Out and About in Greenpoint!
May 29, 2013

From Warsaw to Hipster Paradise on the East River

Much has changed since we first visited Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood over a decade ago, before our oldest, Riley, was born. The most striking difference is the steadily diminishing Polish presence in an area once defined by the Polonia émigré population. Back then the streets were dotted with signs that read sklep (store), restauracja (restaurant), ksi?garnia (bookstore), etc., and the streets hummed with a constant chatter of words like cze?? (hello), dzie? dobry (good day),and nie ma sprawy (no problem)! Now what we found was a neighborhood full of hipsters, taking advantage of lower rents and easy access to Manhattan.  They have successfully colonized Greenpoint with outdoor cafes, cutting edge eateries and an independent art scene. We were nostalgic for the neighborhood we’d remembered—but also, as is generally the case with the transformation of the urban landscape of our city—kind of excited, especially when we realized that Greenpoint is a great place to hang out with your kids.

Manhattan Avenue

Exiting the subway at Nassau Avenue brought us right into the heart of it all. Paralleling us to the East was Manhattan Avenue, a long street that seems the focal point of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood. We passed packed restaurants, interesting shops, lines of the above-mentioned twenty-somethings waiting outside some venue to take part in some event that seemed to be spilling out on the sidewalk. The neighborhood had a lot of energy. Manhattan Avenue is not only great for people watching, but as you follow it northwest towards Manhattan you have a great vista before you which ultimately ends where Newton Creek flows out of the East River, bisecting Brooklyn and Queens.

The Parks

Following Manhattan Avenue southeast you arrive in McCarren Park, which is adjacent to Vincent V. Abate Park and Tom Stofka Garden. The former has a wonderful playground with benches strategically located beneath the shade.

Vincent V. Abate Park is also right next to McCarren Pool, which just reopened last summer after being closed for decades. As we mentioned in our previous post on pools, given the lack of Wi-Fi access there are few better places to unplug and just enjoy being outside with your kids than a city pool—and this one is absolutely enormous. The pool is a product of the Robert Moses-era of urban planning in New York City, a period which—as we have noted before—contains a long list of positives and negatives we all love, hate, enjoy, wish had never been built. Fortunately McCarren Pool, originally built with the goal of accommodating nearly 7,000 swimmers and cooling off the masses, falls in the favored category.

Nearby is McCarren Park where the bathrooms, unlike those in Abate Park, were open at the time of our visit. McCarren Park has ball fields and lots of space to run, however at the moment it is pretty scruffy and large swaths of it are isolated behind chain link fences. Fortunately, this is because these spaces are being renovated, and when the work is done a neater, more charming park is sure to emerge. For now it’s very much worth exploring its perimeter where you will find an imposing Russian Orthodox church—a product of the neighborhood’s Eastern European-dominant past—facing what appears to be yet another modern co-op or condo project going up. Get there quick—Greenpoint is changing fast!

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Get wet and muddy. Grab boots and visit a creek or lake where you can skip stones and splash in shallow water. Bring a change of clothes for the ride home.



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