I grew up in Greenpoint Brooklyn. It was a great place to live. We played Whiffle Ball and stickball in the streets, and if you were a driver you had a hard time finding a block where you didn’t have to look out for kids in the street. There were kids playing on most blocks in Greenpoint. People raised families there. Kids played there. People worked there, and poured blood, sweat, and a lot of tears into the neighborhood. Shops were mostly run by locals who were invested in the community. Or non-locals who were equally invested in the community. Stores were closed on Sundays because people went to Church. Italians, Irish, and Polish all had their own Parish communities, but other than that they were a single community of Brooklynites; Americans with dreams and ambitions—both for self, and for family. Greenpoint was a place that people called Home. No sushi bars, but plenty of restaurants. No Starbucks, but we had coffee shops and doughnuts were made fresh. No Staples, but we had hardware stores. No Blockbuster Video, but we had movie theaters.
Now Greenpoint has fallen ill to the same cancer that has struck most of Brooklyn. The greed of developers, and the indifference of outsiders who don’t really give a damn about the neighborhood has turned Greenpoint into something foul. The “yuppies” moved in and took possession of my home. Turned it upside down, and inside out to a point beyond recognition. Developers have torn down its character and replaced it with something cold and metallic; the same way that a heart is replaced with a rock. Native Greenpointers who worked much of their lives to make Greenpoint what it was are alienated. Pushed out. Bought out—often by force. Our history is embedded in the very concrete but it’s washed over by tables that line the sidewalk in front of our old Park Luncheonettes. No more stools at the counter. No more hotdogs and egg creams. Now all you get is brunch—poached eggs and bad black coffee for &7.
Japan has nothing on Greenpoint. We have more sushi bars than the whole of Japan. Good luck finding a hardware store though. Yeah, Greenpoint got real trendy. And Trendy must be another word for “un-family-friendly” because while you may get away with painting some kind of garbage in your $2000/month 1 bedroom apartment, you sure as hell can’t expect to raise a family there anymore.
And what’s with this infatuation with “artists” in Greenpoint now anyway? You know what art is? Art is raising a family on a single income because you work that damn hard. Art is instilling values in your kids, and living the example of hard work, moral courage, and honor. It’s charging a fair rent for fair space. It’s about opening the day with purpose, and closing a deal with only handshake. It’s respecting the people who taught you, and respecting the community that made you.
In the end, the yuppies and developers can have their sushi bars and say “trendy” things, like “forget about it” and laugh because they’re being “oh so very Brooklyn”. I say “No, you stupid bastards. I’m very Brooklyn. You’re just an insult vomited from the mouth of the mid-west.”
The last laugh is mine, brother.
While the yuppies and developers may steal Greenpoint from me…while they may have their fun with it, and pretend to call it their own….I can say this; Greenpoint will always be to me what it can never be for them. Home. A special part of my heart and soul. Greenpoint gave me what it will never give to them. A sense of place, and purpose, and direction. A sense of culture and an understanding of my past. It gave me a sense of class, a sense of pride, and a backbone of steel. An anchor in the history of my life, and the lives of my parents and grandparents before me. They’ll never get that. They’ll swing a quick buck for bad coffee, or an overpriced apartment. Much the same way as a thirsty fool eats the sludge from a dry well.
Farewell, Old Brooklyn. Thanks for what you’ve given me. Even as I’m apart from you…”They’ll never take the Brooklyn outta me!”