Greenpoint vs. Williamsburg

I’m always irritated by Polish people who –without ever being in New York and thus without knowing Greenpoint first-hand – tell me their opininon of the palce or simply laugh at it. The truth about Greenpoint, as is usually the case, is somewhere in between. Especially recently.

Greenpoint is the Polish neighborhood. Everyone in NYC knows that’s where you find us Poles. All this started to change recently, though.

Greenpoint is located in Brooklyn, next to Williamsburg, which has been booming for the past couple of years. Williamsburg started to flourish after 9/11. Many New Yorkers started to feel uneasy in Manhattan and decided to flee to Williamsburg, which is only one subway stop away (all you need to do is cross the East River). After a while, predictably, the place filled up and living space became scarce. In addition to that, the rent went way up to ridiculous levels (some new high-rising buildings were quickly built, also with high rents) and the new inhabitants started to look around for something nearby that would be cheaper. And since Greenpoint was really close…

You can get to Greenpoint from Williamsburg by walking Bedford Avenue. As you walk down Bedford, you look at freaks, artists, and bums (sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between them). You pass cafes and many new establishments. The entire street is bustling with life and you can sense the whiff of the new when you’re here (even though the condition of some buildings leaves lots to be desired). What’s most important, though, is that the character of the place is determined by the colorful people living here. They have big smiles on their faces (thanks partly to their substance intake) and attract your attention with imaginative clothing. Bedford ends where Manhattan Avenue starts – that’s the main avenue in Greenpoint. Suddenly, you notice the difference. I can’t exactly put my finger on it since the scenery is similar and thus the switch shouldn’t be that noticable – but still, you momentarily know that you’ve entered a different territory altogether.

You’d think that the Poles living here should „inhale” some of that patent American smile, but that’s not the case at all. You will immediately recognize the indeterminate Polish face expression, as well as the names of the stores such as the homey „Kiszka Market” [literally: „Intestine Market”]. You keep hearing the Polish language, and not necessarily in its most noble incarnation. I’m very honest when I say that I never walked through Greenpoint without hearing the classic cusswords „kurwa” and „ja pierdolę” at least a couple of times. The other evergreens are Polish conversations, usually, work-related and full of constant complaining.

And even though I have to admit that I usually ended up depressed every time I went to Greenpoint, I recently noticed my reaction to be slightly changing. It’s still quite sad and gray, but you can sense something new brewing. I’m sure it has to do with the neighboring Williamsburg. There are many new arrivals – mostly hipsters – as well as new coffee places, which weren’t in demand so far (who needs a coffee place with a free Wi-fi, more than two types of coffee and electric sockets…?). You can see the gray crowd being infiltrated by wonderful freaks, injecting some color into the less-and-less Polish Greenpoint.

That you are still, in fact, very much in Greenpoint, will be reminded to you by a so-called Pan [Polish for Mister] in his fifties, who will shout at you (if you happen to be female), using his signature wit and wordly charm: „Polish girls are most beautiful!” („Najpiękniejsze są polskie dziewczyny!”). It happened to me a couple of times. On one hand it tickles you somehow, but after you hear the same sentence over and over again, you begin to dream of at least one „beautiful eyes” line. It happens that the same „compliment” is sang to you with an extra verse and accompanied by a sunflower in the guy’s hand: „La vi da di da… Polish girls are most beautiful… da di da” (which happened to me and my friend last week). Nothing quit like your homies.