The first Europeans to settle Greenpoint were Dutch colonists who purchased land from the Lenape Native American tribe in the early 17th century. By 1645, a land grant was approved and given to Dirck Volckertsen, a Norwegian ship carpenter. The land, much of which was woodland and marsh, was primarily used for farming from this time up until the mid-19th century.
During this time of the Industrial Revolution, developers and urban planners capitalized on Greenpoint’s land and location which was previously isolated from the rest of Brooklyn by limited roads, marshes, and woodland. The demand for shipbuilding rose dramatically during this time due to new technology, and so Greenpoint’s excellent maritime position would serve as an ideal location in which to produce and manufacture ships. With the increase of industry in Greenpoint came an increase of Europeans immigrants in search of work in the United States. The most predominant nationalities of these immigrants were German, Russian, Italian, and most notably Polish. Greenpoint thrived during this time period (1850-1945) because of its great industry and also because of the immigrant communities who had since expanded and established Greenpoint as their home. After World War II, however, Greenpoint’s industry declined. A majority of the population did remain the original working class families that had worked in Greenpoint during its great industrial era.
More and more Poles would immigrant to Greenpoint, during and immediately after World War II and again during the Cold War. With one of the highest Polish populations in the country, Greenpoint had unofficially been dubbed “Little Poland.” Greenpoint remained a mainly residential area following its industrial glory and continues to be today. In recent years, however, the population of Greenpoint and with it its identity has changed considerably. This was mainly caused by gentrification in surrounding neighborhoods during the 1990’s and the rezoning of 175 blocks in Greenpoint in Williamsburg starting in 2005. As a result the Polish population is not as prevalent as it once was, and large populations of Hispanics/Latinos, Southeast Asians, and North Africans now inhabit areas in Greenpoint when they had not in the past.
Developers and other city planners now hold plans and designs for Greenpoint’s once mainly industrial waterfront area. These plans include tearing down many of the old factories situated on the waterfront and replacing them with new high rise multiuse apartment buildings.
1. Marcia Reiss ; Brooklyn Historical Society (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.) Brooklyn, NY : Brooklyn Historical Society ; c2005
2. United States of America. Landmarks Preservation Comission. Greenpoint Historic District Designation Report. By Thomas Diffley, James Dillion, and Lisa Niven. New York: n.p., 1982. Www.nyc.gov. Web.
3. William L. Felter (William Landon), 1862-1933. ; Green Point Savings Bank (Brooklyn, N.Y.) Brooklyn : s.n. ; 1918