historical greenpoint

Do the Time Warp: When Slow Commutes Made Greenpoint Feel Like a “Municipal Step-Child”

Trolley tracks at the corner of Bedford and Manhattan Avenues, 1928. Via the New York Transit Museum

Welcome to our  final installment of “Do the Time Warp,” when we check in with life in Greenpoint 100 years ago. In our previous two sections, we visited Greenpoint circa 1919, and saw how the ‘nabe was one of the nation’s largest manufacturing centers, with a real estate market booming as fast as its factories.

But, despite the frenetic pace of development in Greenpoint 100 years ago, our slice of North Brooklyn remained isolated from the rest of the city, and was chafing under what it saw as “municipal neglect.”

In 1919, Greenpoint saw itself as a “municipal step-child,” “overlooked entirely in any scheme of transit development,” and at a steep disadvantage to its “sister community,” Long Island City, which boasted “two subways and a bridge, with several lines of railroad.” At the time, Greenpoint had none of those things, and was much aggrieved at “its only connection with the outside world being slow-moving trolley cars.”

The injustice did not end there: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle cried, “The whole district is suffering…under a handicap in that it is not directly connected by an all-rail line with the trunk railroad lines of the continent, and there are not railroad or steamship terminals within its borders.  The raw materials for most of the factories have to be trucked to and from the railroad and steamship terminals in Williamsburg, in Long Island City, or in some cases as far as the Bush Terminal, in South Brooklyn.”  Continue reading

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Greenpoint History Walking Tour to Benefit the Park Church Co-op Saturday (7/7)

Historical Map of Greenpoint courtesy of Dennis Ward

Beloved neighborhood worship/art space, the Park Church Co-op (129 Russell St.) has put out a fundraising call to the community. Ace local historian, and Greenpointers contributor, Geoff Cobb has answered that call in a fantastically innovative way! He’ll lead a donation-based historical walking tour of Greenpoint on Saturday, July 7th from 10-11am, and donate all proceeds to the Park Church Co-op.

The tour will meet at the corner of Calyer and Franklin. All are welcome! RSVP here.

What: Walking Tour with Geoff Cobb on Behalf of the Park Church Co-op
When: Saturday, July 7, at 10am.
Where: Franklin and Calyer
Who: Everyone!

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The Hist List: Every Official Historic Landmark in Greenpoint

Behold, the map! Via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Behold, the map! Via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

Do you want to know about the extraordinary history all around you? (Yes!!) Well you’re in luck. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has just released a revamped version of its interactive landmarks map!!!

If you’re ready for a deep dive, this might be the best city for it, since the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation. The LPC recognizes individual landmarks, interior landmarks, scenic landmarks and historic districts, designating sites based on historic, architectural and cultural significance. The map includes information, photographs, and historic designation reports for all 36,000 buildings and sites which the organization has landmarked since its inception in 1965.

You can search for landmarks by category, address or area; by style, architect, building type or era of construction. I popped in Greenpoint, and discovered we have 10 designations, including individual landmarks and historic districts. So without further ado, I give you, The Hist List: Every Historic Landmark in Greenpoint!  Continue reading

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The Illicit Affair That Brought Greenpoint’s own Mae West to Hollywood

Mae West

In a previous piece I described how Mae West funded her scandalous 1927 play sex through her romance with the rich, handsome, but very dangerous gangster Owney Madden. However, it was the poor, but handsome bag man of the gangster who made West an American icon.

In 1927 the Acting Mayor of New York Joe McKee, scandalized by the drama’s frank sexual portrayals, had West and the rest of the cast arrested. The arrest was a publicity gold mine and sex and West were the words on the lips of all New Yorkers. When the cops jailed Mae the gangster’s connections with Blackwell’s Island warden earned Mae a private cell and silk underwear. She even dined with the warden every night and left after six days being let out early for good behavior. Upon her release she quipped, “It was the first time I ever got anything for good behavior.” Continue reading

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When Freedom of Expression and Censorship Battled on Manhattan Avenue!

Screen shot 2016-02-28 at 7.30.49 AM
Cartoon by Julia Wertz

The other day, I gave a talk on the Irish history of Greenpoint, and a long-time Greenpointer offered me a new twist on a famous old Greenpoint legend.

Before diving into the story, lets get acquainted with the story’s protagonists. The legendary scandalista Eva Tanguay was a Vaudeville legend who came to perform at the B.F. Keith’s Theater at Manhattan Avenue and Calyer Street sometime around the turn of the century. Notorious as the “I Don’t Care Girl”—the title of her signature song—Tanguay established herself as the queen of Vaudeville in 1901 with the New York City premiere of her controversial show “My Lady.” The Lady Gaga of her day, Tanguay was brazen, impudent, and shameless in the eyes of the Prudish. Some of her hit songs like “It’s All Been Done Before But Not the Way I Do It” and “Go As Far As You Like” boldly suggested illicit pleasures. She wore a shockingly revealing dress made entirely of pennies and filled her act with racy double entendres. Greenpoint’s Mae West, who later became equally notorious, was an early admirer who later incorporated many elements of Tanguay’s act into her own suggestive performances. Continue reading

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Casting the Iwo Jima Memorial in Greenpoint

Bedi-makky_227India
227 India Street

The Bedi-Makky building at 227 India Street looks like any other ordinary industrial Greenpoint building. However, it was here that the one of the largest bronze sculpture ever cast in human history was made; the famous Iwo Jima Memorial from Arlington National Cemetery was cast at the foundry, but it was no simple job.

Working six days a week for three years, seven local men constructed what was then the world’s largest bronze sculpture. This sculpture was huge: 78 feet high and over 100 tons, but the story of the birth of the iconic statue began many years before because of a legendary picture.  Continue reading

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Forgotten Greenpoint: Wooden Sidewalk on West Street May Become Extinct

West Street's wooden block sidewalk is a common stop on walking tours of Greenpoint; Courtesy of Preservation Greenpoint

Is one of Greenpoint’s most unexpected features­­­—a stretch of historic wooden block paving on West Street near the Greenpoint Terminal Market—in imminent danger? Many say that this is the last place where original wooden paving exists in New York City. These blocks are so rare that one from this section of sidewalk is included in the collection at The City Reliquary. But a new bike path down West Street could mean this final vestige of obscure New York City history will be put on the chopping block. Continue reading

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Historical Greenpoint Walk With The Wooden House Project

Wooden House Project Tour

For anyone interested in exploring the history of Brooklyn, The Wooden House Project offers fantastic tours for lovers of Brooklyn’s wood-frame row houses. The walking tour I took through the streets of Greenpoint was an hour and a half long and was led by Elizabeth Finkelstein and Chelcey Berryhill. Continue reading

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Only In Greenpoint: Black Rabbit Painted Landmark Color and Transformed Into 1860s Bar

Black Rabbit BEFORE © www.FifthFloorUp.com

You may have noticed that the facade of Black Rabbit (91 Greenpoint Ave) was repainted from black to a muddy maroon in order to comply with NYC Landmark Commission. What do you think of the new look?

Black Rabbit AFTER © Black Rabbit

Recently Improv Everywhere transformed Black Rabbit in Greenpoint into an 1860s bar for the ultimate time travel prank! They “worked with accomplices to invite unsuspecting friends …The bar was completely lit by candles and kerosene lanterns and was filled with actors in period dress. Beer cost pennies, and music was provided by a live band. By the end of the night, our surprised guests found themselves in the middle of an old-fashioned bar fight.

Only in New York? Only in Greenpoint, Brooklyn!

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Que Pasa, Greenpoint? Monitor Museum

Did you know that Greenpoint has a museum? Yes we do and at this time it serves as a traveling museum visiting local schools. Motiva Enterprises has donated waterfront property at the launch site of the USS Monitor so a museum could be built in the future. They are now working toward fixing the site to make it open to the public. Please visit their site for more information. www.greenpointmonitormuseum.org

Monitor Museo

¿Sabías que Greenpoint cuenta con un Museo? Sí tenemos uno y en este momento sirve como un museo itinerante visitando las escuelas locales. Motiva Enterprises ha donado propiedad frente al mar en el sitio de lanzamiento del USS Monitor para que un museo podría construirse en el futuro. Ahora están trabajando hacia la fijación del sitio para que sea abierta al público. Visite su sitio para obtener más información. www.greenpointmonitormuseum.org

 

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