Greenpoint

A Stroll Down Historic Calyer Street

The houses at Calyer Street and Clifford Place (Google Maps)

Calyer Street has one of the most beautiful groups of landmark row houses in Greenpoint, where Calyer Street meets Clifford Place. These five Neo-Greek brick houses were built between 1879 and 1880. The quaint landmark houses seem to have jumped straight out of the Edward Hopper painting Sunday Morning. These houses delude you into thinking that Calyer Street is frozen in time—but change is coming quickly to Greenpoint, even to historic Calyer Street.

Perhaps no street is more historic than Calyer Street. The history of the street even predates its official opening, going all the way back to 1645 when the first European home in Greenpoint was built by Norwegian immigrant Dirck Volckerstzen 100 feet from where Calyer and Franklin meet. The house was built on a knoll, but was burned by the Native Americans in 1655 and rebuilt after the conflict had ended. The house and the hill it stood on were leveled to provide landfill for shipyards in the 1850s. Continue reading

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NYC Historian Mitch Waxman Discusses Amazon HQ2

“No Amazon LIC” graffiti in Long Island City, Queens (Mitch Waxman)

Mitch Waxman is a lifelong New Yorker and historian who for the past decade has traversed the area near the Long Island City waterfront at Anabel Basin where Amazon’s HQ2 is planned. In a recent post on his site Newtown Pentacle, Waxman revisits some of the photos he snapped of the future Amazon HQ2 campus, and Greenpointers reached out to Waxman to learn his point of view regarding the HQ2 announcement. He offered the disclaimer that he’s neither for or against Amazon’s HQ2 expansion into Queens and that his views are still developing on the deal as details emerge.

The area of Anabel Basin where Amazon’s HQ2 will be partially constructed is on contaminated land where a plastics manufacturer once operated, why would Amazon choose contaminated land to build on?

MW: There’s hundreds of state Superfund sites in Western Queens, and the people who have been moving into North Brooklyn and Western Queens over the last 20 years are breaking the old pattern. It used to be when you bought a house, you intended to be buried in your backyard, whereas the current population has very little intention of making New York their final stop. This is one stop on the trip of their lives and eventually, they’re going to settle elsewhere.

When you’re at Amazon’s new campus you’re down the block from the largest power plant in New York City that’s causing childhood asthma rates of historic levels in Ravenswood, Astoria and Queensbridge Houses. You’re on what abuts a brownfield, and a future Superfund site at Anabel Basin.

Future Superfund Site Anabel Basin has the same black mayonnaise in it that Newtown Creek does, the same combined sewer outfall problem that Newtown Creek does, it has all the good stuff that we would talk about in the area around the Pulaski Bridge. So why on earth would you choose this particular location to put Californians and Seattle people who are famously environmentally conscious, why would you put them there? Could it be that you’re going to be visible from the offices of the United Nations? Could it have anything to do with that Manhattan is the center of global investment and that putting yourself there means that you’re going to be a lot sexier to Goldman Sachs and everyone else who will cut you more preferential rates because you know them from drinking with them in a hotel?

The answer is that they came here for Wall Street and they came here to start bolstering their international presence and to start getting ahead of some of the regulatory environment that’s developing internationally around companies like Amazon.

Why is Mayor Bill de Blasio voicing a strong pro-Amazon stance given his progressive reputation?

MW: The “tale of two cities” for me is the tale of Manhattan and Long Island City. Long Island City is where he gets to do what he wants to do. Overbuilt, overdeveloped, not enough infrastructure.

He wants to borrow $18- $20 Billion from the city’s coffers for Sunnyside Yard deck. What they’ll do then is they will give the land away for a dollar an acre to the developers who paid them off to do the project, and the city taxpayers will pay the mortgage on $18 – $20 billion over a 25 year period hamstringing us from doing anything else we need to do.

Conventionally speaking, NYCHA needs $53 billion to bring its housing back up to snuff and to bring the roughly 1/10th of all available apartments that have been out since Hurricane Sandy back into service. If he was the man of the people that’s the direction he would go in.

De Blasio likes to blame all the problems of NYCHA on Mayor Bloomberg. Who was the public advocate during Bloomberg’s last two terms? Who was in the City Council during the last term of Giuliani and the first term of Bloomberg?

Why would Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo agree on something like the Amazon HQ2 deal after disagreeing on nearly everything else?

MW: Both of their political machines are getting fed by the deal. At the top of the food chain, there are people who are Democrats; like the Yankees, they’re just wearing hats.

Amongst the many, many, many things that I disagree with Donald Trump about, the firing of Preet Bharara just as he was drawing in on both the Mayor and the Governor, is something the Mayor and the Governor should fall down and kiss Trump’s feet for. If Preet had continued on with his investigation, I’m certain that the headlines we would be seeing every day would be simultaneous trials for the Governor and the Mayor.

There’s a lot to say about corruption in our city and state always. We have a one-party system. We have different factions of a single political party, and what I am not gonna to do to you as a fellow elected Democrat is put you on trial because you would do the same to me, and that affects the larger party.

Living in a Republic that ostensibly operates as a Democracy, there was no conversation, there was no argument. You had two people who are pro-development, neo-liberal capitalist-oriented Democrats, talking to a neo-liberal corporatist, and deciding for the community in the manner of Nelson Rockefeller, in the manner of Robert Moses, in the manner of Austin Tobin deciding for a community exactly what it is that they needed. And you know what? If you don’t like it you can get out.

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Lyft Buys Citi Bike, Plans Electronic Bike Expansion

Citit bikes (Shinya Suzuki)

The Citi Bike presence in North Brooklyn and New York City as a whole will continue to grow at a time when the program’s parent company Motivate will be acquired by ride-sharing company Lyft, in a plan that includes a $100 million investment by Lyft over the next five years, the Mayor’s office announced last week.

A statement from the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio explains that the investment by Lyft will repair the existing 12,000 Citi bikes and expand the fleet of both regular and electronic pedal assist bikes to 40,000 while doubling the current service area. Although the ‘vast majority’ (around 30,000) of the new Citi bikes will be electronic, Gothamist reports. NYC lawmakers introduced a bill to legalize e-scooters and pedal assist bikes last week, but Mayor de Blasio said he’s “seeing too many problems” with e-bikes, referring to the complaints his office receives over the handle grip throttle e-bikes that are popular with food delivery workers.    Continue reading

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The History Behind Grand Republic: A Modern Bar With a Storied Name

Inside Grand Republic bar at 19 Greenpoint Ave.

One of the most atmospheric bars in Greenpoint is the quaint cocktail club Grand Republic (19 Greenpoint Ave.), and it’s a great place to enjoy a cocktail amongst nautically themed décor. Owner Johnny Swet must know a thing or two about local history because he named his bar after a famous ship, built only a few feet away from the bar in the John Englis Shipyard, which once stood on the ground that is now occupied by Transmitter Park. A striking painting of the once-famous ship occupies a prominent position behind the center of the bar, but few patrons probably know the strange history of the once celebrated paddle wheeler.

One of the great achievements in the history of local shipbuilding was the construction of the huge side-wheeler boat in 1878. Shipbuilding was the first major local industry and once shipyards lined West Street, employing hundreds of locals. The Grand Republic, one of the largest boats ever to be built locally, weighed an amazing 1,760 tons. The steamboat made almost completely of wood, required a veritable forest of trees had to be cut and sent down the East River to construct her. The ship was 281 feet long and 41 feet wide, but its defining feature was a huge paddle wheel that was 36 feet in diameter. The elegant ship was called “ The queen of the harbor” until her sister ship, the infamous General Slocum, was launched in 1891.

The General Slocum steamboat

The Grand Republic was for many years the pride of Brooklyn and it served as an elegant excursion boat, taking hundreds of passengers on day trips to the Rockaways and other locations, but its reputation was blackened when an infamous accident befell its sister ship.

On June 15, 1904, the Slocum left the Lower East Side on a journey up the East River with an estimated 1,342 people on board. Most of the passengers were German-American women and children, very few of whom knew how to swim. The life preservers on the Slocum had been exposed to the elements outside on the deck for 13 years and most of them were falling apart, but still, the ship passed inspection. A fire started on the ship and spread rapidly. Terror engulfed the passengers when they learned of the rotted state of the life preservers. 1,0021 people died, many of them drowning in sight of the banks of the East River. Two of the victims were German-Americans from Guernsey Street.

Sailors are a superstitious group and the Grand Republic was forever tainted for being the Slocum’s sister ship. The Grand Republic was inspected and the state of its life preservers was found to be equally as bad as the Slocum’s. Its passenger capacity was reduced, but it was allowed to sail. In 1910, a fire also broke out on the Grand Republic, but thankfully a tragedy was avoided. The steamer was also involved in a collision and other accidents, giving credence to the superstitions of sailors. The following year in 1911, the Englis yard closed, bringing to end the era of Greenpoint shipbuilding, but the unlucky shipped still sailed.

The Brooklyn Eagle Archives

Eventually, the Grand Republic was sold and ended up in the Hudson River, running day trips for many years to Bear Mountain. Ironically, the new owners of the Grand Republic were a Greenpoint family, the McAlisters, who had become the tugboat and excursion boat kings of New York harbor. One of the bouncers the McAlisters hired on the Grand Republic was Peter McGuinness who would later dominate local politics for decades and lend his name to Greenpoint’s widest boulevard.

In 1924, Grand Republic burned in a spectacular fire while it was moored at 150th Street in Manhattan. Unlike the fire that consumed the Slocum, the burning of the ship led to no loss of life. Tens of thousands of people watched the blaze as the flames that consumed the giant ship lit up the night sky.

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Interactive Hologram Experience by Looking Glass Factory Featured at Greenpointers Market (12/2)

The artists and engineers from the Greenpoint-based 3D lab Looking Glass Factory will be presenting an interactive hologram experience with the Looking Glass at the Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market this Sunday, December 2, from 1–7 p.m. 

 

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You won’t want to miss the Looking Glass presentation where participants can touch and interact with digital 3D worlds and characters. In the Summer of 2018, the team launched the world’s first desktop holographic display for 3D creators and are excited to spread the word of the hologram with the greater Greenpoint community.

 

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This Weekend’s To-Do List: Greenpointers Market, Oddities Flea, Wellness Fair + Smorgasburg Night Market! (11/30-12/2)

Greenpointers Samhain Fall Market

This weekend Greenpoint has a plethora of local popup shopping destinations to pickup a gift for that special someone for the holiday season. Whether you’re looking for the perfect hand-spun gift, organic cotton children’s clothes, obscure home decor, rare teas, or group acupuncture you’re in luck!

Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market
Sunday, Dec. 2 | 1-7 p.m.
67 West Street, 5th Floor
FREE, dog-friendly, More info

Enter our immersive winterscape inside the cozy Greenpoint Loft (67 West St) that will be donned with an ice castle, snow, snowmen and polar bears, thanks to designs by scenic artist extraordinaire Art of Mano. 60+ talented makers & crafters will have beautiful creations ready for sale and there will be no shortage of FREE things to do throughout the day! RSVP on Facebook and stay updated!

While live music is performed by local bands Pink Slater and Love Always, enjoy festive cocktails and mocktails at our bar stocked with Mulled Wine made with BABE “Winter is the Worst” red wine and Woodward Extract’s Spices and refreshing locally Crafted Beer by Greenpoint Beer & Ale.

Holiday Oddities Flea Market

Oddities Flea Market
Saturday, Dec. 1 – Sunday, Dec 2 | 12 p.m.-6 p.m. (10 a.m. entry for VIP ticket holders)
150 Greenpoint Ave. (Brooklyn Bazaar)
$10 entry at the door and tickets for Saturday and Sunday, Children under 10 are free, More info

Feast your eyes on medical history ephemera, anatomical curiosities, natural history items, osteological specimens, taxidermy, obscure home decor, jewelry, one of a kind dark art, and more. Inside, you will find three floors of unusual vendors from across the country, hand-picked by curator Ryan Matthew Cohn.

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Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive Will Be at Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market

The Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive will be at our Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market this Sunday, December 2, from 1–7 PM,  inside the Green Point Loft (67 West St). A donation box for unopened toys for local children will be waiting for you at the entrance to help you spread the holiday cheer.

Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive started as a response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  Seven years later and with the help of many new partners and friends, BBHTD is still doing what they originally set out to do. In 2016 years they joined forces with the NYPD Brooklyn Borough North Holiday Sleigh Ride event and now BBHTD distributes thousands of toys directly into the hands of deserving kids during the holiday season.

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The Greenpoint Palaces’ Rebirth and Revitalization

The bar at Greenpoint Palace (206 Nassau Ave)

When Greenpointers hear the word ‘change’ lately, they shudder. Many of the recent changes affecting local institutions have not been positive. Beloved stores have closed, landmarks have been demolished and gentrification has bred a slew of unwelcomed transitions. Did I even mention Amazon?

Right in time for the holiday season we have some good news: The Palace (206 Nassau Ave), formerly Goodmans, the iconic Greenpoint bar on the corner of Nassau Avenue and Russel Street, just opposite McGolrick Park, is not only going to re-open on Nov. 30, but it’s going to feature a number of improvements.

At the end of the summer of 2016, I filed a story for Greenpointers entitled “The Sad End of The Palace Café” and I was also present for the final session on September 3rd of that year. Continue reading

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The Greenpointer Who Hiked The World’s Longest Footpath

 

Trekker Laurent Empereur

Many people fantasize about quitting their job to leave on some amazing, life-changing journey, but few actually do. Laurent Empereur though is one of those rare people who didn’t just imagine making an epic journey, he actually did it. Last Spring, fed up with the daily grind, Emperuer quit his job in the restaurant industry, giving up his Greenpoint apartment of eight years and setting off to trek the Appalachian Trail from Northern Georgia over many mountains to Maine. At over 2, 200 miles, the Appalachian Trail is not only the longest hiking trail in the world, but it is also such a mental and physical challenge that only about a quarter of the hikers who set off reach the end of the trail.

Empereur, 41, decided on the trek after celebrating his 40th birthday. After 18 years of working in the grueling world of New York restaurants, Empereur, a French immigrant, was burned out and longed for a chance to reconnect with nature and himself.

Saving his money for a year, he prepared for the trip. Part of Emperuer’s plan was to eat well on his journey. He dehydrated many delicious dishes, which friends mailed to him at P.O. boxes along the route. Whereas other trekkers carried only a few ounces in cooking tools, Empereur shocked other trekkers by bringing over four pounds of serious cooking equipment. Many hikers who ate poorly on the trek were amazed by Empereur’s gourmet dishes, served deep in the woods. Once, he slow cooked a pork shoulder with bacon that was so delicious that it became the envy of all the other hikers on the trail. Although other trekkers have finished the trail faster, few on the trail have equaled Empereur’s culinary feats Although he ate well, the demanding daily routine of hours of hiking still helped him shed twenty-five pounds.

Courtesy of Laurent Empereur

The French Greenpointer set off from Northern Georgia on his journey on April 27th. Although Empereur had prepared well for the culinary aspects of the hike, he had done little to prepare his feet and legs for the grueling multi-month marathon, a mistake he would pay for. By the time he reached Southern Virginia on June 7th, he was suffering from a toe infection called paronychia and from shin splints. Each step became such agony that he considered abandoning his journey. Fortunately though, a fellow hiker was able to treat his paronychia and after a short rest, Empereur was back on the trail. Continue reading

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Help to Envision Future Green Space Near Newtown Creek

This city-owned parcel at Greenpoint and Kingsland Avenues will become a public access point. (via Newtown Creek Alliance)

Tonight, a community workshop is being hosted by the Newtown Creek Alliance to draft a plan for a future public access point adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant at the corner of Greenpoint and Kingsland Avenues.

The Gateway to Greenpoint envisioning kickoff happens tonight at 520 Kingsland Ave. from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

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