In late June I was stalking around Greenpoint again. Over the past 6-8 months or so, my visits have been frequent, as the northern Brooklyn neighborhood is easy for me to reach from Little Neck — all I have to do is take the LIRR to Woodside, change for the #7, then the G at Court Square and bang, two or three stops, I’m there. This particular day I was on a mission to see the new park under the New Kosciuszko Bridge and then, to track down some pizza at Paulie Gee. I was only partially successful but I’ll get to that.
I got off the G at Nassau Avenue and then rambled east on Driggs, then ultimately west on Engert which are the two main east-west Greenpoint routes I hadn’t really fully explored. Would there be “something to write home to Mother about?” Follow me…
I was struck by this exterior at #597 Manhattan Avenue between Norman and Nassau. It has apparently looked like this since at least 2016, when A Bar, marked only by the illuminated ‘bar’ sign, moved in. As you may guess, the building looked a lot different in 1940.
Graham Avenue ends its northward progress at Driggs Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard. Prior to 1964, Oakland Street’s southern end was at Driggs, but that year it was expanded into a multi-lane trafficway to bring traffic from the Pulaski Bridge south to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and Oakland was renamed for Peter McGuinness, a long-time Greenpoint Democratic alderman and ward boss.
The triangular plaza here is named Father Studzinski Square. Fr. Studzinski (1887-1954) was the longtime pastor of nearby St. Stanislaus Kostka Church (see below).
Stanislaus Kostka (1550-1568) was a Polish Jesuit novice who walked from Vienna to Rome, likely contracting malaria on the journey, from which he died at age 17. He was canonized in 1726. There are a number of NYC churches named in his honor, including this one at Humboldt Street and Driggs Avenue and a second one, across Newtown Creek in Maspeth. Greenpoint’s Kostka serves the largest Polish congregation in Brooklyn and was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1979; his likeness is in view on Humboldt. The parish was established in the 1880s, and the magnificent Gothic building was dedicated in 1904. Catholic Manhattan has some interior photos.
Lech Walesa (pronounced va-LEN-za), born in 1943, is the mustachioed former Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner who helped begin the process of freeing Poland from the Soviet empire when the trade union he led, Solidarity, engaged in several strikes for workers’ rights in the port of Gdansk in 1980.
I have always found McGolrick Park, a perfect rectangle bounded by Driggs and Nassau Avenues and Russell and Nassau Streets, a fascinating place because of its plethora of architectural treasures. While some parts of town are park starved, Greenpoint can boast the vast McCarren Park, McGolrick Park, and the new waterside parks at Bushwick Creek (under construction) and Newtown Creek (brand new).
McGolrick Park features winding paths that are separated from the grassy malls by iron railings, as well as numerous benches that the area homeless find attractive, as well as three substantial public monuments. The park was set up by the City of Brooklyn in 1889 with a funding assist from assembly Winthrop Jones; when it opened in 1891 the park was duly named Winthrop Park — possibly, there was a pre-existing Jones Park. The park was later renamed Monsignor Edward J. McGolrick Park, in honor of the pastor of the nearby St. Cecilia’s Roman catholic Church from 1888 until his death in 1938. McGolrick, an Irish immigrant, was a major fundraiser for the parish, which built new church, convent, rectory, hospital, lyceum, school, and playing field under his direction.
A triumphant crescent-shaped shelter pavilion was designed in 1910 by famed architectural firm Helmle and Huberty. The brick and limestone creation features an elegant wood colonnade connecting two buildings. Each building served as a comfort station, one for men, and the other for women. The pavilion was designed to invoke the feeling of 17th and 18th century French garden structures. The structure is currently listed on the National Register and is protected as a New York City landmark. It was reconstructed in 1985 — some critics felt it strayed too far from the original design, so it was again rebuilt in 2001. It was declared a NYC landmark in 1966. Partly because of park upkeep fund reduction during the Covid Pandemic, the pavilion is looking a bit worse for wear and can use some sprucing up.
Greenpointers who served in World War I are remembered by this Angel of Peace statue by German immigrant Carl Augustus Heber, dedicated in 1923. On three sides of the pedestal are inscribed names of major battles: Argonne, Somme, Chateau Thierry.
Here, in a park that is still at the heart of working-class Brooklyn, the “angel of victory” carries the palm and holds out the olive branch. Like all our angels she is young and beautiful, and her face, tipped slightly askance, bears that indefinable look of longing and exaltation that seems to come from another world, bearing hopes that we would never dare but for her blessing. The pedestal’s words ring with the soul of the Great War innocence, beginning: “To the living and dead heroes of Greenpoint who fought in the World war because they loved America…” –from Out of Fire and Valor, Cal Snyder
The John Ericsson (Monitor and Merrimac) Monument by Italian immigrant sculptor Antonio de Filippo was dedicated in 1938. The Swedish-born engineer Ericsson (1803-1889) designed the Monitor, the USA’s first ironclad vessel, at Greenpoint’s Continental Iron Works in 1861, and engaged the Confederate States’ Merrimac at Hampton Roads in 1862. Less than a decade after the battle, William Street was renamed for the famed warship. 2012 was the sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, of that naval battle, which ended in stalemate.
Rather than a portrait statue, such as Jonathan Scott Hartley’s bronze depiction of Ericsson (1903) which stands at the north side of Battery Park, sculptor de Filippo sculpted a monumental stylized male nude allegorical figure. NYC Parks
Like many parks, McGolrick has a small takeout library, in which the Honor System is depended on when the reader finishes.
I frankly didn’t find much of real interest on Driggs until its eastern end (though its house numbers begin at Meeker and run east to west) but here is a building ad for “Marshall’s Greenpoint Fish Factory Smoked Fish Retail Store” on the building at a gas station on Morgan Avenue between Meeker avenue and Anthony Street. I imagine the store occupied this building but moved out long ago.
One of my goals today was to see the new Under the K Bridge Park, Greenpoint’s newest, which runs under the New K from Stewart Avenue east to Newtown Creek.
According to the official press release announcing the opening of the destination, the park “features more than 20,000 trees and native plant species, including fern, birch maple and evergreen trees.” Time Out New York
To be honest I did not see much vegetation at all, though I understand most of it is concentrated in the stretch nearest the Creek, though the sprinklers were turned on for what little there was between Stewart and Gardner Avenues. I got sort of a spooky vibe here, because this bit is mostly a skate park and there was not a soul present but me. Only the Stewart Avenue gate was open, while the Gardner Avenue gate was locked, and I feared that if I waited too long a worker would come along and lock the gate, unaware of my presence!
Now, this park is a long way away from residential Greenpoint at all, and I suspect that skateboarders will be more inclined to use the skate park on the south end of McCarren Park. The space has potential, but I don’t see it getting wildly popular. A similar park is being built under the K Bridge approach on the Queens side.
One has to remember, this section of Far East Greenpoint (as I call it) or DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Overpass, as the Newtown Pentacle’s Mitch Waxman calls it, is still very industrial with waste removal, rendering, light manufacturing, and sundry other concerns that have been pouring raw waste into the Creek for parts of three centuries. It’s a very odd place to put a park. To get these shots, I waited several minutes to wait for several trucks to make their recalcitrant way down Stewart Avenue to get decent photos.
The walkway/bike path connecting UTKBP between Meeker and Stewart Avenues along the Kosciuszko Bridge approach is known as The Arm, a name that makes me think of Twin Peaks, as the Man From Another Place refers to himself as The Arm… Philip Gerard’s arm, which he had cut off to rid himself of spirits from the Black Lodge (don’t worry, I won’t assault you with anymore Twin Peaks stuff here).
In any case, aside from three seated persons I assume to be industrial workers taking a break, or spirits from the Black Lodge, The Arm was eerily deserted.
I’ve noticed that The Arm employs the newest method in park lighting: tall wooden poles, similar to telephone poles, wired for lighting and equipped with LED lamps. This particular style can also be seen in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River.
What you’re looking at here is the only section of Meeker Avenue unshrouded by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, northeast from Van Dam Street at the K Bridge approach. Meeker Avenue, laid out in the 1800s, is a northeast diagonal cutting across the street grids of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and was cast forever in shadows bu Robert Moses when the BQE was built here in the fab Fifties. This stretch is not particularly interesting, though, and I was headed west.
You have to give the owner of #687 Meeker west of Morgan Avenue points for chutzpah, as the awning indicates it’s the Meeker Avenue Manor. Tenants in the windows are facing the BQE and its smoke-belching exhaust.
Some new furniture is laid out…likely temporarily…in Fidelity Triangle at Meeker and Engert Avenues at Monitor Street. It is named for the Knights of Columbus Fidelity Council, which in 1921 donated a German cannon (which has since been removed) to the site in honor of area residents who perished in WWI.
I try to visit as many diners as possible and I did indeed have lunch at the Sunset Diner with Greenpoint chronicler Miss Heather and her husband approximately 10-12 years ago here. They have some rooftop advertising for motorists on the BQE. Perhaps they have to squint from the sun at sunset, hence the name.
I followed Engert Avenue, the southernmost of Greenpoint’s east-west avenues. In contract to many of Greenpoint’s aluminum-sided dwellings, Engert features a string of blond brick, 3-story attached walkup buildings with arched windows, original roof treatments and in some cases, original fences and railings, one of which is painted gorgeous white.
And now for something that stumps me. A very small triangle was created when Oakland Street was widened at Newton Street and Engert Avenue, which make a V. Yet, it earns not only a Type B park lamp, but a sign identifying it as Holy Name Square. Now, there are plenty of Catholic churches in this Polish-Latino-Irish neighborhood, but none named Holy Name. In fact the closest Holy Name church is several miles away in Park Slope. So, how did it get the name? If you have an idea, the Comments section is below.
#130 Engert Avenue, the “Tina.” I didn’t know women named Christina were nicknamed Tina until the 1950s at least, but here we are with this building that likely went up between 1900 and 1920. The adjoining building is the “Thresa” without the e after the Th.
Time, and aluminum siding, have done a number on #535 Graham Avenue at the NW corner of Engert. Somehow the streetscape seemed a bit more vibrant in 1940, no?
We’ve seen the good stuff. Now brace yourself for some of the newest and ugliest new residences Greenpoint has to offer, like this object on the NW corner of Engert and Eckford. This is one of the newer specimens completed in 2019.
McCarren Park is the sine qua non of northern Brooklyn parks. It was developed between 1903 and 1905 and is named for Patrick McCarren, state legislator & Williamsburg Bridge promoter in the late 19th Century. At 35 acres it ranks among Brooklyn’s larger parks, and boasts a Depression-era public swimming pool (reopened in 2012 after years in ruin) and an Olympic caliber running track, seen here.
If it’s attention you want, you can do worse than surround your building with domes, and that’s exactly what Louis Allmendinger did in the mid-19-teens when he was designing the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration at Driggs Avenue and North 12th. The church has five onion domes, four arranged around the central dome in a Greek cross. The church claims it to be the one and only representative of Byzantine Revival architecture in New York (though there are other onion domes scattered around town). The church offers services in English and Slavonic. Allmendinger, a prolific and all-purpose architect, also designed the utilitarian last edition of the Gustave Mathews Flats on Grand Avenue on the Maspeth-Elmhurst border.
The cathedral has some interesting plaques, with info about St. Vladimir, with news you can use: Russia was converted to Christianity in 988. Many churches are dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus, an episode in three Gospels (excepting John) in which Jesus is revealed in His full glory as God, appearing in radiant light with two Biblical figures, Moses and Elijah (Elias in the Douay Bible).
On this walk I continued further into Greenpoint, but I’ll use those images elsewhere, as this is the evening of July 4th on which I walked 6 miles, watched a Yankees-Mets doubleheader split and then the Macy’s fireworks show. When you’re the boss (and I can call myself the boss of Forgotten NY) you can call it a day when you want to!
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Oops, I forgot about the Paulie Gee. I was all set to try it for the first time, at Franklin and Noble Streets. But there is still no in store seating. And plenty of Subways and White Castles don’t have it either. I suspect these places never were comfortable with in store seating and will be happy to downsize to a pickup window, like Paulie Gee. What do you think? Comments are open.