Welcome back to our Untapped Cities series on NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods, where we delve into long standing ethnic enclaves.
Look past the emerging counterculture and you’ll find New York City‘s Little Poland in Greenpoint. Though Greenpoint is rapidly gentrifying, its rich Polish culture and history has yet to be completely expunged.
This North Brooklyn neighborhood is home to the second largest concentration of Polish immigrants in the United States, behind Chicago. Though it is the clusters of Polish residents that have won Greenpoint its title as Little Poland, the neighborhood has also held a strong Latino and South Asian population which pours out into its sister ‘hood of Williamsburg. Look no further than Greenpoint to best sample all the Polish traditions that New York City has to offer.
Located just north of Williamsburg, Greenpoint lies at the northernmost pocket of Brooklyn. It is bordered by the East River to the west and cut off from Queens‘ Long Island City by the infamous superfund site—Newtown Creek—to the north and east.
Although Greenpoint is situated just east of Manhattan, the neighborhood can be a hassle to get to when considering that the only subway stations are served by the G train line—yes, the one train that doesn’t go to Manhattan—stopping at both Greenpoint Avenue and Nassau Avenue. Still, Greenpoint has plenty of bus connections and is one of the few New York City neighborhoods served by the East River Ferry from the India Street pier.
The India Street pier, where the East River Ferry docks
Greenpoint’s waterfront is still rough around the edges, but provides excellent views of the Manhattan skyline
Before Lena Dunham’s Girls, Greenpoint was a highly industrial waterfront neighborhood, as were many in North Brooklyn. It was at the turn of the century that Polish immigrants began settling in the United States. Particularly after the Cold War, Polish immigration increased with the great majority of newcomers settling in Brooklyn. More than half of these immigrants flocked to Greenpoint where they founded a working class enclave of their own. Since then, their presence in Greenpoint has been the predominant one.
When walking through the neighborhood, its ethnic character is still evident in the myriad Polish bakeries, meat markets and restaurants that dot Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint’s main thoroughfare. Polish specialty shops and restaurants include Old Poland Bakery and Bakery Rzeszowska, both of which offer a wide selection of homemade polish pastries. Popular items include the flavored babkas and kolorowe.
There is also the Lomzynianka Restaurant, one of the highest rated Polish restaurants in Greenpoint. The white borscht plate, a mix of soured rye flour, cream and kielbasa, proves to be a local favorite and a highly recommended dish for visitors alike. Karczma on Greenpoint Avenue, has also become a highly favored locale known for its cheap beer, Hunters Stew and the wait staff that wears traditional garb.
Acme Smoked Fish has been operating in a warehouse near the waterfront since 1954. Acme provides smoked salmon, white fish, herring and other Jewish and Eastern European specialties to the community and beyond. On Friday mornings, they open the warehouse up to the public and sell everything half off.
Other establishments include the Polish National Catholic Church of the Resurrection Parish on Leonard street and the Polish National Home on Driggs Avenue, which is home to the Warsaw box office and bar and lounge. The venue hosts several events and musical concerts. Don’t be surprised at the profusion of Polish language news stands and magazines that can be found in just about any deli within the neighborhood.
Unlike its title may imply, Greenpoint is not as ample in its greenery as one may think. However, the neighborhood shares McCarren Park with Williamsburg. With its 35 acres of fields and recreational facilities such as the recently completed Pool and Play Center, McCarren Park proves to be a favorable haven for locals and visitors of North Brooklyn. There’s also the nearby East River State Park and the WNYC Transmitter Park, both of which provide waterfront access to the East River and offer unmatched panoramas of the Manhattan skyline. These recent green spaces are products of the development that has taken over Greenpoint.
View of the Manhattan skyline from WNYC Transmitter Park.
Despite seeing the arrival of a whole new class of individuals and with them contemporary and high-end establishments, Greenpoint still grips to its rich roots with its many authentic Polish locales and shops. The neighborhood has changed now more than ever when looking at the numerous ongoing and impending developments taking place, but hopefully its ethnic legacy will remain and in the event that it does not, now would be the best time to experience New York City’s Little Poland.
Also check out An Afternoon in Greenpoint: The Untapped Guide to the East River Ferry and A Look at Greenpoint’s Polish Meat Markets. Get in touch with the author: @Brennan_NYC