Maybe it is just me, but I find McGuinness Boulevard ugly. Huge trucks and streams of traffic wiz by the four-laned, soulless traffic artery. The newer apartment buildings lack the quaint charm of many of Greenpoint’s other streets, but this was not always so.
Once McGuinness Boulevard was not a boulevard at all, it was named Oakland Street; a narrow charming cobblestoned lane lined by wood frame 19th-century homes typical of our area.
Oakland Street would become a victim to a vision of New York City as a city of cars and trucks. The destruction of Oakland Street was only a small piece in the grand scheme of Robert Moses who built the BQE, the Tri-borough Bridge, and the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Thousands of homes across the city fell victim to Moses’ vision.
Most people associate Greenpoint with the Polish community, but our area has a long and deep connection to Ireland. Let’s answer a few questions to prepare you fully to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day locally.
1) When, how and why did the Irish come to Greenpoint?
Greenpoint really began to be a community in the 1850s, just after the Irish famine devastated the country. Already in 1855 a third of the local residents were Irish. The Irish dominated the local waterfront. The McAllister family from Cushendall, Co. Antrim started a tugboat and lighter fleet and brought over many family members and neighbors from Northern Ireland and many Greenpoint Irish families have Cushendall roots. By the 1880s The Irish were a large and growing presence in the area.
2) What local places have Irish associations?
Perhaps it is better to ask what places do not? McGolrick Park was named for local parish priest Monseigneur Edward McGolrick who was born in Donegal and rebuilt St. Cecelia’s Church. McCarren Park was named for Irish-American State Senator Patrick McCarren. McGuinness Boulevard was named for Peter J. McGuinness the politician who popularized Greenpoint’s nickname “ The Garden Spot” and brought the area the McCarren Park pool and the G Train.
3) What local Irish pub are around to celebrate in?
Sadly we lost Shayz Lounge, which was run by two Dubliners. Connie O’s on Norman Avenue is the last real Irish-American Greenpoint bar. The Capri Lounge, once known as Murphy’s, resurrects its Irish past and throws a great party with many locally born Irish- Americans. The Palace bar was for many years run by an Irish-American family. Derry man Stevie Howlett at Lake Street gives an Irish aura to the Minnesota bar on Manhattan Avenue.
4) Did Any Irish Greenpointers affect Ireland?
Yes and how! Thomas Clarke who lived at 175 Russell St. returned to Ireland and took part in the Easter Rising. He formally declared the existence of the Irish Republic before he was captured and shot by the British. He and his wife are honored heroes in Ireland.
It’s one of the greatest sports events on the planet, and this Sunday (11/4) the New York Marathon will wind its way through our area. 50,000 competitors will pass down Manhattan Avenue and it is one of the very few world-class sporting events you can see live and for free. For better or worse, the race will also close off Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint Avenue and part of McGuinness Boulevard for several hours; moving in, out and around our area will be tricky. Despite the minor inconvenience, the race is still a spectacle to behold and Greenpoint is one of the best places in the city to watch the drama of the marathon unfold. Continue reading →
Yesterday afternoon, police blockaded the street near the intersection of Greenpoint Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard while they were dealing with a man who had barricaded himself in an apartment after shooting another man in the head. After a few hours, the suspect, Gene Barrett, surrendered to police and is now in custody. Barrett was a former NYPD police officer. The victim, Joseph Sapinski, is currently on life support.
There is a famous quote related to English architect Sir Christopher Wren: “If you seek his monument look around you.” The same could be said in Greenpoint of Peter J. McGuinness, the local ward boss who ran Greenpoint from 1923 to 1948. McGuinness profoundly altered Greenpoint and his many achievements are still visible everywhere. How did you get to Greenpoint? If you arrived by subway it was McGuinness who secured the G train in 1933. The original route of the crosstown train did not go through Greenpoint, but McGuinness complained so loudly the route was changed. Did you drive over the bridge at Greenpoint Avenue? McGuinness also got that for our area in 1929 by being the firmest supporter of Mayor Jimmy Walker. Continue reading →