History

Do the Time Warp: When Greenpoint was the Second Largest Industrial Center in the US!

American Manufacturing Co. Circa 1919, via the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Hey Greenpoint history nerds! Welcome to the second installment of “Do the Time Warp!” This post will check in with Greenpoint’s industrial past, when Newtown Creek was mightier than the Mississippi, and instead of a BQX trolly, Greenpointers were united in their demand for “a marginal railroad which shall extend all along the Brooklyn Waterfront from Bay Ridge to Newtown Creek, with spurs into all of the big factories.”  Continue reading

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Do The Time Warp: Greenpoint Real Estate, Circa 1919

Rendering of the Astral; Courtesy of the Brooklyn Department of Buildings
Rendering of the Astral; Courtesy of the Brooklyn Department of Buildings

In 1919, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle devoted some glowing coverage to Greenpoint, calling our slice of North Brooklyn “the first manufacturing center of the Empire State,” where “the smokestack is as sacred as the steeple,” and “public spirit…is not surpassed in any district in the City of New York.”

Our intrepid content manager, Megan, found the article earlier this week, and we thought the paper gave such a detailed view of life in Greenpoint 100 years ago, we’d do a series on life in the ‘nabe back in the day.

So, Welcome to our first installment of Do The Time Warp, when we look back on life in Greenpoint 100 years ago. In today’s post, we’ll check out Greenpoint’s housing market circa 1919, and delve into what life was like for people who lived here.

It seems that some of the same advantages that draw New Yorkers to Greenpoint today, exerted a similar pull 100 years ago. For example, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that “the close proximity of this district to the center of business life in Manhattan has been fully recognized by the far-seeing manufacturers of the metropolis,” and by homeowners alike.

In fact, homeownership was common in Greenpoint. The paper maintains, “Housing conditions have been remarkably good, and despite the fact that Greenpoint is generally known as a manufacturing district, a large percentage of the dwellings are owned by persons who live on the premises and are employed in or near Greenpoint.” Happily, this seems to have kept Greenpoint “particularly free from that class of undesirable citizens known as ‘rent profiteers’.”  Continue reading

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Share Your Memories with Greenpoint Library’s Environmental Oral History Project

A rendering of the New Library and Environmental Education Center. Via BPL
A rendering of the New Library and Environmental Education Center. Via BPL

Greenpoint is getting a brand new Library and Environmental Center, and your memories can be part of its collection!

On June 23rd, the new library will begin the “Greenpoint Oral History and Community Scanning Project,” an initiative designed to highlight and document Greenpoint’s relationship with the natural environment. Anyone who has lived or worked in Greenpoint is welcome to share both memories and memorabilia related to local environmental history.

According to Acacia Thompson, Greenpoint Outreach Archivist for the Brooklyn Public Library, “People are welcome to bring in photos, documents, ephemera, and any physical item we can photograph and digitize that informs the history of Greenpoint’s environment. All manner of items are welcome – for example, flyers from environmental events from the 1990s, t-shirts and photos from marches, medical bills documenting asthma, and sustainability projects from area school children.” Additionally, you can schedule an oral history interview to share your experience with the local environment.  Continue reading

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New Comedy Project, Community Acupuncture and Photoshoppin’ History — What’s Happening, Greepoint? (3/28-4/3)

WEDNESDAY 3/28

Shared Living, Better Living @ADO (29 Norman Ave), 6:30pm, FREE, A lively panel discussion about the challenges and opportunities presented by shared living, More Info
Paint Nite @ Sick Willie (174 Meserole Ave), 7pm, $65, Our Social Painting Instructor guides you step-by-step through the featured painting in about two hours. Buy Tix
^ Okoyomon / Hamilton / Hodson @Spoonbill Series (99 Montrose Ave), 7pm, FREE, A reading curated by Coco Fitterman, More info
* TRIVIA NIGHT @ Archestratus (160 Huron St.), 8pm, FREE, Trivia with our news editor! Expect categories to be various, beer innumerable, arancine aplenty, RSVP

THURSDAY 3/29

# Passover Seder Potluck @The Park Church Co-op (129 Russell St), 6pm, FREE, More Info.
Blending Herbal Smokes @Catland (987 Flushing Ave), 7pm, $20,In this workshop we will discuss the various herbs which are safe to be burnt and inhaled to manifest our highest intentions, Buy Tix
New Comedy Project With Greenport Harbor Brewing @ The New Work Project (97 North 10th St), 7:30 pm, $10, Comedians you’ve seen on Comedy Central, Conan, MTV & more join us at The New Work Project for a night of comedy and free refreshments provided by Greenport Harbor Brewing, Buy tix
The Rocket Queens (GNR Tribute), Wildstreet, FerreTT @ St. Vitus (1120 Manhattan Avenue), 7:30pm, $8-12, Buy tix
Gentrification Express Screening @Sunview Luncheonette (221 Nassau Ave), 7:30pm, FREE,”Gentrification Express: Breaking Down the BQX” and other short films, More Info

FRIDAY 3/30 Continue reading

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Gangs of New York: North Brooklyn Edition

Map of North Brooklyn Gangs 1974
Map of North Brooklyn Gangs 1974 via The New York Times

Martin Scorsese acquired the rights to Gangs of New York, Herbert Ashbery’s 1927 history of Gotham’s urban underworld, in 1979. The movie focuses on the murderous mayhem of mid-19th century Five Points, but 1970s New York City was itself a study in violence. Bloodshed was so prevalent here in North Brooklyn that Luis Garten Acosta, founder of the local outreach program El Puente, dubbed the area “The Killing Fields.”

Pre-eminent New York City History podcasters The Bowery Boys unearthed a map produced in 1974 by the New York Times which plots the territory of “youth gangs” in ’70s North Brooklyn. In all, reported the Times, the NYPD had identified 48 gangs in the area with a total membership of 2,500. The police also held that six of those gangs were “responsible for more than half of the criminal gang activity in Northern Brooklyn.” Greenpoint in particular was home turf for the Sinners, the Mad Caps and the Sons of Devils.  Continue reading

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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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Before L-pocalypse: A History of Transit in North BK

B.R.C.C. Crosstown Trolley, Via the Transit Museum
B.C.R.R. Crosstown Trolley, Via the New York Transit Museum

As the MTA’s planned 15-month suspension of L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan draws near, all 200,000 daily riders of the L-pocalypse have been asking the same question: how will we get across the river? Brooklynites have been asking that question for generations, and personal ingenuity, along with municipal planning, has yielded several answers. All we can say for sure is that this is not the first time aggrieved Greenpointers have been up in arms over inadequate inter-borough transit. I’m just glad we don’t have to take a rowboat.

The rowboat commute was the first in a line increasingly efficient methods of getting from Greenpoint to Manhattan that includes horsecars, trollies, ferry services, elevated trains, and the dawn and growth of the subway. Step in, stand clear and read on for a history of transit in North Brooklyn.   Continue reading

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A Stroll Down Historic Huron Street

Inside Archestratus— part cookbook shop, part cafe and part event space.
Inside Archestratus on Huron Street— part cookbook shop, part cafe and part event space.

Huron was originally just called H Street, but it was changed to Huron in the 1850s, possibly in honor of a locally built steamship the U.S.S Huron, or it could simply honor the New York state Native American people.

Huron Street was once famed for the beauty of its gardens. At one time Huron Street had two gardens that were so beautiful that they helped make Greenpoint “The Garden Spot of Brooklyn.” Cousin’s garden near Franklin Street was a show place of Greenpoint. The Provost House near Manhattan Avenue also had a beautiful garden with grapevines and was known as The Brass Castle. Number 119 seems to be one of the oldest buildings in Greenpoint and might have shared the street with the gorgeous gardens. The gardens vanished long ago, but the foodie bookstore/cafe Archestratus (160 Huron St), near where the Provost House once stood, is a garden of culinary delights.

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Oil, Philanthropy, The Astral and Art: The Mixed Local Legacy of Charles Pratt

Pratt Institute

Perhaps there is no person in the long history of Greenpoint who had a bigger effect on our area than Charles Pratt. Pratt’s legacy, though is a mixed one: a philanthropist, Pratt felt a duty to use his wealth to give back to the community, but he is also heavily responsible for the massive local pollution that is a result of his business in oil refining. One thing though is sure, more than a hundred and twenty years after his death; Pratt’s long shadow still hangs over Greenpoint. Continue reading

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The Fascinating and Tragic History of The Wythe Hotel

The Weidmann Cooperage before its renovation
The Weidmann Cooperage before its renovation

The Wythe Hotel at North 11th Street and Wythe Avenue is a symbol of cool in trendy Williamsburg. The building is a combination of old and new, with a three story sleek glass tower rising out of the remnants of a 1901 industrial building. The hotel’s L-shaped rooftop bar The Ides has stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, attracting people from around the world to the 72-room boutique hotel. People use words like chic, trendy and ultra-modern in describing the building, but it has a fascinating and tragic past that stretches back to the 1890’s—and that past is still evident in today’s hotel building.

The Wythe Hotel today, image via Morris Adjmi Architects
The Wythe Hotel today, image via Morris Adjmi Architects

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