Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Greenpoint, Brooklyn



Early Colonization & Agricultural Era

Greenpoint was originally inhabited by Keskachauge [] (Keshaechqueren) Indians, a sub-tribe of the Lenape. ["A Brief History of Newtown Creek" by Phoebe Neidl. "Brooklyn Daily Eagle", published online 10-19-2006 [] ] Contemporary accounts describe it as remarkably verdant and beautiful, with Jack pine and oak forest, meadows, fresh water creeks and briny marshes. Water fowl and fish were abundant. The name originally referred to a small bluff of land jutting into the East River at what is now the westernmost end of Freeman Street, but eventually came to describe the whole peninsula. [Felter, William L., "Historic Green Point", Green Point Savings Bank: 1918. pg. 14. Cited in "A Greenpoint Perspective" by Frank J. Dmuchowski [] ]

In 1638 the Dutch West India Company negotiated the right to settle Brooklyn from the Lenape. The first recorded European settler of what is now Greenpoint was Dirck Volckertsen (Dutchified from "Holgerssøn"), a Norwegian immigrant who in 1645 built a one-and-a-half story farmhouse there with the help of two Dutch carpenters. [] In was in the contemporary Dutch style just west of what is now the intersection of Calyer St. and Franklin Avenue. There he planted orchards and raised crops, sheep and cattle. He was called Dirck de Noorman by the Dutch colonists of the region, "Noorman" being the Dutch word for "Norseman" or "Northman." ["The History Of Greenpoint,"New York Times" September 17, 1995] The creek which ran by his farmhouse became known as Norman Kill (Creek); it ran into a large salt marsh and was later filled in. Volckertsen received title to the land after prevailing in court the year before over a Jan De Pree, who had a rival claim. He initially commuted to his farm by boat and may not have moved into the house full time until after 1655, when the small nearby settlement of Boswyck was established, on the charter of which Volckertsen was listed along with twenty-two other families. Volckertsen's wife, Christine Vigne, was a Walloon.

Volckertsen had periodic conflicts with the Keshaechqueren, who killed two of his sons-in-law and tortured a third in separate incidents throughout the 1650s. Starting in the early 1650s he began selling and leasing his property to Dutch colonists, among them Jacob Haie (Hay) in 1653, who built a home in northern Greenpoint that was burned down by Indians two years later. [] The Hay property and other holdings came into the possession of Pieter Praa, a captain in the local militia, who established a farm near present day Freeman Street and McGuinness Blvd., and went on to own most of Greenpoint. Volckertsen died in about 1678 and his grandsons sold the remainder of the homestead to Pieter Praa when their father died in 1718; the name of Norman Ave. remains as testimony to Volckertsen's legacy. [] [Felter, William L., "Historic Green Point", Green Point Savings Bank: 1918. pg. 19. Cited in "A Greenpoint Perspective" by Frank J. Dmuchowski [] ]

Praa had no male heirs when he died in 1740, but the farming families of his various daughters formed the core of Greenpoint for the next hundred years or so. By the time of the Revolutionary war, Greenpoint's population was entirely five related families:

* Abraham Meserole, a grandson of Pieter Praa, and his family lived on the banks of the East River between the present day India and Java Streets;
* Jacob Meserole (brother of Abraham) and his family farmed the entire south end of Greenpoint and built a house between present day Manhattan Ave. and Lorimer St. near Norman Ave.;
*Jacob Bennett, son-in-law of Pieter Praa, and his family farmed the land in the northern portion of Greenpoint and built their house near present day Clay Street roughly between present day Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street;
*Jonathan Provoost, son-in-law of Pieter Praa, and his family farmed the eastern portion of Greenpoint, and lived in the house built by Praa;
*Jacobus Calyer, a grandson-in-law of Pieter Praa, and his family farmed the western portion of Greenpoint, and lived in the house built by Volckertsen;

Throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries the farms were quite isolated from the rest of Brooklyn, connected only to one another by farm lanes and to the rest of Bushwick Township by a single road, Wood Point Rd. The families used long boats to travel to Manhattan to sell their farm produce. Little historical information exists about this period of Greenpoint's history other than the personal papers and recorded oral history of these five families. [Felter, William L., "Historic Green Point", Green Point Savings Bank: 1918. pg. 19. Cited in "A Greenpoint Perspective" by Frank J. Dmuchowski [] ]

The British Army had an encampment in Greenpoint during the Revolution, which caused considerable hardship for the families; Abraham Meserole's son was imprisoned on suspicion of revolutionary sympathies. [Felter, William L., "Historic Green Point", Green Point Savings Bank: 1918. pg. 19. Cited in "A Greenpoint Perspective" by Frank J. Dmuchowski [] ]

19th-century Industrialization

Greenpoint first began to change significantly when an entrepreneur named Neziah Bliss married into the Meserole family in the early 1830s after purchasing land from them. He eventually bought out of most the land in Greenpoint. In 1834 he had the area surveyed, and in 1839 he had a public turnpike opened along what is now Franklin Avenue. He established regular ferry service to Manhattan around 1850. All of these initiatives contributed to the rapid and radical transformation of Greenpoint.

In the years that followed Greenpoint established itself as a center of shipbuilding and waterborne commerce; its shipbuilding, printing, pottery, glassworks and foundries were staffed by generation after generation of hardworking immigrants. Germans and Irish arrived in the mid-19th century and large numbers of Poles began arriving before the turn of the century. The homes built for the merchants and the buildings erected for their workers sprang up along streets that lead down to the waterfront. Today, this area is on the National Register of Historic Places as Greenpoint's Historic District. Greenpoint's East River waterfront holds the maritime history of the community. The buildings which formerly manufactured the ropes for the shipbuilding industry are still there. The launch site of the USS "Monitor" lies on Bushwick Creek. Long a site of shipbuilding, the neighborhood's dockyards harbored the construction of the "Monitor"—the Union's first ironclad fighting ship built during the American Civil War. The "Monitor", together with seven other ironclads, was built at the Continental Ironworks in Greenpoint.

In 1866, the largest wooden ship ever built up to that time, "The Great Republic", was built along Newtown Creek.

20th-century to present

After a long history as a stable, working-class neighborhood and immigrant haven, Greenpoint began to see some of the effects of gentrification by the 1980s. The New York Times noted extraordinary rent increases and displacement as early as 1986, mirroring the pattern of residential conversions of industrial buildings seen in nearby Williamsburg, as well as the similar formation of a smaller art community. [" [ Signs of Transformation in Neighborly Greenpoint] ". "The New York Times", October 15, 1986.] Today, rents in Greenpoint are among Brooklyn's highest, and new construction is prevalent on streets where most buildings date back up to a century. [" [ City Sees Growth; Residents Call It Out Of Control] ". "The New York Times", November 6, 2006.]

Rezoning of 2005

On May 11, 2005, New York City's Department of City Planning approved a rezoning of 175 blocks in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. [ [ Greenpoint/Williamsburg Rezoning Overview] . New York City Department of City Planning.] According to the project's Environmental Impact Statement, the rezoning is expected to bring approximately 16,700 new residents to the neighborhood by 2013, in 7,300 new units of housing. convert|250000|sqft|m2 of new retail space are projected, along with a corresponding loss of just over convert|1000000|sqft|m2 of existing industrial capacity. [ [ Greenpoint/Williamsburg Rezoning EIS] . New York City Department of City Planning.] The rezoning also includes a 28 acre waterfront park. Included in its requirements are provisions for a promenade along the East River, built piecemeal by the developers of existing waterfront lots.

An inclusionary housing plan was included in the resolution and provides height bonuses along the waterfront and in Northside Williamsburg for developers providing apartments at rates considered affordable for low-income households (below 80% of the area's median income); on the waterfront, these bonuses could allow for up to seven-story height increases. [ [ Greenpoint/Williamsburg Inclusionary Housing Program] . New York City Department of City Planning.]

The rezoning was a dramatic change in scale to a previously low-slung, industrial neighborhood. The proposed changes were the subject of much debate, including a letter written by Jane Jacobs to Michael Bloomberg criticizing the proposed development. [" [ Letter to Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council] ." Jane Jacobs, "The Brooklyn Rail", April 15, 2005.]

cquote|The community's plan does not cheat the future by neglecting to provide provisions for schools, daycare, recreational outdoor sports, and pleasant facilities for those things. The community's plan does not promote new housing at the expense of both existing housing and imaginative and economical new shelter that residents can afford. The community's plan does not violate the existing scale of the community, nor does it insult the visual and economic advantages of neighborhoods that are precisely of the kind that demonstrably attract artists and other live-work craftsmen... [but] the proposal put before you by city staff is an ambush containing all those destructive consequences.

Other organizations, including the city government and various advocacy groups, argued that residential construction in underused manufacturing zones is essential to meet growing housing demand. [" [ Up From the Ruins: Why Rezoning New York City's Manufacturing Areas for Housing Makes Sense] ", The Manhattan Institute, June 2, 2005.] These groups argue that since rezoning promises double-digit percentage growth in the neighborhood's count of housing units, it will help to alleviate the city's housing shortage and slow rent increases.

A boom in construction followed the rezoning, leading to complaints from neighborhood residents and their elected representatives. [" [ City Sees Growth; Residents Call It Out of Control] ." "The New York Times", November 6, 2006.] The zoning plan was modified on March 2, 2006 to include anti-harassment provisions for tenants and add height limits in portions of upland Williamsburg. Neighborhood organizations made differing opinions known: the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Association for Parks and Planning expressed approval of the proposal (with reservations) [" [|Summary of Approved Zoning Changes for Greenpoint/Williamsburg] ." Greenpoint/Williamsburg Association for Parks and Planning.] , but many neighborhood residents and members of Community Board 1 continue to voice their objections. [" [ Proposed Grand St. Rezoning, a Step in the Right Direction for Williamsburg] ." "Block Magazine", February 1, 2008.]

Many paintings of Greenpoint artist Greg Lindquist (b.1979) depict the Greenpoint waterfront and the controversial 2006 fire destroying the Greenpoint Terminal Market. The painting " [ "Memorial to American Manufacturing" ] (ironically, this painting appears in the apartment of the MTV show ) depicts the heap of rubble in front of the ruins of the warehouse and " [ "Rope Warehouse Ruins" ] depicts the building from a slightly different angle.


Greenpoint is largely middle class and multi-generational; it is not uncommon to find three generations of family members living in this community. The neighborhood is sometimes referred to as "Little Poland" due to its large population of working-class Polish immigrants, reportedly the second largest concentration in the United States after Chicago. ["New York Times", " Polish Expatriates Torn by 2 Dreams, August 22, 1989. [] ] ["Block magazine", "The Poland Extension Everything's Here: Apteka, Obiady and Ksiegarnia" [] ] Greenpoint is not only populated with Polish immigrants and Polish-Americans, a significant population of Hispanics can be found north of Greenpoint Avenue. Italian Americans and Irish Americans can be found in the southeastern section of Greenpoint. Fact|date=January 2008

As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 39,360 people, 15,865 households, and 8,744 families residing in the 11222 zip code, which is roughly coterminous with Greenpoint. The population density was 23,221 people per square mile (8965.7/km²). There were 16,949 housing units at an average density of 9999.3/sq mi (3860.8/km²). The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 80.3% White, 1.6% African American, 0.4% Native American, 3.8% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 9.4% from other races, and 4.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 19.5% of the population. Another 43.6% of the residents claimed Polish ancestry.

There were 15,865 households out of which 26.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.3% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.9% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.15.

In the neighborhood the population was spread out with 19.9% under the age of 19, 8.2% from 20 to 24, 35.7% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36.6 years. For every 100 females there were 102 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101 males.

The median income for a household in the neighborhood was $33,578 as compared to Williamsburg's median household income of $23,567. Males had a median income of $32,019 versus $26,183 for females. About 17.7% of the population were below the poverty line, as compared to Williamsburg's 41.4% and Kings county's 22.4% below poverty. [" [ Census data] ". "Kings County Census Data"]

Environmental litigation

In 1950, in what is considered to be the worst oil spill in United States history, 17 to 30 million gallons of oil spilled into Newtown Creek. Oil is believed to have been seeping into the groundwater since then. Groundwater in this area is not used as drinking water, as all of New York City's drinking water presently comes from upstate reservoirs. In January 2006, state and oil company officials asserted that to date half of the spill has been cleaned up. [citation needed]

According to page 42 from an Environmental Protection Agency study, "the American Petroleum Institute (2002) indicates that 40% to 80% of a product spill may be retained in soils as residual product."). [ [ "Newtown Creek/Greenpoint Oil Spill Study Brooklyn, New York"] , "E.P.A.", Sept 12, 2007] The Department of Environmental Conservation's website states that petroleum companies participating in the cleanup have used a Free Product Recovery System for groundwater, rather than the soils. [ [ "Remediation/Recovery History"] , "D.E.C.", October 16, 2007]

On October 20, 2005, local residents within the area of the oil recovery operation, which is located in the predominantly commercial/industrial eastern section of Greenpoint near the East Williamsburg Industrial Park, filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron in Brooklyn State Supreme Court, alleging they have suffered adverse health consequences although there has been no proof to back up their allegations. Additionally, a New York State Department of Health study, completed in May 2007, indicated that no vapors were coming from the spill into people's homes. [ [ Dept of Health Study confirms no vapors from 50 Year Old Oil Spill.] , "Newswire", May 30, 2007] ExxonMobil asserts that the oil was spilled by Paragon Oil.cite news|accessdate=
title=Greenpoint, Maspeth Residents Lobby To Get 55-Year-Old Oil Spill Cleaned Up
author=Berman, Russell
work=New York Sun
date=November 18, 2005

However, the Environmental Protection Agency's "Newtown Creek/Greenpoint Oil Spill Study Brooklyn, New York" states that vapor concentrations in "some commercial establishments" were found "above the Upper Explosive Limit" (page 7). [ [ E.P.A. study finds vapor in Greenpoint businesses "above Upper Explosive Limit."] , "E.P.A.", Sept 12, 2007] Simply put, that means there was enough vapor for an explosion to ignite. In addition, the same E.P.A. study said, "A review of the data collected by the NYSDEC shows that, in general, chemicals were detected at all locations in each home, but not in a pattern that would typically represent a vapor intrusion phenomenon." [ [ "Newtown Creek/Greenpoint Oil Spill Study Brooklyn, New York"] , "E.P.A.", Sept 12, 2007]

A recent Department of Environmental Conservation report that tested residential blocks above the spill area concluded that there is no evidence of either oil or dangerous vapors seeping up into people's homes. [citation needed] "Brooklyn Paper" columnist Tom Gilbert wrote, "This stands to reason, as the spilled oil tends to lie deep underground, capped by a nearly impermeable layer of clay." [ [ Is G'point good for you?] , "The Brooklyn Paper", October 27, 2007]

Landmarks and attractions

Parks include McCarren Park (formerly known as Greenpoint Park), the neighbourhood's largest green space, and the smaller McGolrick Park (formerly known as Winthrop Park), which contains both the landmarked Shelter Pavilion (1910) (NRHP) and an allegorical monument (1938) to the USS "Monitor" ironclad ship.

The Greenpoint Historic District (NRHP) roughly bounded by Kent, Calyer, Noble, and Franklin Sts., Clifford Pl. Lorimer St. and Manhattan Ave.

Of architectural interest in Greenpoint are: The Episcopal Church of the Ascension ( [ Ascension Greenpoint] ) (1853) the oldest church in Greenpoint on Kent Street, the Astral Apartments (1886) (NRHP) on Franklin Street, the Saint Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church (1875) on Manhattan Avenue, the Eberhard-Faber Pencil Factory on Greenpoint Ave at Franklin St., the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (1921) (NRHP) on North 12th Street, the Oliver Hazard Perry School ( [ P.S. 34] ) (1867) on Norman Avenue (the oldest continuously operating public school building in New York City); the Capital One (formerly Green Point) Savings Bank (1908) and the Saint Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church (1896) on Humboldt Street, which serves as a Catholic shrine for the Polish community.

Additionally, St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church and School, on Monitor Street between Richardson and Herbert Streets, has served the community since 1871. The school which dates to 1906 was closed June 2008. The current church dates to 1891.

Interesting facts

* Greenpoint Hospital, on Skillman Avenue between Kingsland and Debevoise Avenues, was opened in 1914 and was in operation through the early 1980s. It is located well outside the currently accepted boundaries of Greenpoint.
* Some scenes in the movie "The Departed", including the scene where Jack Nicholson's character first meets Matt Damon's character, were shot in Greenpoint across from McCarren Park. The diner and grocery store scenes were both shot in the Park Luncheonette. Several scenes in the movies "Donnie Brasco" (where Dominick Napolitano portrayed as "Sonny Black" by Michael Madsen was born), "Sleepers", "Dead Presidents", "Romeo is Bleeding", "In the Mix", and "The Siege" were also filmed in Greenpoint. The television series "Rescue Me" and "The Black Donnellys" are also routinely filmed in Greenpoint, as are the television shows "Third Watch" and Lipstick Jungle.
* The lead singer of Franz Ferdinand lived for a time in Greenpoint, and the neighborhood is mentioned in the song "Eleanor Put Your Boots On." [Citation | title = Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand Dines at Sony's Private Restaurant | journal = New York | date = 02/02/2007 | url =]
* The invasive Asian long-horned beetle was first identified in Greenpoint, and exterminated there but not before spreading.
* The streets in Greenpoint are named alphabetically. Walking south along Manhattan Avenue, you will find Ash, Box, Clay, Dupont, Eagle, Freeman, Green, Huron, India, Java and Kent Streets. Then comes Greenpoint Avenue, formerly known as Lincoln Street. Further south one can find Milton, Noble and Oak Streets. All streets were originally designated by letters, not by name; A Street, B Street, etc. Calyer Street, coming after Oak Street, was formerly known as "P Street" and is followed by Quay Street.
* Notable individuals born and/or raised in Greenpoint include actress Mae West, children's book author Margaret Wise Brown, pop singer Pat Benatar and writer Henry Miller.
* Comedy Central's series Stella was filmed primarily in Greenpoint.


External links

* [ The Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront Access Plan]
* [ Greenpoint Landmarks]
* [ A.O.H. Greenpoint, Brooklyn]
* [ guide to Greenpoint, Brooklyn]
* [ business map for Greenpoint, Brooklyn]
* [ Landmarks: Greenpoint's Public School 34, The Oliver Hazard Perry School]
* [ Greenpoint Wiki] - Wiki dedicated to Greenpoint
* [ Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center]
* [ Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning]
* [ Neighborhood Roots]

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