Monday, May 11, 2009

Greenpoint: Manhattan Ave

Traveling from the yunnie cacophony of the East Village, riding the L train packed with twitchy hipsters, to emerge from the G train and onto Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint may be akin to stepping off a Carnival cruise ship bloated with ticky-tacky people, their lips smeared with Chocoholic Buffet, and walking into the Edenic wonder of the Galapagos Islands.

You are simply in another country. One that remains mostly unspoiled and untrammeled, where the natives practice strange and wonderful customs--like saying hello, holding the door for you, and wishing "Bless you" when you sneeze. Instead of talking on cell phones, they are talking to each other or just not talking. Instead of ramming you with baby strollers filled with atrophying children, they let their kids walk.



I have been to Greenpoint just twice and saw only a sliver. For a thorough account of the goings on in this part of Brooklyn, see Miss Heather's extensive reporting at New York Shitty. Forgotten NY has also covered the neighborhood here and here. But even a sliver gives you a good sense of the strong community still thriving here.



I was shocked by the lack of gentrification. Yes, they have Chase Banks and Dunkin Donuts, even a weird Starbucks in a former theater, but these all have a run-down look about them and they don't keep places like the Peter Pan Donut shop from being packed with satisfied customers.



People speak Polish everywhere. And it's not just the older people--it's the twentysomethings in their trendy sunglasses, the teens, and the kids, too. Dinner at the Happy End will surround you in Polish. Its dark, Eastern bloc decor might intimidate you. But you'll be welcomed by a friendly young waiter who will urge you to eat the salad, the best part, the part that gives you vegetables. And the kielbasa, perfectly cooked by a staunch woman in a hairnet, is incredible.



At the Manhattan 3 Decker diner you can get a three-decker sandwich (a club sandwich) and enjoy the bickering of the owners, a Greek couple who reply to one another, "And the horse you rode in on!" Meanwhile, regulars are greeted by name and the waitstaff knows their favorite tables. And the children--you won't notice you are surrounded by them because they are so well-behaved, quietly eating grilled cheese sandwiches and coloring in books. A mother tells one, "When I was a girl, I wasn't spoiled. My mother disciplined me."



Walking west, you pass lovely rowhouses on tree-lush streets, and fantasize about living there. "Greenpoint is unspoiled!" you think, "How could it be?" Then you come out to Franklin Street, where you see the future of Greenpoint. It's a completely different world, running just one block parallel to the world you just left, and it is spreading.

Next Stop: Franklin Street...

12 comments:

Someone Said said...

That's where my Grandmother lived. I never have been there and the house she grew up in was torn own.

Ken Mac said...

you've inspired me once again

EV Grieve said...

Thhat does it: I'm never going to go on a Carnival cruise ship.

But seriously... I have former EVer friends in this neighborhood. They're always trying to get me to move. I certainly know why they love it here.

BaHa said...

Oh, Grieve, did you not hear that distance death-knell as you posted your comment?

Anonymous said...

I lived in Franklin St for 5 years in the 90s and suspect it has drastically changed. Can't wait to see the next post. BTW: Dig your blog.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i'll be interested to hear your memories of Franklin in the 90s and how it compares to today. plan to run the post tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I love reading comments about GP. I grew up, and still live in GP, and it's a wonderful place. Happy to see that others have discovered its charm.

David said...

It's entertaining to read your first impressions of the 'Point. After having lived there for four years (moved out in September), I'm not sure the strange and wonderful customs I observed with regularity were quite as congenial as those you listed. Nor would I ever think to compare it to the Edenic wonder of the Galapagos Islands. For every neighbor who would have a friendly chat with you while sweeping the stoop, there was the racist lady next door who would give your landlord shit every time you had black people staying in your apartment; for every Polish girl working in the coffee shop who'd laugh amicably when you tried to pronounce a Polish phrase she'd just taught you, there was the older couple who would cold-shoulder you for shamelessly partaking in the destruction of their secluded community.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my time there, but it was time for something else. It certainly has/had its charm, but I always thought of it more as a quirky, flawed, unique, conflicted charm than one so idyllic.

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop used to have a red awning adorned simply with the words "Muffins Donuts Coffee." And so, not knowing the name, we simply called it MDC. How many hours my friends and I killed there between '04 and '08 I couldn't say. We were sorely disappointed when the new sign went up and we found out what the name really was. In our hearts, it will forever remain as MDC. Sang its praises in the blogosphere a while back.

I really miss the meat markets. So many wonderful varieties of keilbasa. The only neighborhood in the city where I could walk 'round the corner for some mettwurst.

Looking forward to your take on Franklin St...

L'Emmerdeur said...

Nothing declasses a joint like a few screaming Greeks.

This may be one of only 8 or 9 blogs where this would be considered a compliment (and rightfully so).

By the way - that's a great idea for fighting gentrification: just parachute a couple of thousand bawdy, noisy Greeks into the afflicted zones and watch the glass condos melt like buttah!*

* downside: they'll be replaced by faux Ionic columns

Anonymous said...

I have been to Greenpoint just twice and saw only a sliver.

as someone who has live in greenpoint since 1995, i feel quite comfortable saying that you don't know what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

If GP is so idyllic, what's with all the cheap new construction and yuppie bars? And I have heard shocking stories about landlords successfully kicking out the old folks in order to jack up the rent for the steady stream of EV/LES/Wburg colonists who think anything less than $2k is a bargain..

Jeremiah Moss said...

anon, i cover some of that in the following post about franklin street, published today.