67 West Street – Greenpoint

17 Oct

(For Robbie & Rachel’s Wedding)

The spot we’re standing in now more or less marks the place from which Greenpoint took its name.  Before there were event spaces or performance spaces or artisanal ice cream studios or warehouses, factories, shipyards, cobblestones, dirt roads or farms, there was a pretty little spit of land covered in green sticking out into the East River, washed back and forth by the changing tides.  The Dutch would notice it as they sailed by looking for furs to trade and so they named the area Greenpoint.  Greenpoint was a quiet, low-rent neighborhood back then, inhabited mainly by the Keskachague Indians.  The Dutch weren’t really like the hipsters but they did begin the gentrification of the area with the introduction of their new invention capitalism.  New Amsterdam was laid out on the southern tip of Manhattan, and since we hadn’t invented suburbs yet, Greenpoint was pretty much all farmland.

It stayed that way until about the 1850s, when, like a lot of the Northeast, it became industrialized very quickly – largely as a shipbuilding center, again happening more or less beneath our feet.  By the 1890s the building we’re in was built – part of a complex totaling 14 acres in size and stretching 6 city blocks.  The streets outside must of felt very different then, back when Brooklyn was a huge manufacturing center, this building alone housing some 2,500 workers in what was the largest rope factory in the world. Then, like a lot of the U.S. in general, the industry left – though not before this building served as storage for items as varied as coffee, cocoa, diamonds and gold.  We live the present on the remnants of the past; though some feeling of it always remains.  Rumor has it that you can still find coffee beans in some of the nooks and crannies of this building.

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Greenpoint perseveres of course, through the changes.  At some point a lot of Polish people moved into the area.  They’re pretty cool.  At a more recent point a lot of what you could call, “white, non-native, college graduates” moved into the area too, and we’re pretty cool also.  We found that it was nice to live within walking distance of each other.  We found that we could meet at each others houses, or at parks, or coffee shops or bars, or maybe nicest of all just bump into each other on the street – recognizing that home can be a place much bigger than the walls of your apartment.  We could watch the sun hit the buildings at different angles as the seasons came, complain about the neighborhood changing, celebrate the neighborhood changing, wonder about the neighborhood changing; how long we might stay to see it change, might our children somebody stay to see it change?  Making our own remnants of the past to live our changes on.

What we can say with some certainty is that at some point, none of us will be living here anymore.  Who knows but by then the neighborhood might look very different.  Maybe by then they’ll be flying apartment buildings, or you know, like hovering apartment buildings, or maybe we’ll have gone back to nature – living in some kind of earthen mounds – or maybe Greenpoint will look more or less the same, with just some subtle changes that only the truly committed would recognize, even if we, the truly committed, won’t be here to see it.

Something of the love will still remain though.


2 Responses to “67 West Street – Greenpoint”

  1. Alex Reeves (@alexmreeves) October 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    Love it! Glad you posted.


  1. Franklin Street & Noble Street (American Playground) | Corner by Corner - August 22, 2014

    […] below on the left).  This whole area has a storied industrial past (as I’ve mentioned before), going back to the shipbuilding days of the 1850s and seeing in its time such highlights as the […]

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