Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Walking Tour: Slavs of Greenpoint

Greenpoint is the preeminent Polish enclave in New York – and one of the largest outside of Poland itself. According to the 2000 Census, New York had the second-largest Polish community in the country after Chicago, and the majority seem to live in Greenpoint.

The Polish presence is so strong that even though you downloaded that
Polish-language primer from GreenPunkt as a joke, it turned out to be pretty useful in the end. Kirk Semple wrote recently in The New York Times that the booming economy in Poland is luring more Poles home and may leave Polish Greenpoint a part of history. But for now, there’s still much to see – even if gentrification is an ever-increasing force in the neighborhood and the promise of a better life now has many local Poles rethinking life in their homeland.

Since they’re close, this walk actually starts in
Williamsburg, at the Bedford Avenue L station. Walk Up Bedford Avenue and you’ll immediately pass both Raymond's Place (124 Bedford Avenue) and Kasia’s Restaurant (146 Bedford Avenue). Turn right along North 12th Street, walk to Driggs Avenue and you cannot miss the landmark Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (228 N.12th Street at Driggs).

From here, go back out to Bedford Avenue, keep walking north and you’ll hit Father Jerzy Popieluszko Square. Popieluszko was a priest martyred by Poland's Communist government in 1984 for supporting the emergent Solidarity movement. The monument was erected here just six years later, in 1990.

At the fork, keep right and walk along Nassau Avenue (passing the Nassau Avenue G station), and you should see a number of Polish
milkbars and restaurants, including Lomzynianka (646 Manhattan Avenue), Pod Wierchami (119 Nassau Avenue) and Pyza (118 Nassau Avenue).

At Eckford Stret, turn right and walk down to Driggs Avenue to the
Polish National Home (a.k.a. the Warsaw) (261 Driggs Avenue). This former ethnic social club in recent years has recast itself as a major club venue.

From here, walk down Driggs to Humbolt, where you’ll see Walesa-Solidarity Square (a.k.a. Humbolt Street) and Pope John Paul II Plaza (Driggs Street) near the center of Greenpoint’s Polish community,
St. Stanislaus Kostka Church (607 Humboldt Street at Driggs).

Turn right and walk up Humbolt St. back to Nassau Avenue, where you’ll find Old Poland Bakery and Restaurant (192 Nassau Avenue). Have a snack, or continue on to Manhattan Avenue and turn right. Near Norman Avenue is Krolewskie Jadlo (694 Manhattan Ave), guarded over by a Polish knight.
At the next intersection (Manhattan and Meserole), you’ll find Club Europa (98 Meserole Avenue) to the left, and the fantastic Wedel chocolate shop (772 Manhattan Avenue) on corner to the right. If you can, make SURE to check this place out around Christmas time!

Further along Manhattan on the next block is yet another Polish restaurant,
Christina's (853 Manhattan Avenue), and Polonia Bookstore (882 Manhattan Ave) where you can get books in Polish as well as books to learn Polish. If you turn right onto Greenpoint Avenue, Club Exit (149 Greenpoint Avenue, check out Clubbing in Greenpoint) is just off Manhattan Avenue.

The next intersection is with Kent Street, and just past Manhattan Avenue to the left is the former Carpatho-Rusyn
Greek Catholic Church of St. Elias (149 Kent Street (Manhattan Avenue & Franklin Street) and to the right, the Polish and Slavic Center (177 Kent Street and the Polish and Slavic Credit Union (175 Kent Street), two major local institutions.

And at the next intersection, turn right on Kent Street and you’ll find
Ksiegarnia Literacka (161 Java Street). This one is the classiest of Greenpoint's Polish bookstores, and even if you don't read the language it's well worth dropping in just to take a look. It's also the end of the tour - unless you're feeling adventurous and want to check out the Pulaski Bridge (keep waking up Manhattan Avenue to the end and turn right on Ash Street and hike out to McGuiness Boulevard).

When you're done, you can walk back to the Bedford Avenue L train or the Nassau Avenue G, but the closest will be the Greenpoint Avenue G station at the intersection of Greenpoint and Manhattan Avenues.

1 comment:

Lynne said...

Would you be willing to do a walking tour?