Greenpoint is the last neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn before entering Queens. The Pulaski Bridge separates the two boroughs and actually is a drawbridge that lifts up to allow boats to pass underneath into the river. The bridge passing over the water that flows in from the east river creates a clear division between the neighborhood of Greenpoint and the adjacent borough of Queens. It creates a physical separation, that when crossed offers a distinct change in scenery and feel between the two areas it joins. Sometimes borders can be created by visual landmarks, as Jacobs mentions in her book, such as the mural of graffiti on Houston that marks the beginning of Soho. Jacobs writes, “often borders are thought of as passive objects, or matter-of-factly just as edges. However, a border exerts an active influence” (Jacobs 336). In the case of Greenpoint, the northern border of the neighborhood is laid down by the Pulaski bridge, while the east river leaves no questions regarding edges or borders along the west part of Greenpoint.
The town of Bushwick used to encompass the present-day neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, and parts of Ridgewood, on the often-disputed border with Queens. The area was originally called Boswijck, which means ‘heavy woods” or “town in the woods” because of the lush land that used to cover that section of Brooklyn before it was industrialized and used for more residential properties. The industrialization of Greenpoint began in the 1850s when entrepreneur, Neziah Bliss, established a regular ferry service to Manhattan and had a public turnpike opened along what is now Franklin Street. Greenpoint was finally annexed to the city of Brooklyn in 1855, which marked the true beginning of the neighborhood on its own.
The neighborhood eventually began to separate itself even further from its Brooklyn neighbors, such as Williamsburg, which lies directly to the south of Greenpoint. Williamsburg is home to a large Hassidic Jewish community while simultaneously playing home to an immense amount of art related and hip events. Greenpoint separates itself by remaining a center of Polish life in New York City. The Polish residents of the neighborhood really pride themselves on having stayed in a community that their family has grown up in for generations. Around Greepoint Avenue there is a strong sense of family and community between the inhabitants of Greenpoint that have been neighbors for decade. As soon as you enter one of the Polish delis or markets along Manhattan Avenue you feel like you are transported into a small town in Poland, where everyone knows each other and English is almost a foreign language. It is amazing to know that people of all kinds can find a home in New York City. It seems to be a repeating pattern that immigrants from around the world group together in different neighborhoods of New York to create a sense of home not only within their house, but also out on the street.
“The city is a confederation of families” (Tuan 153). Together, this collection of neighborhoods and families form a unique city that has become famous for its diversity and culture.
The first time we went to Greenpoint together we got off in Williamsburg and decided to walk into and through Greenpoint so that we could clearly see where one ends and the other begins, and so that we could observe for ourselves what makes Greenpoint different and unique compared to the other Brooklyn neighborhoods. An establishment called the “Williamsburg Car Wash” that’s located right before the underpass of the BQE on Lorimer Street seems to be the last clear sign of Williamsburg moving northbound. Once passing the underpass the street went from a very busy street with a lot of stores and restaurants to a more rundown residential area, filled with 2-3 story houses and very little commercial retail. The sidewalks were dominated by house fronts, meaning that there are probably not eyes on the street all the time, especially once you get into the area that the humongous park covered. The park creates an extremely loose space because of its size and myriad of different sections, such as a grass field and a skate park. This park could be considered to be the biggest transition from Williamsburg to Greenpoint. When coming out of Manhattan Avenue on the other side the feeling is totally different and there is a clear distinction between the architecture of the buildings along the sidewalk.
Polska Polish Flag (2010) (M Studio)
“The History Of Greenpoint”. The New York Times. September 17, 1995.
Tuan, Y-F. (2001). Space and Place. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
Jacobs, J. (1961, 2011). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House.