Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Greenpoint: Franklin St.

The signs of gentrification so glaringly missing from Manhattan Ave are abundant on Franklin. Not only the tell-tale businesses, but the people. Within minutes of stepping onto the sidewalk there, you will be bumped by someone talking on a cell phone. Even though Manhattan Ave is more crowded with pedestrians, people there know how to walk. They move to the right, as New Yorkers have done for generations. I tested this on both streets and I can assure you: On Manhattan they move to the right, on Franklin they don't.

On Manhattan Ave., it's discount stores selling flowery women's house coats called "dusters." On Franklin, it's high-end boutiques. There are no diners here, no Polish markets. There are outdoor cafes packed with wafer-thin women cradling chihuahuas in their laps, bars with clever names, "craft brew" beer stores, and coffee shops filled with bearded men peering at Mac laptops through chalk-white Wayfarer shades.

It is just one block away from Manhattan Ave., and it is a completely different universe with a completely different culture.

Overheard: "Oh my God, try the iced tea. It's blood orange and pear. Amazing. Especially when you've got a huge hangover."

To be honest, part of me wants to enjoy these new and independent businesses. They only span a few blocks, and they're off to the side. As Miss Heather attests, Word is a great little bookshop and Kill Devil Hill is filled with appealing curiosities. I'd like to lose myself in the fantasy of a "perfect mix": a liveable neighborhood filled with menschlich people and a handful of "cool" places to hang out with people who are, admittedly, more like me (in some ways).

But we all know that handful never contains itself. I looked at those "cool" places, and thought: This is The Blob. It grows and grows, and as it grows, it eats everything in sight. There will be no stopping it.

Already, the Horror of Greenpoint has landed. That Carnival cruise ship has docked at the Galapagos and boatloads of hungry monsters are coming ashore.

The luxury condos, lured by the hip cafes and shops, have taken over warehouses and factories. Tearing down buildings, they span whole blocks, sprouting towers at their centers. They muscle their way between smaller, cheaper homes, asserting themselves as "bigger and better!"

This is the second Greenpoint on our tour, and it threatens to destroy the first. But there is also a third Greenpoint, a sinister, dystopian layer surrounding the luxury.

Next stop: Post-Apocalyptic Greenpoint...


Anonymous said...

I like this blog, and I'm mostly with you about what the city has lost. But sometimes you go too far trying to cram reality so that it fits your general thesis.

I've lived in Greenpoint for five years. I'm a native New Yorker who grew up in Queens from a family of five generations of blue collar, outer borough New Yorkers, and I've lived in NYC for 23 years out of 33.

I've walked Franklin Avenue and Manhattan Avenue thousands of times over the years. The idea that somehow newcomer white kids are any more or less considerate in public than the old Polish ladies and Dominicans and everyone else is patent nonsense. There are all kinds of people walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk, having loud conversations on their cell phones, making stupid remarks, blasting Eurotrash techno out of their speeding cars, etc etc etc. There are also all kinds of people behaving courteously.

If you want to live in a strictly immigrant/blue collar city, seriously, you would be happier in Cleveland or Buffalo or Pittsburg. No offense intended, that is just the truth. No worries about gentrification in Detroit.

Greenpoint actually IS a good mix.

Anonymous said...

for someone who doesn't live in the neighborhood, you sure are an expert awfully quickly. the time you've put into your sociological study is astounding.

marjorie said...

thank you for using menschlich in a sentence!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comments. I'm a fan of the blog but you're over-reaching here and you're starting to sound a bit of a cranky xenophobe.

Jeremiah Moss said...

cranky xenophobes don't explore and discuss their ambivalent feelings about gentrifying neighborhoods. there is, as i said, a nice mix in this neighborhood today. but we've seen it countless times before. in a few years, if things go the way they went in so many neighborhoods, greenpoint as you know it today will be decimated. all the signs are there. i suppose some would prefer not to pay attention to those signs.

and i would love it if a sociologist did a real, controlled experiment on sidewalk behaviors between these two streets. i think it would be enlightening.

Anonymous said...

don't you think that's a blanket statement towards xenophobes?

Ed said...

This is a good post. I agree that a Manhattan Avenue with a handful of Franklin Avenue stores, restaurants, and bars would be cool. Purely working class streets and purely upscale streets on their own are boring. Unfortunately the balance never seems to last long. We always wind up overdoing it one way or another.

I think alot of the problem comes from making industry THE main industry in New York, and to a lesser extent in the rest of the US. Real estate really should be a sort of secondary service activity. So whenever the developers catch wind that a neighborhood is changing, they always overdo things.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what you are after here, it's the way of New York, places come and go. That is the forever engaging lure of NYC. It belongs to no ones nostalgic view of what was, should be.

As the earlier commenter said, I think Detroit may be a good place for you.

Todays guys staring at laptops wearing white wayfarers on Franklin street, were yesterdays guys staring at the village voice wearing black wayfarers on Bleeker street.

This blog must be exhausting for you to keep up.

Unknown said...

I agree with the first poster. I, too, have lived in Greenpoint for more than five years and people don't know how to walk on Manhattan AT ALL. It's crowded and people weave back and forth, it is the strangest thing. Never had this problem on Franklin, or anywhere else that I can think of.

Anonymous said...

I visited this blog for the first time, thinking that this is a blog that chronicles the fall of New York real estate after the recession has hit. But it appears that it's the opposite. So, I got a bit confused.

All New York neighborhoods are going down hill. Foreclosures are rising. Rents are falling. People are moving out of the city. Businesses are closing. "Gentrification" is a thing of the past. You should be really happy now. I would like to see you chronicle the reverse-gentrification. We now live in a completely different world since you started this blog.

Jeremiah Moss said...

anon 7:38, you're right. the city is changing since the downturn and there are some signs of reverse-gentrification. but it's not happening nearly as fast as some might think.

when it does happen, i put it here. search the blog for the word "yunnipocalypse" and you'll find some of it.

Anonymous said...

I live on Manhattan Avenue between Bedford and Norman Avenues, and while I love it, I'd much rather live on one of the quieter side streets or even Franklin Avenue. Walking onto the street from my apartment anytime during is an ordeal - workers from the stores nearby stand in my doorway to smoke and won't move, mothers push strollers slowly and walk 3 abreast so you can't get around them, and people do not respond to you if you cannot speak to them in Polish. There are regularly fights and loud music from cars parked at the Polish bar across the street from me, and men piss in my doorway. The older drunks tend to hang out in McCarren or McGolrick Parks and at the HSBC and at the Greenpoint G stop, and the younger meth heads hang out a block away near Russ Pizza.

So, all in all, Greenpoint and Manhattan Avenue are fun and cute but have all the same problems as other NYC neighborhoods that you may not see if you just happen to visit twice during the day.

King Ning said...

First of all, you self-absorbed twenty/thirty-something pseudo-bohemians should, at the very least,be familiar with the name of the street you've walked those thousands of times. It's Franklin STREET, not Avenue. But, that's expected from the products of the inadequate educational system of the last thirty years.

It's funny how five years' worth of sharing an apartment with three other people makes one an expert on the community. Most of you transplanted mid-westerners and refugees from the Pacific Northwest go out of your way to maintain a segregated existence in the neighborhoods you chose to infest. Very few, if any, take the time to get to know the residents of the buildings in which they live. Even fewer have any interaction with the the people residing on the same block. It's as if a pretense of cultural and intellectual superiority exists, and the long-time residents are viewed with a combination of curiosity and pity.

Of course, you're there to bring civilization to the lumpen by way of eateries serving up some incongruous fusion fare, opening lounges with oh-so-clever retro-inspired names selling 100 different brands of overpriced micro-brewed swill being passed off as beer, and opening another totally unnecessary coffee bar. Speaking of which, why do hipsters monopolize all available seating in an establishment, spreading their NYT or Village Voices on any remaining open space at a table that isn't taken up by their Mac Notebooks, while nursing the same grande, humungo, extra large (choose your favorite adjective) beverage for six or seven hours? Are you all that self-centered and inconsiderate not to be aware that, perhaps, someone else might care to sit and have a coffee too? Like the woman lugging shopping bags, with her three year old child in tow? Of course not. It's all about you. You need the time and space so that you can think of some artsy-fartsy nomme d'B.S. to use at the next exhibition of hijacked curbside garbage, masquerading as art, taking place in an abandoned factory or warehouse.

Jeremiah is correct in his observations. You're all nothing more than inauthentic posers walking around in a state of narcissistic oblivion, trying to be the central point of focus.

It's got nothing to do with xenophobia. It's all about the lack of civility and the semblance of being smug, self-important egoists, which your collective attitudes impart.