by Kevin Walsh

Seekers of beautiful architecture visit Greenpoint’s India, Kent, Milton, and Noble Streets for their concentrations of classic 19th-century buildings. But my favorite cross street in Greenpoint is Oak, which also has its moments.

In the 1980s I had a number of friends in Greenpoint. My friend Gary spent much of his youth shuttling between Greenpoint and Flushing. In the early 1980s, he and his girlfriend, later wife (now divorced) Alison had the front apartment at 135 Oak, seen here on the right. The place was magical for me. That polygonal bay window looked out over the L-shaped intersection of Oak and Guernsey (one of the few such intersections in NYC). In one of the back rooms, if you cocked your head at a certain angle, the Empire State Building showed up. Alas the couple was only here for about a year before going back to Flushing; today, Gary is in Atlanta and Alison has bounced around out west, from Alaska to the Southwest. I would have liked to take over the apartment.


Right next door, at the angle of the intersection, is one of Greenpoint’s most forbidding buildings, the former Greenpoint Home for the Aged, which was constructed in 1887 by architect Theobald Engelhardt at the behest of former New York Governor Samuel Tilden, who owned a lot of Greenpoint property and decided to put some of his holdings to good use. At first, 137 Oak Street was a home for indigent women, then became a home for the aged; since 1967, it has been a boarding house or SRO. Its current status is a mystery, and its current occupants zealously guard their privacy.

I would live in either of these places, which give off a Lovecraftian “Shunned House” vibe.

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1 comment

Peter November 16, 2018 - 10:12 pm

Looking at 137 Oak on Google Street View yields an interesting clue. The view is from this past July, and must have been taken on Garbage Day because there’s a can out on the sidewalk in front of 137 Oak. There actually are three cans, but my guess is that two of them belong to the house next door given the way they’re situated. Another can, possibly the one for recycling, is just behind the property’s fence.

My deduction: the presence of the cans means that 137 Oak is still occupied. Fully vacant properties don’t produce any garbage. However, the fact that there’s only one can left out for collection means that the property is very unlikely to still be in use as an SRO as it then would be producing a lot more garbage (there’s no alley or driveway to access any service entrance). There’s probably just one occupant, maybe two at most.


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