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Archive for June 18th, 2010

Greenpoint Parade

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Memorial Day weekend was a busy couple of days. In addition to certain bacchanal gatherings here in Astoria, where the flesh of lower animals would be roasted over open flame whilst inebriating beverages were consumed by revelers, your humble narrator was meant to meet up with the redoubtable Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame in Brooklyn. Both Mr. Walsh and myself are associates of the Newtown Historical Society, and we have recently produced certain booklets detailing sites and scenes discussed during two tours of the Newtown area- specifically Elmhurst and Woodside.

Keen on the notion of providing such printed collateral to his own venture, I volunteered to meet him in Bushwick and get some photos for an upcoming June 27th tour of the area. I was a bit early, and decided to walk from Astoria to Bushwick, wandering through and about storied Greenpoint for a awhile.

I found a parade, with soldiers, sailors, and several historic vehicles.


Engine 343 is a 1951 Mack Fire Truck and is engraved with the names of the 343 Firefighters who gave their lives at the World Trade Center on September 11 2001.

and from

THE FDNY FIRE FAMILY TRANSPORT FOUNDATION s a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the well-being of the fire department family; for recognition of the unique sacrifices that firefighters and their families selflessly make for the sake of all; and to honor those sacrifices. The central focus of the Foundation is assisting the families of firefighters in their times of greatest need, in transporting firefighters, family members and department personnel to and from medical institutions both for care and family support. We also are dedicated to the comfort and support of the families of firefighters in their times of bereavement. Our immediate aim is to minimize the negative impact of injuries and fatalities that members of the fire family endure, by providing vehicles and transportation assistance, in conjunction with the Fire Department of the City of New York. On a broader scale, we are dedicated to the good of the community in building awareness of the often-overlooked needs of the fire department family.

The Foundation is all-volunteer, entirely non-profit, and depends on donations of equipment, funds and service to carry out its mission. The Foundation has, through donations, acquired a fleet of vehicles that are commissioned to the Fire Department and are available around the clock to provide transportation services throughout the City of New York and environs. The Foundation also assists fire families in funeral details, tributes and memorials, to preserve the honor of their sacrifices. The Foundation also joins to support other organizations and endeavors in the broader community, in honor of all who serve in the same spirit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The usual military honorifics were in effect, color guard and ROTC, a bagpipe brigade, and several on duty soldiers. There was also a few politicians wandering around, which I of course didn’t realize until I closely examined the images later that night. All in all, it was a pretty festive affair, although the troops looked like they were suffering from standing in formation forced to endure the extreme heat and direct sunlight experienced by New Yorkers that weekend.

There isn’t a whole lot of linkage I can direct you towards to explain the green and black “colorway” of the vintage NYPD patrol car (a Plymouth Fury 2) pictured above. Suffice to say that in 1972, it was decided to drop the traditional green, white, and black scheme and adopt the “white on blue” colors that precede the modern “blue on white” so familiar to us. The whole transition is actually best described by scale model enthusiasts, click here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everywhere you looked, incidentally, were examples of Brooklyn “characters”. It’s one of the great things about Greenpoint, to me, that its still old Brooklyn- a neighborhood full of wise asses and jokers. On the faces of many a lifetime resident, one can see a map of the world, drawn in over the course of decades.

from wikipedia

Greenpoint was originally inhabited by Keskachauge (Keshaechqueren) Indians, a sub-tribe of the Lenape. Contemporary accounts describe it as remarkably verdant and beautiful, with Jack pine and oak forest, meadows, fresh water creeks and briny marshes. Water fowl and fish were abundant. The name originally referred to a small bluff of land jutting into the East River at what is now the westernmost end of Freeman Street, but eventually came to describe the whole peninsula.

In 1638 the Dutch West India Company negotiated the right to settle Brooklyn from the Lenape. The first recorded European settler of what is now Greenpoint was Dirck Volckertsen (Dutchified from Holgerssøn), a Norwegian immigrant who in 1645 built a one-and-a-half story farmhouse there with the help of two Dutch carpenters. In was in the contemporary Dutch style just west of what is now the intersection of Calyer St. and Franklin Street. There he planted orchards and raised crops, sheep and cattle. He was called Dirck de Noorman by the Dutch colonists of the region, Noorman being the Dutch word for “Norseman” or “Northman.” The creek which ran by his farmhouse became known as Norman Kill (Creek); it ran into a large salt marsh and was later filled in. Volckertsen received title to the land after prevailing in court the year before over a Jan De Pree, who had a rival claim. He initially commuted to his farm by boat and may not have moved into the house full time until after 1655, when the small nearby settlement of Boswyck was established, on the charter of which Volckertsen was listed along with twenty-two other families. Volckertsen’s wife, Christine Vigne, was a Walloon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The enigmatic couple in the shot above are strangers to me, and I apologize for violating this moment between them, but they just seemed to sum up the general mood of the crowd. I’m led to believe that Trashed MC is a motorcycle club which was founded by DSNY sanitation workers.


Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen supporting Fleet Week New York 2010 gathered in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn to participate in a Memorial Day Veterans Parade hosted by the American Legion St. Stanislaus Post 1771, May 30.

More than 50 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen marched in the parade.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling of patriotism as a Navy veteran,” said Jim Feith, co-founder of the Greenpoint Memorial Day Veterans Parade. “For us older veterans, who are now 40 – 50 years removed from our time of service, it has never left us.”

The parade was held in honor of the men and women who have made countless sacrifices in defense of our nation.

“It is a great honor,” said Pat Sparano, a World War II Army veteran and the parade’s Grand Marshal. “I thank everybody that arranged this for me, it’s an honor to have been chosen as today’s Grand Marshal.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was on Driggs and Leonard, by the way, and the whole do was taking place on Leonard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving the parade behind and continuing toward Bushwick, I happened across this vintage bus stalled out in the middle of the street around a mile away. The driver of the bus, sitting on an empty bucket nearby, informed me that he had broken down on the way to some parade in Greenpoint, and did I know where the corner of Driggs and Leonard was. He also said that this bus was but one of many relict models that the MTA has hidden away.

this next link takes you to the arcane world of the “foamers” at subchat. A group of railfans, transit workers, and enthusiasts. EVERYTHING- every historical fact, model number, and arcane regulation about nyc transit can be found in their collective hive mind…

this bus is a 1961 GMC 5301 model Fishbowl bus. #1059

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bushwick, and its curious mix of atavist housing and modern possibility awaited, and I had to go meet up with Kevin Walsh in front of some statue. I learned quite a bit, and visited a few places I hadn’t seen since the hot summers of the 1970’s.

You can too, incidentally, on June 27th.

Check out this page at for info on tour pricing and availability– don’t wait too long, FNY keeps their walking tours down to an intimate number, and space fills up fast with rabid forgotten-fans. There is a photographic wonderland in Brooklyn, let Mr. Walsh guide you through a few of your first steps in this forgotten place.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2010 at 12:05 am

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