On Friday everyone becomes Irish for a day—at least in the local bars, but Greenpoint actually has a long and colorful Irish history. The first Irish came to Greenpoint way back in the 1850s. Like many of the others who arrived here then, the Irish were lured by jobs in the booming shipbuilding business. An 1855 Greenpoint census revealed that about thirty percent of the locals were Irish born. Other Irish soon followed to work in the many factories and refineries that sprung up locally after the Civil War.
In 1864 Captain James McAllister, from County Antrim, Northern Ireland, started his maritime transport company with a single sail lighter, but it was the perfect time and place to open such a business. McAllister soon got more work than he could handle transporting the oil of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. He brought over many of his family and neighbors from his hometown Cushendall, Co. Antrim and many of the present day Irish families in Greenpoint have Cushendall roots. Quickly the Irish dominated the waterfront and worked the many nautical and longshoremen jobs along the bustling East River and Newtown Creek shorelines. One of these Irish-American longshoremen was the colorful Pete McGuinness, “The King of Greenpoint,” for whom McGuinness Boulevard is named. He later entered politics and ran the area as the last old style Irish ward boss until his death in 1948. Continue reading →
Last night, local historian, teacher, and author Geoffrey Cobb delighted a full house at Shayz Lounge (130 Franklin Street) with a selection of readings from his latest book, The King of Greenpoint. The book is about Peter J. McGuinness, the man for whom McGuinness Boulevard is named.
McGuinness was born on Eagle Street in 1888, and despite having no high school eduction and being a 300-pound lumber handler and blue collar laborer, managed to become one of the most influential politicians Greenpoint has ever seen.
Through pure charisma, lots of street smarts, and an ardent dedication to his everyday, working class constituents, McGuinness was able to get elected as an alderman in 1919, thus beginning a long and rich political career. Continue reading →
My mother is born-and-raised solid country stock from County Westmeath, Ireland. She remembers St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as chiefly religious, with the country going to mass with freshly-picked clovers pinned to buttonholes to honor their patron saint. Then there would be a shared family meal with special-occasion ingredients like beef or lamb, usually presented in roasts or stews.
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (or whether you want to avoid all related shenanigans entirely), this traditional Irish dish is straight-forward, nourishing, rich, and perfect for spooning out among any group of friends and family (though with all due respect to my grandmother and her preferred method of just dumping everything in a big pot and leaving it, I’ve added and tweaked some steps to improve texture and flavor).
Fancy bars and restaurants with all sorts of sexy food and drink (Tørst, Beloved, Nights and Weekends) are all over Greenpoint these days, but let’s face it – sometimes you just want get hammered on a budget, pay homage to the neighborhood’s longtime establishments, or just check out something different and new (or old). Greenpoint definitely has no shortage of dive bars, but where to begin?
This weekend I hung out in some of these dives (a.k.a. “old man” bars) in the neighborhood and got to know them and their clientele a little better. I scoped out the drink specials, watched Jeopardy with the regulars, and relaxed in some sweet backyards. And now I present to you, along with my little rating system, some of the neighborhood’s best kept secrets:
Irene’s Pub (623 Manhattan Ave)
Despite being so centrally located, Irene’s is somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps most Greenpointers are unfamiliar with the bar’s philosophy:”it’s happy hour all the time,” which I verified as TRUTH. Irene’s prices are actually equivalent to happy hour deals, all the time – we’re talking $2 drafts and dirt-cheap mixed drinks. I repeat: all day and night long. Continue reading →
Here is an excerpt from an interesting article in Voices of NY about an Irishman who admires the Polish community in Greenpoint:
“…living among Poles reminds McDonagh of Ireland.
Greenpoint, similar to pre-boom inner-city Dublin, is littered with old factories, warehouse buildings and loft-spaces primed to be re-envisioned by architects and city-planners … In 2011, the Polish in Ireland superseded the British as the largest non-national community in the state. They are now part of the genetic landscape back home.