Field Trip: Greenpoint

When Andrea and I talked about having lunch, I upped the ante: a walkabout in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a neighborhood I hadn’t been to for at least a decade. Plus, we could take the East River Ferry. (Greenpoint, if you have no idea, is between Long Island City and Williamsburg.) As I remembered from riding the ferry back when it launched, India Street and its pier are a bit desolate—on the other hand, the graffiti was entertaining. (The brick below, even on the steps, is trompe l’oeil.) Also, when was the last time you came across barbed wire?

Greenpoint India StGreenpoint India St muralAt Franklin Street, we saw a laundromat, which I took as a good sign. The disappearance of Manhattan’s laundromats corresponds directly to the island’s blandification.

Greenpoint laundromatWhile we left most of our afternoon to chance, Andrea did recall from some pre-excursion research that there’s an architecturally noteworthy former pencil factory at Franklin Street and Greenpoint Avenue, and as we stood marveling at the yellow stars on a building, wondering which building it could be, we eventually noticed the pencils alongside the stars. The building is home to Kickstarter’s beautiful headquarters, we later learned.

Greenpoint pencil factoryI had been craving a stroll somewhere like Franklin Street, with its stylish, independent shops and cafés. We invited ourselves in to Kill Devil Hill, which makes aprons (mainly for restaurants), and chatted up the proprietor—who, it turns out, is helping Karen and David Waltuck sell the Chanterelle menu artwork. I bought a stained-glass feather that I’m obsessed with. Also of note on Franklin: The chic café/gardening/home shop, Homecoming, and the vintage lighting (and more) shop, Luddite. We had lunch at Mrs. Kim’s, which serves Korean and American food—the highlight, for me, was seeing a guy skateboard by while pulling a wheelie bag behind him.

Greenpoint Liquor Box signGreenpoint Kill Devil Hill featherGreenpoint HomecomingGreenpoint LudditeGreenpoint Mrs Kim bulgogi tacosAs we headed south, the street grew more industrial and less gentrified—which meant lots of street art, but also a terrible smell that I thought was sewage but Andrea pointed out was agricultural. (In time, we came upon a truck used to transport chickens.)

Greenpoint Terminal WarehouseGreenpoint street artWhen I had been to Greenpoint a decade ago, I had only visited Manhattan Avenue,  the center of the neighborhood’s Polish culture. We were pleased to see that the Old World flavor is still there—even the Duane Reade had adapted.

Greenpoint church Greenpoint Duane ReadeWe turned west onto Greenpoint Avenue, and the shift from Polish Greenpoint to hipster Greenpoint was dramatic; it was as if there was a line on the sidewalk. We agreed that if/when we return, we’d have a coffee at Budin (a Nordic café/shop) and check out Coco, a restaurant that is far more attractive inside than the doorway photo below implies. The other restaurant we passed that I think I could get Adam to is Alameda, on Franklin—it has terrific style, from what we could tell.

Greenpoint BudinGreenpoint CocoWe shifted gears away from shops and restaurants, walking down various residential streets. I had remembered the housing stock being dominated by vinyl siding, and there was some of that, but there were also a lot of beautiful brownstones and townhouses. I only took a few photos, though—including one of a most intriguing stoop.

Greenpoint streetscape Greenpoint rock stairsGreenpoint streetscape2Before long, we were ready to get back on the ferry. The waterfront area is still unredeveloped—for now, anyway. A subsequent article in the New York Times Real Estate section says that “a major development, called Greenpoint Landing, will add 5,500 units of affordable and market-rate housing on 22 acres of waterfront over the past decade.” What a shame; look what happened to Williamsburg. (The recent hand-wringing over the opening of a Starbucks in Williamsburg made me laugh—that horse left the barn a long time ago.) So the current rawness of Greenpoint’s waterfront was welcome, even if someone could water the lawn at the riverside park a bit more…. And the ferry pier is barren, to say the least…. Still, the views of Manhattan are tremendous.

Greenpoint mirrorGreenpoint riverfront parkGreenpoint pierGreenpoint waterfrontAnd it was nice to see 1 World Trade Center doing its best to blend in.

Greenpoint view of smokestacks and 1WTCPrevious Field Trip posts:
S-Cruise by Smartboat
Wave Hill
Governors Island
F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
Litchfield County, Conn.
One Wall Street
Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
East River Ferry
Museum of American Finance

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3 Comments

  1. Peter Pan doughnut shop is a good place to visit in Greenpoint….great blend of old Greenpoint and hipster and the best doughnuts

  2. Also in Greenpoint, Selamat Pagi a real gem serving Indonesian food, satay, rendang etc. Run by the Van Leeuwen ice cream people.

  3. We went to a fabulous Catalan restaurant called El Born on Manhattan Ave last week – terrific food and atmosphere, including a Spanish guitar player. Affordable and excellent!

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