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1-6pm. Smithsonian has a detailed article about the photos, and the site’s history.

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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

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Help Celebrate Geoff Cobb’s New Book at AWA Next Tuesday (11/14)

Flyer for Sugar King Book Launch

Greenpoint historian Geoff Cobb has already graced us with two excellent titles, Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Forgotten Past, and The King of Greenpoint Peter McGuinness: The Amazing Story of Greenpoint’s Most Colorful Character. Now he’s back with a third volume.

Help celebrate the publication of The Rise and Fall of the Sugar King: A History of Williamsburg, Brooklyn 1844-1909 at the book’s launch party next Tuesday (11/14). The event will be held in the Pencil Factory at Gallery AWA (61 Greenpoint Avenue #306) from 7-9pm.

What: Book Launch, The Rise and Fall of the Sugar King by Geoff Cobb

When: Tuesday, November 14, 7-9pm

Where: Gallery AWA, 61 Greenpoint Avenue #306

Who: Everyone! The event is free and open to the public

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Horrific History Lesson: Working Conditions at The Domino Sugar Refinery

Although the former Domino Sugar refinery on Kent Avenue does not lie in Greenpoint, the building and the firm that ran it, Havemeyer and Elder, cast a long shadow over local history. Having spent the summer researching the plant for my upcoming book The Rise and Fall of the Sugar King, it is hard to express how much suffering is associated with the refinery.

The plant, which was opened in 1858, employed thousands of Greenpointers over its almost a century-and-a-half of existence. Much of the reason that we have a Polish population today is because the refinery had a policy of hiring Slavic men, principally Polish, who could not recount to outsiders the misery that working in the plant entailed. They worked in horrendous conditions that we can scarcely imagine today. Continue reading

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From Rooftop Garden to McGolrick Park — Join Historian Geoff Cobb and Artist Martynka Wawrzyniak for Local Lore, Nature, and Art on a Guided Walking Tour! (Sat, 10/7)

Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop, the starting point for Saturday’s tour.

Local artist Martynka Wawrzyniak‘s site-specific sculpture, Ziemia, will take the form of a ceramic sphere atop a meadow garden in McGolrick Park, and she’s having the local community help create it. Ziemia, which means Earth in Polish, will celebrate our neighborhood’s many cultures, become a locus for community programming, and carry personal significance for the participants who help shape it.

Ziemia site in McGolrick Park, via Ziemia Instagram
Ziemia site in McGolrick Park, via Ziemia on Instagram

To underscore the community celebration represented in Martynka’s work, Greenpoint’s (and Greenpointers’) local historian and author, Geoff Cobb, will lead guests on a walking tour Greenpoint from the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof to the Ziemia site in McGolrick Park on Saturday, October 1st. A $15 donation to RSVP includes a two hour guided tour, with talks on some fun local lore, art, and Greenpoint’s natural habitat, and the proceeds will go toward the production of the art piece.

McGolrick Sculpture Installation & Walking Tour With Greenpoint Historian
When: Saturday, September 30, 3pm – 5pm
Where: Kingsland Wildflowers Green Roof | 520 Kingsland Avenue
Who: Greenpoint artist, Martynka Wawrzyniak & Greenpoint historian, Geoff Cobb
$15 donation (proceeds go to the Ziemia art project), RSVP

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FREE Greenpoint Historical Tour This Thursday Night!

Historical GreenpointLed by Greenpointers writer and local historian Geoff Cobb, a historical walking tour of Greenpoint this Thursday evening will explore the northern part of the neighborhood with a focus on local ecology. If you’ve ever wondered what was there before the WNYC Transmitter towers, or why our area’s formerly pristine estuary and green section of Brooklyn became a center of heavy industry, this tour is for you. Considering our rapidly changing neighborhood, it’s important to honor elements of the old Greenpoint. The tour, is approximately 1 mile, and will last about 1.5 hrs.

The FREE tour will meet by the Greenpoint Avenue gate to Transmitter Park at 6:30pm and will walk to Greenpoint Playground. All participants will receive a map of the area with tour highlights, and enjoy complementary hot cider and gingerbreads. Bundle up!

More info can be found here.


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The Namesake Behind McGuinness Blvd: Learn about “The King of Greenpoint” at Shayz Lounge Tonight! (10/18)


In a neighborhood where we like to keep it real, Pete McGuinness’ legacy lives on in much more than McGuinness Blvd. He was larger than life and one of the most colorful characters in local Greenpoint lore.

Pete McGuinness was an a 300lb ex-boxer politician who got us the G train, McCarren Park Pool, two parks, a bridge and moreDuring prohibition, he proposed distributing alcohol seized by the police to local hospitals saying, “It is a criminal shame to allow whiskey to lie while people who are lying at death’s door could be saved by it.” And if you thought today’s political climate is divisive, news headlines read that “fists may fly” between McGuinness and an opponent in a run for Greenpoint’s Alderman at City Hall back in 1928.

This is just a small glimpse of the character and life of Pete McGuinness and there is so much more interesting information in local historian Geoff Cobb’s latest book “The King of Greenpoint.” 

Tonight he will be reading and will answer questions during a fun night of history and booze at Shayz Lounge (130 Franklin St) starting at 7PM! RSVP here.

Check out Geoff Cobb’s first book “Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Forgotten Past,” which “unearths a wealth of local history” and read his articles on Greenpointers!

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