Manhattan is an incredible part of the world, but sometimes, especially during summertime, I get fed up with its rush, the smell and the sticky heat. I want to feel a breeze on my skin, sit down quietly for a drink somewhere and just let life pass me by for a bit.
Go to Williamsburg, some of you might say. And yes, Williamsburg is cool, but in the recent years it’s become so hip, that it gets a bit too much for me sometimes. I much prefer its less hip, more subtly cool neighbor – Greenpoint. Brooklyn’s most northern neighborhood, right underneath Queens, has a lot to offer.
Back in the days, most parts of Greenpoint were farmland. Nowadays only the street names remind one of the past. Many of them are named after farmer families, such as Meserole – one of the once most powerful farmer families in the area. There’s also Norman Street, honoring the first European settler in Greenpoint – a farmer from Norway called Dirck de Noorman (Dirck the Northman).
It was a member of the Mesrole family, who significantly changed the neighborhood and turned Greenpoint from an agricultural into an industrial area by opening up a public turnpike in 1839 and establishing a regular ferry service from Greenpoint to Manhattan about ten years later. That were some of the initiatives, which gave birth to a more industrial area with big shipbuilding firms, rope factories and lumber enterprises opening up. The new industry created thousands of jobs and pulled immigrants into Greenpoint, many of them from Germany and Ireland. Half a century later they were followed by a large number of Polish immigrants.
For the next centuries up into the 1980ies Greenpoint stayed a working class neighborhood. Unlike Williamsburg, which started at that time to change slowly into a more arty and mixed neighborhood, Greenpoint seemed to be immune to gentrification. One of the reasons was the poor public transportation. It was only after its service was improved in the 1990s, that the middle class started to move to the very north of Brooklyn. Another reason for the demographic shift, were the highly increased rents in Williamsburg, which forced many to leave.
Today in the 21st century gentrification has arrived in Greenpoint. Nevertheless, unlike Williamsburg, it has kept its charms and roots. The neighborhood is still dominated by Polish families instead of international hipsters and you actually still meet people, who have been born and raised in the area. But more and more little boutiques, cafés and bars open up and on the weekends the crowd from Williamsburg and some people from Manhattan find their way into the former farmland. Nevertheless, these are the magic years, when gentrification hasn’t rotten out the roots of a neighborhood yet, and something new comes into being.
The East River Ferry, connecting Greenpoint, Manhattan and the rest of Brooklyn opened up again this summer. Jump on at 34th Street, leave Manhattan behind and cross over to Greenpoint. Stroll along its green streets and discover a New York, which you wont find in Manhattan nor in Williamsburg.
Here are my top five:
Peter Pan Pastry & Donut Shop
Definitely the best Donuts in town, still using the same recipes and style as 60 years ago! Grab a coffee, munch a donut and dive into the Fifties!
Located at: 127 Manhattan Avenue
Always fancied a hat, but never found the right one? At Bejewled you definitely will. They have all styles, sizes and colors for a reasonable prize.
Located at: 670 Manhattan Avenue
Le Grenier Antiqueshop
The shop of Mme Marzolf, a former fashion photography stylist, is a true treasure box. When you get tired from digging around, chill out in the lovely patio and refresh yourself with a Pellegrino Arranciata.
Located at: 19 Greenpoint Avenue
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm
Rabbits, basil plantations and homegrown tomatoes combined with a stunning view over Manhattan doesn’t seem as a likely match to you? All of the above and more will find you at the Eagle Rooftop Farm. It’s best to go on a Sunday, when it’s open for the public and they have their farmers’ market on. In case you don’t want to leave this slice of paradise, simply stay and volunteer!
Located at: 44 Eagle Street
Wasn’t I talking about taking life slowly and enjoying a good drink? The best place to do so is Enid’s. During summer time you can sit outside, watch people walking towards Mc Carren Park and enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner or refreshments.
Located at: 560 Manhattan AvenueTweet