old school

Thursday Spotlight: Artist Richard Humann on An Evolving Neighborhood

Richard Humann

I met artist Richard Humann on a Queens-bound G train in the summer of 2015. He was reading a book about Chinatown and I asked him if it was good. It wasn’t, he noted, but we talked and we stayed in touch, sharing our memories and dreams of Brooklyn. He’s traveled the world for his award-winning art, but since 1985 Greenpoint has always been home. While he can’t recall creating any conscious odes to Greenpoint in his work, the neighborhood and its residents have undoubtedly influenced him in his decades here.

When he moved to Brooklyn from his hometown of Stony Point, New York (“I would say it’s like an hour north of the city but it’s a million miles away”) after college, he shacked up on Meserole Avenue. In the years since, he’s migrated a mere block over. “I never left,” he smiles. When he first moved to Greenpoint, Humann recalls that Williamsburg was considered a hotter area because it was more rough and tumble – south of 7th Street wasn’t considered safe. He had shows in both neighbs though, from the Minor Injury Gallery – one of North Brooklyn’s first as far as he’s aware – to Williamsburg’s Pan Arts gallery, both long closed.

He’s stayed put as the neighborhood changed over the years along with the rest of the borough and city. I spoke with him about his thoughts on gentrification, the bad old days, bygone businesses, and what the future holds for Greenpoint. Continue reading

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From the Archives: More Historical Photos of Greenpoint

“Leonard Street, south from Calyer Street, showing in the left center foreground the spire of a Polish Church. July 25, 1939.” Photo via NYPL

The New York Public Library’s Old NYC website is an excellent resource for taking a walk down memory lane through vintage photos. The site maps the NYPL’s immense digital collection of vintage images of the five boroughs. While the concentration of photos is visibly the densest in Manhattan, the Brooklyn collection is also expansive, and an excellent wormhole back in time.

We already used the tool to roundup one set of images showing Greenpoint throughout the 20th Century, and here’s another, this time with a smaller date margin. Continue reading

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From the Archives: Historical Photos of Greenpoint

“Ash Street.” Date unknown, via NYPL

While it’s true the more things change the more they stay the same, the changes certainly outnumber the sameness in these vintage photos of Greenpoint. The sameness is enough for the streets to be recognizable, but the full throttle industrial landscape paired with the lack of development and people makes it clear these images were created in another world.

Some of the photographs are dated by their car models and aboveground telephone lines, others by their empty lots and the old school formal fashion. Take a look, and see if you can guess the photos’ locations without reading the caption.  Continue reading

Category: Historical Greenpoint | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments