I had often walked by the inconspicuous former church at 104 Powers St. near the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, yet I never noticed the sole sign that this was a Muslim house of worship. Then last week, I suddenly noticed the crescent moon protruding above the roof and I realized that the building was a mosque, hiding in plain sight. Growing curious, I did some digging and discovered that the building was not only a mosque, but also the first mosque founded in the United States. The Mosque’s faithful, though, are so unobtrusive and the services so infrequent that even longtime local residents are shocked to learn that 104 Powers St. has been a local Muslim house of worship for four generations.
The structure at 104 Powers St. shows that it was once a church. In the 188os Methodists built a house of worship, but like many Christian denominations, the congregation dwindled and the Methodists were forced to merge congregations, abandoning the Powers Street building. The building served as a Democratic Party clubhouse for a few years, but in 1931, the American Mohammedan Society, Inc., a group of Tatar immigrants from Lithuania, Poland and Belarus— bought the property from the 13th Assembly District Realty Company, for the purposes of converting the property into a mosque.
The non-profit UnionDocs brings together a diverse community of activist artists, experimental media-makers, dedicated journalists, big thinkers, and local partners on a search for urgent expressions of the human experience, practical perspectives on the world today, and compelling visions for the future. The Williamsburg stronghold, located at 322 Union Avenue, has a number of educational (and affordable!) upcoming events.
Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased online or at the door. Many of the events will be followed by discussions with the artists or subjects involved, and tend to last until 10:30PM. See below to get a sense of what intriguing events are happening this winter!
Thursday, Jan 24 at 7:30 pm THERE IS A GAZE THRUST UPON ME Presentation by Joiri Minaya with conversation to follow with Mathilde Walker-Billaud What You Get Is What You See is back for 2019 featuring artist and performer Joiri Minaya. In this installment of the series, Minaya will present her research on tropical pattern design and its roots in exploration, exploitation and labor, and how this history continues through rampant capitalist tourism in the tropics.
Sunday, Jan 27 at 7:30 pm ORGANIZED ACTIVITIES With Nellie Kluz & LJ Frezza We’re thrilled to welcome filmmaker Nellie Kluz all the way from the Windy City to present ORGANIZED ACTIVITIES, a program comprised almost entirely of NYC Premieres of her short documentary works. Vadim Rizov praised her documentary style in Filmmaker Magazine with the observation that ” Kluz’s inquisitive eye captures glimpses of often kitschy or strange events without abandoning well-meaning curiosity.”
Friday, Feb 1 at 7:30 pm CHARACTER LIMIT With Sable Elyse Smith, Brett Story, and Travis Wilkerson & Dr. Alexandra Juhasz This evening focuses in on an article from World Records Volume 2 Ways of Organizing. We’ll gather artists Sable Elyse Smith, Brett Story, and Travis Wilkerson to screen and discuss excerpts from their recent work to examine how and why their practices subvert the formal and political logics of character-driven storytelling.
Here’s your chance to have some input on the future of the Motiva site at Bushwick Inlet Park at the waterfront border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The meeting will take place at the Bushwick Inlet Park Building at 86 Kent Ave. (building at Kent Avenue/N. 9th Street) on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 6 p.m., more details here.
After an eventful 10-year-run at 100 Frost St., the good folks at the Brooklyn Kitchen are closing their Williamsburg location (don’t worry classes are still available at Industry City), but not before throwing a big party.
After 10 never boring years at the big old leaky warehouse under the BQE, Harry and Taylor are clearing their cabinets of curiosities and inviting their friends over to eat, drink, and imagine merriment in the face of society’s inevitable collapse. Expect steampunk maximalism, a fair amount of rust, out of print cookbooks, Gourmet magazines from your birth year. Records stored in unarchival conditions. Relics and mementos.
Art, music, food, drink. An epic loft sale / rent party the likes of which 11211 hasn’t seen since 11249.
Quadrum Global filed plans this week with the Dept. of Buildings for a 14-story, 150-foot tall residential building at 53 Huron St. (also known as 161 West St.) with 173 units spanning 178,000 square feet.
The development includes 86 enclosed parking spaces and would span 278,000 square feet at West Street between Huron and Green streets. The rendering envisions a yacht-friendly future for the building on the Greenpoint waterfront, which would neighbor the 40-story tower ‘The Greenpoint.”
The MTA is holding an emergency L train public meeting Tuesday at noon to discuss the new plans regarding the non-shutdown of the Canarsie tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The meeting will be live streamed.
Cuomo’s announcement two weeks ago rocked the Brooklyn universe and understandably upset the renters and business owners who already relocated, not to mention the community leaders who worked for three years on mitigation plans and questioned the announcements’ lack of specifics.
When Greenpointers received a tip last week that someone was allegedly passing out flyers identifying hate symbols following the discovery of hate stickers on McGuiness Blvd, we posted an image of the flyer to Instagram and began to receive many messages from local Polish residents that the Kotwica symbol should not be placed in the same category as the Swastika and other hate symbols. We also received messages insisting that the far right in Poland has recently used patriotic symbology during rallies, including the Kotwica. The local debate even received the attention of staff at the Polish Consulate in New York and the Greenpoint-based Polish and English radio station and news site, Radio Rampa, posted on the matter.
It’s a fact that the Kotwica is a symbol of the underground Polish resistance fighters who fought against Nazi occupation in the 1940s. The symbol to commemorate the resistance fighters is also found in Greenpoint on a flag during summer months at the Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union on McGuiness Boulevard and on a mural on Eckford Street around the corner from the Warsaw music venue.
Ben Shahn’s name today is obscure, but Shahn was perhaps one of the greatest artists ever to come out of Williamsburg. Born in Lithuania, Shahn grew up in the Southside in real poverty (1898-1969). Recognized during his lifetime as one of the greatest American painters of his generation, he was also a highly talented photographer, graphic artist, and lithographer.
Like many other Williamsburg celebrities, Shahn’s parents were Orthodox Jews who fled the poverty and Anti-Semitism of Eastern Europe. His father was a leftist political activist whom The Tsar’s forces arrested, imprisoned and sent to Siberia. In 1906, when Shahn was eight years old, his family immigrated to New York where they were reunited with Shahn’s father.
His artistic talent soon manifested itself. In Williamsburg, his fifth-grade teacher first noticed and encouraged his artistic development. The family, however, was very poor and despite his obvious talent, Shahn’s mother made him drop out of school at the end of the eighth-grade to work and help support the family. Shahn got a job as an apprentice in his uncle’s lithography shop, where he continued to develop his artistic ability. By age 19, Shahn had become a professional lithographer, but he was determined to learn even more, so he also started to study at New York University, the College of the City of New York, and the National Academy of Design.
He toured Europe as a young man and was deeply impressed with European painting, especially Cezanne and Matisse, whom he mimicked in his early work, but Shahn thankfully realized that he was an American artist, soon developing a uniquely American style of art. Later in life he called himself “the most American of all American painters.” His art, though, was highly critical of American life, often depicting American poverty and injustice. His first fame came with his series of paintings surrounding the extremely controversial execution of the Italian immigrant anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti in Massachusetts. Shahn, like many people around the world, believed that the two men were framed for their anarchism, and he created twenty-three protests images of the trial. Many of these, including the gouache Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco became famous amongst leftists around the world. One of those leftists was Diego Rivera, the celebrated Mexican muralist, invited him to assist him in creating his famed murals for Rockefeller Center. Under Rivera’s tutelage, Shahn mastered the demanding art of fresco or painting with dry pigments on wet plaster.
Looking for a great local trivia question? Which two men associated with Greenpoint ran for president of the United States? The answer: Samuel Tilden who was cheated in the election of 1876 and Charles Evans Hughes, who lived on Milton Street, who lost in 1916.
If you are a Brooklynite you might have heard of Tilden High School, but few people know anything about this important figure in local and state history. Although he is a forgotten figure today, few men did more to help New York State. Tilden was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 1846, and few legislators in state history did more good. He used his position to expose corruption in state government, most notably through the impeachment of New York State Supreme Court Justices George G. Barnard, Albert Cardozo, and John H. McCunn.
His exposure of corruption within the U.S. Customs House was soon overshadowed by his most famous political achievement: the exposure and prosecution of the Tweed Ring, led by William M. “Boss” Tweed whose name lives down through the ages as a symbol of Tammany Hall Corruption. Tweed introduced a new city charter, which would further consolidate his corrupt hold on power, but Tilden, as chairman of the Democratic State Committee, denounced him and began a pitched battle to disable the Ring and end Tweed’s corrupt practices. Tilden’s successful prosecution of the Tweed Ring paved the way for his election as Governor in 1874. Two years later, Tilden became the Democratic nominee for president and probably won the election, but his own party sold him out in the corrupt bargain of 1876 that ended Reconstruction.
In the 1850s Tilden became one of the most successful corporate lawyers in America and a rich man. He also invested in Greenpoint real estate. The piece of land Tilden bought covered an area from Oak Street to Noble Street and ran from the river to Leonard Street. Tilden helped Greenpoint and increased the value of his real estate through his efforts in Albany supporting the bill allowing Neziah Bliss to open a ferry to Manhattan. Tilden sold off his holdings piece by piece in the 1870s and he must have profited massively from these sales. He sold a piece at the top of Milton Street to Thomas Smith, the millionaire ceramicist whose home became the Greenpoint Reformed Church.
However, today we remember Tilden more for his charity than for his wealth. He was one of the founders of the New York Public Library System, but his charity had many positive local effects too. He believed that Greenpoint should have churches. He gave a cut-rate price to the congregation of the Noble Street Baptist Church (known as Union Baptist Church), allowing them in 1860 to build their landmarked red brick home. He also owned the land on which St. Anthony of Padua sits. Although not a Catholic himself, he gave Bishop Loughlin a sweetheart deal, charging the church for only one of five lots they purchased on Manhattan Avenue and Leonard Street. The stately church was built in 1874.
The spread of hate speech graffiti targeting the black, Jewish, and LGBT communities in Brooklyn has caused a lot of concern locally, and questions were raised as to how to best report it after a series of U.S. postal stickers with hate speech was discovered last week along McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint.
North Brooklyn Democratic District Leader Nick Rizzo condemned the hate speech and in a statement pointed out the connection between Nazism and White Nationalism.
This incident shows the connection between Nazism, which we all know is un-American, and White Nationalism, which a bunch of American politicians openly support. Please be alert to rising Far Right incitements: We cannot allow hate to gain strength in Brooklyn. Know that ’14 words’ and 88 (code for ‘Heil Hitler’) are both White Nationalist symbols.
Brooklyn resident Mallory Seegal, who discovered the stickers on Sunday, adds that she was ‘disgusted’ by the language.
When I found these stickers on Sunday, I was disgusted but by no means surprised. This is just one example, out of many, of how white supremacy manifests. The complex and ongoing system of white supremacy is the disease, and the individual actions of white nationalists and white supremacists are a symptom. We are looking at two sides of the same coin.
While Greenpointers intended to help bring attention to the incident, the NYPD says that posting on social media first hinders investigations into these crimes.
Officer Rivera of the NYPD’s 94th Precinct Community Affairs informed Greenpointers that the most effective way to report hate graffiti is to leave the graffiti untouched and call 911 immediately, as 911 operators will be able to determine if it’s a situation that can be referred to 311. Not contacting the authorities first and posting on social media impedes the timing of the investigation. A proper investigation is paramount and can lead to an arrest, he said.
A joint statement from Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, Council Member Stephen Levin, Assembly Member Joseph Lentol, State Senator Julia Salazar, and Representative Carolyn Maloney says they are committed to bringing the community together to combat the issue.
We strongly condemn the virulently anti-Semitic, homophobic, and racist language that was inscribed on United States Postal Service stamps at lampposts and public spaces in multiple locations across north Greenpoint, including McGuiness Boulevard, Dupont Street, Eagle Street, and Freeman Street. Most disturbingly, the materials contained Nazi swastikas and the numbers 14 and 88, which refer to the fourteen-word slogan ‘we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,’ and the Heil Hitler salute respectively.
Unfortunately, these stickers are part of a wider pattern of neo-Nazi activity in the area around Greenpoint and Williamsburg, including swastikas that were spray-painted and etched on Manhattan Avenue and McGolrick Park in the past two years.
In response to this pattern of hate, we will be collaborating with a diverse range of community stakeholders across community-based organizations, houses of worship, and local businesses to bring residents of Greenpoint closer together. We cannot let this despicable act go unanswered, particularly as it is meant to intimidate members of our One Brooklyn family in a community that is made up of a diverse range of backgrounds from all walks of life.
We urge anyone with any information on who may be responsible for this reprehensible act to contact the NYPD by calling 800-577-TIPS.