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‘Brooklyn’s Historic Greenpoint’ at Word Bookstore

Authors share obscure history of Greenpoint

The Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

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Safety first: Officers stand outside the 19th Precinct near a horse and buggy on Herbert Street in 1892.
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Sky-high ’60s: Since 1903, parishioners from Our Lady of Mr. Carmel Roman Catholic Church have held the Feast of the Giglio to celebrate Bishop San Paolino, who was later canonized as a saint.
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Streetscape: Children gaze down Manhattan Avenue near an Army and Navy supply store in 1928.

These guys really get to the point.

Green Point, as the neighborhood at the tip of Brooklyn was once known, has undergone a well-documented transformation in the past few decades. But two Brooklyn natives are sharing some of the neighborhood’s more extensive history in their new book “Brooklyn’s Historic Greenpoint,” which begins from the earliest European landings in 1624, spanning nearly 400 years until 2015.

Authors and historians Brian Merlis, who was born in Flatlands, and Riccardo Gomes, who hails from East New York, will discuss the neighborhood’s transition from a quaint countryside to the crowded community it is now at Greenpoint’s Word Bookstore on April 2. We asked the duo to tell us some more unusual facts about the area they discovered while researching their tome.

Boho chic

Greenpoint was a creative enclave long before the hipsters showed up, according to Merlis. The neighborhood was home to actor Mickey Rooney, actress and playwright Mae West, and singer Pat Benatar.

“The artist scene is not a new phenomenon,” said Merlis, who has written 20 books about Brooklyn’s history and now lives in Long Island. “It was always a magnet for artists.”

The crying game

Crying babies never ruined movies in the historic ’hood, Gomes said. Mothers would tuck infants into strollers then leave the tykes in local theater lobbies while they watched films. If a baby was crying during the film, a slide would appear on the projector telling mothers to check on their kiddos. But the laissez-faire lobby days changed in 1954, after a mentally ill woman stole an infant from a theater, Gomes said.

“Through neighborhood gossip, they tracked down this mentally disturbed woman,” said Gomes, who now lives in New Jersey. “But that was when people said, ‘we have to stop doing that.’ ”

Bank on it

Before the Great Depression, Greenpoint was home to numerous banks with ostentatious architecture. The sturdy structures had high ceilings and decorative trim to convey an image of wealth and stability, Gomes said. After the banks failed throughout the country, many of Greenpoint’s buildings were redesigned to house retail shops, but if you look closely, you will find some are still standing today.

Gomes said that is why the duo decided to pen the book — to show residents the secret treasures that exist in their neighborhood, while there is still time.

“There is lot of stuff that comes and goes and sort of gets lost to time and people don’t appreciate it,” said Gomes.

Brian Merlis and Riccardo Gomes discuss “Brooklyn’s Historic Greenpoint” at Word Bookstore [126 Franklin St. between Milton and Noble streets in Greenpoint, (718) 383-0096, www.wordbookstores.com]. April 2 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

JF from Newkirk Plaza says:
Merlis and Gomes: Great on Greenpoint. If you're seeking another Brooklyn topic, please try Coney Island Ave in Midwood. This neighborhood has zero pizazz. Perhaps it has a history.
March 24, 2015, 1:16 pm
GinaS from Formerly Greenpoint says:
This is a wonderful book. I plan on buying it when I have some more cash. My friend bought it and it has so many great photos and interesting history about Greenpoint.
March 25, 2015, 9:32 am
William Berger says:
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel RCC and the Feast of the Giglio are in Williamsburg, not Greenpernt.
March 25, 2015, 11:03 am
Richard Grayson from Williamsburg says:
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel RCC and the Feast of the Giglio are in present-day Williamsburg, but if you ask old-timers and elderly natives in the neighborhood, you'll learn that much of the current Northside area of Williamsburg was considered Greenpoint.

My landlady, whose grandfather bought the house over a century ago, had an old framed illustrated map of "Greenpoint" that included pretty much everything north of Metropolitan Avenue and further east than Union Avenue. (The BQE, of course, didn't exist.) McCarren Park, for example, was considered totally in Greenpoint.

Brooklyn neighborhood boundaries are very fluid, creatures of trends in real estate and demographics.
March 25, 2015, 2:57 pm

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