April 13, 2003
An Inviting Area, Once You Get There
By DULCIE LEIMBACH
As the G train approaches Nassau Avenue, Greenpoint's arrival is signaled by teenage girls switching from English to Polish as they talk. At the top of the subway stairs at Nassau and Manhattan Avenues, Manhattan gleams in the distance like Oz, though no one seems to notice. A florist, coffee shop, deli and cleaners are lined up around the corner, along with a meat market and the words "Mowimy po Polsku" — "We Speak Polish" — in many storefront windows.
On Manhattan Avenue, the main thoroughfare, and its vicinity, the concentration of Polish businesses and residences is high. But farther north, past Greenpoint Avenue (another stop on the G train), Spanish can be heard, and on the south side of the area the language may be Italian.
Still, said Shana Fried, who works at the United Nations and lives in Greenpoint, "It is by far a Polish neighborhood." She was chatting with friends in the Java and Wood Cafe on Manhattan Avenue one February afternoon. "It's also a Latino neighborhood," she said, "with lots of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. And a Muslim community." Ms. Fried hails from Iowa. "It's definitely become more gentrified" in the four years she has lived here, she added.
Alex Sevakian, a clothing designer, moved to the neighborhood in July from the East Village. "It's quaint here and comfortable," she said. "There's a nice commercial feeling and it's cheap."
Another coffee drinker, Charlie Campbell, an audio engineer, complained there were no good restaurants. "What about Acapulco, Thai Cafe, Christina's?" asked George Diaz, the cafe's owner.
The neighborhood is at the northwest corner of Brooklyn, where the borough meets Queens. Its boundaries are generally Newtown Creek, the border with Queens; the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and North 11th Street on the south; and the East River on the west.
One frequent complaint involves Greenpoint's relative inconvenience to Manhattan. The G train, which runs through the core of town, travels only from Brooklyn to Queens; the L can mean a 15-minute walk to the Bedford Avenue station in Williamsburg, but then a speedy link to 14th Street in Manhattan.
Some commuters walk over the Pulaski Bridge to the Vernon-Jackson station in Queens to catch the No. 7 train to Grand Central Station, a 10-minute trip. A ferry from Hunters Point in Queens runs to Midtown. And New York Water Taxi has begun to discuss the possibility of providing service from Greenpoint to Manhattan.
"The main drawback is coming home late," Ms. Fried said "The G takes forever. But taking cabs home is a quick shot over the Williamsburg Bridge."
Some residents do not need to rush off to Manhattan. A study published in January by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council of New York, a nonprofit group, estimated that 13 percent of Greenpoint's residents walked to work, as opposed to 6 percent citywide. Shopping, churches and schools are within strolling distance.
The minimal public transportation is only part of the explanation for a sense of isolation in Greenpoint; the industrial waterfront is another contributing factor. Nevertheless, the area took in an overflow of artists who flocked to Williamsburg 15 or so years ago, and it continues to make room for bohemians and young professionals, thanks to its cleanliness and reasonable rents.
Ms. Fried is certainly content with her rent. She and her husband live in a two-bedroom railroad flat on Eagle Street that costs $936 a month; the Chrysler Building is visible from their bedroom window. The couple found their place through a notice posted on a streetlight.
Larry Anderson, a graphic designer who has lived near St. Stanislaus Kostka Church for five years, likes the feeling that he's in a "European seaside town," where he can get "sauerkraut and sausage for takeout." His rent-stabilized apartment, which he located through The Greenpoint Gazette, a weekly newspaper, is $750 a month.
Now is a good time to hunt. Danuta Blejwas, who owns Blue Jay Realty on Manhattan Avenue, said rental prices have dropped 20 to 30 percent since the attacks of Sept. 11, when some single people lost their jobs and left. Bozena Pietrucha of Bo Realty concurred, saying that many apartments are remaining empty for two to three months before a tenant is signed up.
MOST people rent in Greenpoint, and many buildings are owner-occupied. According to Ms. Blejwas, one-bedroom apartments range from $950 to $1,200 in a typical two- or three-family house, and a two-bedroom apartment can rent for $1,200 to $2,000. Ms. Pietrucha's figures for similar apartments are slightly lower.
Although few co-ops or condominiums exist, a new loftlike condo at 102 Clay Street is selling spaces. A two-family house in good condition (usually wood-frame and vinyl-shingled or brick) costs $300,000 to $500,000, Ms. Pietrucha said, with the higher priced buildings in the historic district. (Single-family homes are rare.)
Not many houses come on the market in the historic district, an area of about six blocks designated in 1982 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. It is roughly bounded by Manhattan Avenue on the east, Franklin Street on the west, Java Street on the north and Calyer Street to the south. Interspersed among elegant 19th-century churches, houses in Italianate, neo-Grecian and Victorian styles abound.
Milton Street, one of the loveliest, is an assemblage of renovated brick, limestone and terra cotta houses and old churches, including St. John's Lutheran, the Greenpoint Reformed Church and at the head of the street, St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church. On Kent Street, pristine town houses, some dating from the 1800's, claim the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.
Parking is primarily on the street in Greenpoint, and lots are small, often landscaped with fenced yards and rose bushes and shaded by low trees. The overall housing stock is working class, with small frame houses and brick row houses split into walk-up apartments.
Architectural purists may sniff at the proliferation of vinyl siding and metal awnings, but Greenpoint grew as a bastion for immigrants, largely from Russia, Italy, Ireland, England and Poland, and remains proud of its tastes.
Unlike other immigrant enclaves in New York, residents do not necessarily move on when they have reached a certain financial comfort, and a relatively solid base of middle-class homeowners and renters remains.
Long before there were apartments, Greenpoint was farmland for the Dutch and then the English. Shipbuilding days of the 1800's culminated about 1862, when the Navy built the Monitor on the waterfront. (A museum to honor the ship is being proposed.) About then, the area was becoming a center for kerosene refining, an industry developed by Charles Pratt, who founded Pratt Institute and whose business eventually merged with Standard Oil.
After World War II, waste-treatment plants and garbage-transfer operations, which are still active, were set up on the shoreline.
For some, the warehouses, factories and other low-lying industrial buildings that commandeer the waterfront, some just blocks from the historic district, are eyesores. But the buildings are home to a stable class of employers who are tapping the supply of newest immigrants to Greenpoint, mostly Hispanic people. Set along the East River and Newtown Creek, these once-abandoned buildings house companies producing canoes, furniture, billiard tables, surfboards and lamps. Artists also occupy the spaces.
Near Newtown Creek, Commercial Street holds converted loft buildings, one of the largest one being the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, where woodworkers, artists, metalworkers and glassmakers rent studios. The Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning has proposed rezoning vacant and unproductive manufacturing land along the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront (and adjacent areas) for mixed-use and residential projects. The final proposal should be unveiled in a few months, but the public review process takes almost a year. The proposal includes public access to the waterfront, said Robyn Stein, the department's press secretary.
The waterfront is currently virtually inaccessible, without trespassing. Proposals to expand the numerous garbage-transfer stations have been stalled, said Michael Rochford, a former organizer with Outrage, an advocate of community organizations. But a major issue on the waterfront is a plan by TransGas Energy Systems to build a power plant on the East River in neighboring Williamsburg, which grass-roots groups are fighting. And the city may turn part of the Greenpoint waterfront into sand-volleyball courts, if New York is host to the 2012 Olympics.
There are three public elementary schools in the neighborhood. Two, P.S. 31 and 34, are exempt from the city's new standard curriculums. P.S. 31 on Meserole Street emphasizes rote learning and test prepping; 67 percent of the students met the standards on the English language tests in 2002, compared with 39 percent citywide. For math, 80 percent met standards that year, while 37 percent met them citywide. In 2001, 896 students were enrolled at P.S. 31, according to the school district's Web site.
P.S. 34 at 131 Norman Avenue is smaller with 563 students; 73 percent were eligible for free lunch in 2001. Last year, 72 percent met the English language test standards, and 80 percent met the math standards. The school is in a former hospital built during the Civil War, and there are no hallways, so students pass through one another's classroom. There is no gym or auditorium.
P.S. 110 at 124 Monitor Street had 707 students in prekindergarten through Grade 6 in 2001, with 64 percent eligible for free lunches. Last year, 50 percent of its students met the English language test standards and 49 percent met the math standards.
For middle school, many Greenpoint children attend Intermediate School 126 for Grades 7 through 9 on Leonard Street. Local residents make up about 45 percent of the student body.
On the other side of McCarren Park is the Automotive High School, offering a technical curriculum. Although security is an important priority and the school graduated only 46 percent of its students, Mercedes-Benz USA recently donated cars and money to start an engineering curriculum and create an auto shop specializing in Mercedeses, among other programs.
Other local choices are Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens, and the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice and the Harry Van Arsdale High School, both in Williamsburg. At El Puente, graduation rate was 80 percent in 2001. Van Arsdale graduated 44 percent of its students. About a half-dozen parochial schools serve Greenpoint as well.
McCarren Park is Greenpoint's crown jewel. Although an unused swimming pool is fenced off, 36 open acres feature a jogging track, tennis, boccie and handball courts and baseball and soccer fields — good enough to be renovated as a training center for the 2012 Olympics, said Laz Benitez, the NYC2012 manager of communications. That includes the pool, he said. *
It's a great neighborhood. And really kind of weird to see so many Polish people and hear the language. I just never thought of them as a large group in NYC. I'm Polish by descent, and once my father and I took our grandmother (full Polish) to a little restaurant around there. Driving and walking through the neighborhood, she was equally as surprised and elated as I was.
Tons of Poles, for sure and more and more still coming. *I have some good friends there and there is no shortage of 20 something Polish immigrants. *It's a great area, hopefully gentrification won't take out too much of the Polish feel. *There's also a nice Polish area in Maspeth, though not nearly as large.
McCarren Park Pool
Gutted by fire in 1987, this ceremonially arched pavilion, with its imposing clerestory, announced the grand dip behind. It is one of 4 WPA-built swimming pools erected in Brooklyn during the Depression (the others are Red Hook, Sunset Park, and Betsy Head).
I think this monumental Constructivist building is quite incredible, and i think it could be restored and reused in incredible ways. This is a great area.
Interesting neighborhood! I especially liked the housing pricing from the article. Many thanks.
I checked the pixels in PS. If it's edited, Edward has an incredible amount of patience and skill.
What you see is telephoto compression.
Scholars Stumble on Puzzle in Brooklyn Fireplace
By EVE M. KAHN
Published: October 6, 2008
A mystery involving a fireplace in Brooklyn has set off a scholarly stir.
Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
The seated figure in the tile is Robert Fulton, scholars say.
Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
A preservation scholar at Columbia found the tiled fireplace at Greenpoint Reformed Church while scouting walking-tour stops.
At the Greenpoint Reformed Church on Milton Street, a grand 19th-century pillared building that the congregation has owned since 1943, half a dozen historians have visited over the past few months to scrutinize old tiles along the back wall of a fireplace in the parlor.
It was not until this year that anyone recognized their historical significance.
Two white porcelain plaques depict a pair of gentlemen wearing waistcoats, a model of a primitive paddle-wheel boat and a snub-nosed object that resembles a miniature submarine or perhaps a torpedo. The bas-relief porcelain is detailed down to fingernails, hair strands, buttonholes and boot tassels — even the upholstery tacks on one man’s chair are visible.
“Of course I’d seen many, many fireplace tiles over the years, but never anything like this,” said Andrew S. Dolkart, director of the historic preservation program at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.
Mr. Dolkart said he stumbled on the parlor and the tiled fireplace by accident. He had gone to the Greenpoint church while researching sites for walking tours he conducts for the American Guild of Organists, and happened to take a close look at the parlor fireplace.
“I realized these pieces were important and rare, and out of my field of expertise,” Mr. Dolkart said.
So he started assembling a team, which has included Susan Tunick, president of the Friends of Terra Cotta, a preservation group in New York, and Alice
Cooney Frelinghuysen, the lead curator of American decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
What they have determined about the porcelain scenes is that the seated figure is Robert Fulton, who pioneered designs for paddle-wheel steamboats, submarines and torpedoes in the early 1800s. The nattily dressed gentleman standing is the politician Robert Livingston, Fulton’s business partner. The plaques were probably made in the late 1870s at the Union Porcelain Works, a factory in Greenpoint that was in operation from the 1860s to the 1920s, Ms. Frelinghuysen said.
The factory’s owner, a major real-estate developer named Thomas C. Smith, built and lived in the bay-fronted building that now houses the Greenpoint church.
In the 1940s, the congregation converted some central rooms into a sanctuary with stained glass and an organ, but much of Smith’s décor was left intact, including honey-colored carved woodwork and elaborate plaster moldings.
Union Porcelain Works was known for producing some zealously realistic images of historic figures. But Ms. Frelinghuysen said she had never seen a Fulton portrait made by the company. Did Smith commission the scenes? Who installed them in the Greenpoint fireplace alongside tiny 1890s tiles patterned in blue and white griffins and flowers, and why?
“Was there just some bin of extra stuff at the factory that these were all pulled from at some point, or was there some actual connection between Smith and Fulton?” asked Ms. Frelinghuysen, who has gamely crawled around the sooty fireplace with a flashlight and magnifying glass. “It’s really wonderful how well preserved these are, as a puzzle for us to explore.”
The leaders of the church, Pastor Ann Kansfield and the Rev. Jennifer Aull, find the academics’ enthusiasm somewhat perplexing. “I feel like such a philistine — why is everyone so excited about these?” Ms. Kansfield said. “But I do wonder why they were made, and how they ended up here. I hope someone figures it out.”
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
November 20, 2008
40 stories and a rule
By Ben Muessig
The Brooklyn Paper
The same development company that built the Oro condo in Downtown Brooklyn now plans a 40-story tower in Greenpoint.
A 40-story tower will rise on the horizon for the Greenpoint waterfront — if the city allows the developers to build 10 stories higher than the current zoning permits.
The 422-unit rental tower is part of a 620-unit development planned for a waterfront site at 155 West St., between Huron and India Streets, at the very northern part of Greenpoint.
But in order to erect the a building that tall, developer Dean Palin — the man behind the Gold Street condo tower Oro — needs permission to exceed the 30-story cap that was instituted as part of a controversial 2005 upzoning of the neighborhood.
That upzoning has caused a wave of development along the waterfront, including the Edge condos at North Sixth Street and Northside Piers at North Fifth Street. Neither exceed the 30-story cap.
Alongside the tower, the developer plans to construct a $2-million public waterfront esplanade as well as three six-story buildings containing 218-units — 140 of them affordable for families that earn maximum incomes ranging from $32,280 to $41,460. Affordable housing was mandated as part of the city upzoning.
The developer claims that he needs to make his high-rise 10 stories taller than zoning allows because he cannot build within 50 feet of a sewage pipe that runs through the lot, and he cannot touch a 25-foot section of wetlands at the corner of the property, said Ken Fisher, a former councilman who is representing the builder.
Oddly shaped parcel aside, opponents of the project said that the builder should follow the same height rules that govern the rest of the waterfront.
“The developers at 155 West St. knew the lot was irregularly shaped when they bought it — and they still chose to buy it,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg), who rallied against two proposed 40-story towers in South Williamsburg’s Domino Sugar development this spring.
“I would think that a building that was hoping for such a big concession from the community would include more affordable housing. But even if they had offered that, a 40-story building would be completely out of context with the community, would cut off sunlight and further strain vital services in the area,” Lentol added. “I think they can expect a great deal opposition to this idea.”
Supporters say there won’t be any opposition at all, actually.
“The benefit of the project is that we’re finally going to get some additional open space on the Greenpoint waterfront, and a bigger benefit is that we’re going to get 140 units of affordable housing at rents that fit the population,” said Richard Mazur, executive director of the North Brooklyn Development Corporation.
The project won’t begin until the developers secure financing — which Fisher is “cautiously optimistic” will happen by the second quarter of 2009.
Community Board 1’s Land Use Committee will discuss the tower on Nov. 25 at the board office (435 Graham Ave. near the corner of Frost Street) at 6:30 pm. Call (718) 389-0009 for info.
©2008 The Brooklyn Paper
Living In | Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Polish Is Still Spoken, but Industry Is History
By JAKE MOONEY
ISOLATION Young people and low-rise buildings are both common sights in Greenpoint. The area is served by the G, the only subway line that doesn’t enter Manhattan
North 15th Street
St. Anthony - St. Alphonsus Catholic Church
Matchless, a bar on Manhattan Avenue at Driggs Avenue
The area is served by the G, the only subway line that doesn't enter Manhattan
A studio co-op in the historic district
THERE was a time, not long ago in the grand scheme of things, when the only practical way to get in and out of Greenpoint was by boat. In those days, as late as the mid-19th century, the area was separated from much of the rest of Brooklyn by marshland and flanked on the north and west by Newtown Creek and the East River. Overland crossings were arduous.
The marshes are long gone, of course, but today a hint of isolation remains. The only subway serving the neighborhood is the G train — the one line that does not enter Manhattan. The tricky commute slowed Greenpoint’s development even as recent real estate in neighboring Williamsburg was booming. And although both neighborhoods’ waterfront was rezoned in 2005, the residential towers that now line the river in Williamsburg did not make it north.
“I think even in the go-go days, it was somewhat of a stretch putting luxury towers on the waterfront when you’re that far away from transportation,” said Ward Dennis, the head of the land-use committee of Community Board 1, which represents Greenpoint.
The neighborhood still feels the effects of its industrial past. Newtown Creek has been used by oil companies over the past century, and over time about 17 million gallons of petroleum spilled into the waterway, much of it from an explosion in 1950. The creek is being considered for status as a Superfund site.
At the other end of the neighborhood, the Greenpoint Terminal Market, an abandoned 19th-century industrial complex, burned to the ground in 2006, just after a deal for residential towers there fell through. And in between, two condominium developments recently converted to rentals, with the developer of one, the Viridian, going bankrupt.
Yet, residents say, the relative quiet resulting in part from these speed bumps to high-end development has fostered stability, with generations of families — and entire immigrant communities, most notably the Polish, who dominate — sticking close by.
Diana Zelvin, a psychotherapist, bought a one-family house on Milton Street in 2001 with her husband, Jeff Harris, a commercial photographer. Ms. Zelvin, 46, said that at the time, they were living in Prospect Heights and hoping for a quieter place, but neither had even heard of Greenpoint until a broker took them to see it. They found their house, now 140 years old, in the neighborhood’s small historic district west of Manhattan Avenue.
Ms. Zelvin says she loves the house’s original details and quirks — it has a dumbwaiter — and its proximity to an organic market on busy Manhattan Avenue, the shopping district. The couple have moved twice before in Brooklyn, but plan to raise their 20-month-old son in Greenpoint. And, Ms. Zelvin said, the house has appreciated.
Ms. Zelvin even says the commute has not been bad.
“It’s actually really easy to get anywhere in Greenpoint,” she said, estimating that the B61 bus gets her to the L train in eight minutes, after which she rides three stops to her office near Union Square. Mr. Harris’s studio is on 23rd Street, she said — and, yes, it takes him three trains to get there. But she said his total commute was 35 minutes.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
Though some Poles have moved to nearby Ridgewood, Queens, as rents have risen, Greenpoint is still the city’s center of Polish life, with Polish-language signs on doctors’ and lawyers’ offices, pharmacies and photo developers along Manhattan and Nassau Avenues.
The eastern leg of the neighborhood, which stretches past McGolrick Park, is home to many recent immigrants, and the descendants of many who came to Greenpoint decades ago. The center of the community is St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, built in 1903, which has a soaring gray brick steeple.
Recent arrivals of another sort — young people spilling over from Williamsburg — have made their own mark on the neighborhood. Franklin Street, which runs parallel to Manhattan Avenue, has developed its own commercial district — albeit smaller — with bars and restaurants, a wine store, coffee shops and clothing boutiques.
Not so long ago, Mr. Dennis said, most of those storefronts “were either vacant and boarded up, or they were being used for residential.” He added that with the two shopping avenues, “now you almost have these two parallel retail universes going on that, hopefully, are playing off each other.”
Mr. Dennis, a member of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and the Williamsburg Greenpoint Preservation Alliance, said the city had so far not delivered on acres of parkland and hundreds of units of affordable housing promised during the 2005 rezoning.
The Department of City Planning is in the final stages of another zoning change that would limit the height of new buildings inland. Now that development in the area has slowed, Mr. Dennis said, “maybe the neighborhood can sort of catch up. There certainly have been growing pains.”
WHAT YOU’LL PAY
Danny Duffoo, a senior associate broker at the Corcoran Group, said that for three-family town houses — which are abundant in the neighborhood — buyers can expect to pay around $750,000, with prices down as much as 20 percent from a couple of years ago.
“The market’s gone down because there’s no financing going on,” Mr. Duffoo said. “You have to have really strong credit and be willing to give a bigger deposit than in the past.”
Still, though sales are slow, some buildings are selling. Victor Wolski, a broker at Greenpoint Properties, said a three-family house on Sutton Street recently changed hands for $925,000.
One- and two-family houses are rarer, he said, with the latter costing around $600,000. Smaller houses in the historic district are prized, Mr. Duffoo said, but he added: “The thing is, those houses never go on the market. They change hands from neighbor to neighbor.”
For condominiums, Mr. Wolski said, buyers can expect prices in the high $300,000s for one-bedrooms, and around $500,000 for two-bedrooms.
Greenpoint is known for its railroad rentals, Mr. Duffoo said. These units, with four connected rooms and two entrances, can serve as one- or two-bedrooms, depending on size and the occupants’ tolerance for proximity.
He said apartments on the eastern end, farther from the main shopping districts and transportation, tended to be cheaper, renting for $1,400 to $1,800. Units elsewhere cost $1,500 to $2,000, he said, with the highest prices in the south, near McCarren Park.
The G train runs under Manhattan Avenue, stopping at Nassau and Greenpoint Avenues. Service cuts in recent years have led to the formation of an advocacy group called Save the G.
To reach Manhattan, riders take the G north or south to a transfer point. Many residents of the southern end walk to Williamsburg, catching the L at Bedford Avenue and North Seventh Street.
Drivers can reach Midtown via the Queensboro Bridge, or downtown Manhattan using the Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridges.
WHAT TO DO
Play on McCarren Park’s tennis courts is hotly contested, as is adult kickball on its athletic fields. The park also has a recently resurfaced quarter-mile running track. Its pool, dating to 1936, was closed in 1984 and remained a ruin for two decades before being used as a concert venue. It is being renovated for use, once again, as a pool.
Polish food can be sampled in abundance along Nassau and Manhattan Avenues, which also have reliable Mexican and Thai offerings. Bars include the hipster stalwart Enid’s, on Manhattan Avenue. The Polish National Home, on Driggs Avenue, doubles as a rock music site.
Greenpoint’s three public elementary schools all got A’s on their most recent city progress reports. At Public School 31, on Meserole Avenue, 93.7 percent of students scored at or above grade level in English, 99.6 percent in math. At P.S. 34, on Norman Avenue, the scores were 83.8 in English and 97.4 percent in math. And at P.S. 110, on Monitor Street, they were 64.8 percent and 80 percent.
Middle School 126, on Leonard Street, scored a D on its progress report, with 29.5 percent showing proficiency in English, 41.7 percent in math.
Automotive High School, on Bedford Avenue, offers vocational training in addition to academics.
It scored a B on its most recent city progress report. SAT averages last year were 394 in math, 399 in reading and 371 in writing, versus 460, 438 and 433 citywide.
In the 19th century, most residents worked in Greenpoint’s warehouses, refineries and factories, one of which built the Monitor, the Civil War ironclad.
A local street is named for the vessel; its battle with the Merrimack is commemorated by a statue in McGolrick Park.
I couldn't resist this, having often been inexplicably amused by inanimate objects (like pet rocks and such) with eyes stuck on them.
The only amusement in an otherwise seemingly depressing landscape.
Corner of Wythe and North 12th, Greenpoint
Not quite the same?? (see comments in blog entry)
Pollution under Greenpoint? It’s worse
By Andy Campbell
Northeast Greenpoint groundwater — now with more industrial dry-cleaning chemicals!
A state environmental agency revealed earlier this month that even more portions of the neighborhood are highly contaminated, and a site under the southeast corner of Norman and Kingsland avenues is the worst one yet.
“The concentration of perchloroethylene [a chemical used in dry cleaning] in the liquid sample collected was 73 million parts per billion,” said Maureen Wren, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “This is the equivalent of saying 73 percent pure product [in the groundwater].”
It’s the latest finding in a testing area — surrounded by Withers Street, Kingsland Avenue, Newtown Creek and Norman Avenue — that already has concentrations of two dangerous chemicals in the soil and groundwater.
The state started its investigation in 2008, and has since installed more than 110 newfangled soil testers, 110 groundwater monitors, and 63 gas wells to monitor the disgusting sludge.
State experts traced the contaminates back to former businesses in the area, including Spic and Span Cleaners, Klink Cosmo Cleaners, and current businesses ACME Metal Works and ACME Steel and Brass Foundry.
“ACME currently operates at multiple locations within the study area, but it is unknown at this time whether these businesses are still contributing to the contamination,” Wren said.
Now the agency will continue taking air and water samples at nearby residences to make sure locals aren’t in danger.
Mike Schade, a Greenpoint resident and coordinator at the Center for Health and Environmental Justice, said it’s probably too late for that because underground pollution can turn to vapor and affect people’s homes.
“The state estimated that [the newfound site] has been contaminating the groundwater there for 60 to 70 years!” he said. “Given the depth and type of soil, this will be a challenge to clean up.”
He said it’s likely that the state would foot the bill for the cleanup process, then “sue the companies in question to recoup the cost.”
Wren did not return a call for comment on that notion.
Hidden in a Rite Aid, Ghosts of an Old Movie Theater
by Nick Carr
Don't let the squat little Rite Aid storefront on Manhattan Ave in Greenpoint fool you...
It has a long history. A movie theater for most of its life, you can see it below in 1928 when it was known as the Fox Meserole showing silent films (the advertised Baby Mine was made in 1928 - more info here).
Picture courtesy BrooklynPix.com
Later, the Meserole was purchased by Randforce/United Artists and showed first run movies, competing with the nearby RKO Greenpoint (long gone, sadly). Below, a picture from the 1960's:
Picture courtesy BrooklynPix.com
Though it looks small from the front, the theater was actually quite large, accommodating 2,000 people on ground level and balcony seating.
The theater was named after the Meserole family, who were among the first settlers in the area. In fact, the original farmhouse may have been torn down to accommodate the theater, which is built on former Meserole land - Forgotten-NY speculates that this may explain the inclusion of cattle skulls in the exterior design work.
Originally known as the Garden Theater, it became the Fox Meserole in the 1920's showing silent films, and later talkies. It continued as a theater owned by United Artists into the 1970's, ultimately closing down in the early '80's. The space was then converted into a roller rink known as Laces for the first half of the '80's, and later a Liquidator's Arena (a huge 99-cent shop).
It's been an Eckard Drug for the entire time I've known it, only recently being converted into a Rite-Aid. Incredibly, despite all the renovations, much of the old theater still remains. In fact, this could be the weirdest and frankly most amazing Rite Aid you ever visit.
full article at Huffington Post