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certain villagers

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent business brought me to the Greenpoint section of infinite Brooklyn, which offered your humble narrator an opportunity to get high.

Pop cultural references aside, what that meant was a trip to the roof of the so called Pencil Factory, and the chance to slide my lens around the unobstructed vista of the alluvial plane which lies between Newtown Creek, the former Bushwick Creek, and the East River.

from wikipedia

An alluvial plain is a largely flat landform created by the deposition of sediment over a long period of time by one or more rivers coming from highland regions, from which alluvial soil forms. A floodplain is part of the process, being the smaller area over which the rivers flood at a particular period of time, whereas the alluvial plain is the larger area representing the region over which the floodplains have shifted over geological time.

As the highlands erode due to weathering and water flow, the sediment from the hills is transported to the lower plain. Various creeks will carry the water further to a river, lake, bay, or ocean. As the sediments are deposited during flood conditions in the floodplain of a creek, the elevation of the floodplain will be raised. As this reduces the channel floodwater capacity, the creek will, over time, seek new, lower paths, forming a meander (a curving sinuous path). The leftover higher locations, typically natural levees at the margins of the flood channel, will themselves be eroded by lateral stream erosion and from local rainfall and possibly wind transport if the climate is arid and does not support soil-holding grasses. These processes, over geologic time, will form the plain, a region with little relief (local changes in elevation), yet with a constant but small slope.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pencil factory of the Eberhard Faber company, recently converted to luxury apartments, from above. Often has it occurred to me that this most be how the elites of Manhattan perceive the North Brooklyn and Western Queens communities, as if from above and with the perspective of Olympians.


The native Keshaechqueren originally inhabited this part of Brooklyn. Dutch mercantilists and farmers, arriving in 1638, rapidly developed it into a hub of seafaring commerce. In the 1850s, the community swelled with new residents, of primarily Irish and English descent, when two ferry lines began regularly scheduled runs from the Greenpoint coastline to Manhattan’s East Side. With the almost simultaneous addition of big businesses like the shipbuilding firm Continental Iron Works and fuel provider Astral Oil Works, Greenpoint began to compete on a national level with older naval foundries in Boston and Norfolk.

From the decades following the Civil War through the 20th century, Greenpoint’s population has steadily grown. In the early 1950s, the community began to suffer strain as several waves of immigration met with limited economic opportunities in the neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The red building in the right of the shot, for instance, houses one of my favorite saloons in this section- also known as the “Pencil Factory”. They serve hard cider in a pint glass with ice during the summer, and that’s what’s known as “local knowledge”. Can’t see that from up here.

Of course, this angle of view precludes one from understanding the truth of these places, the life and cultural norms of the street, and reduces the population housed therein to statistical groups with the status of mere tenants (from a macro historical and sociological point of view) in a “district”. This isn’t a district, this is a neighborhood.

Hmmm, I guess these Eberhard Faber folks must have been a big deal.


The company first opened a factory in Manhattan near 42nd Street and the East River in 1861 as the U.S. branch of Germany’s A.W. Faber Company, a pencil manufacturing company dating to the mid-18th century. In 1872, Eberhard Faber, the great grandson of the company’s founder, moved the operation to Brooklyn after the Manhattan plant – the first pencil manufacturer in the United States — was destroyed by fire.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shapes on the far horizon in the shot above are all in Queens, and the dark dome of vegetation are those trees fed by the morbid nutritions of Calvary Cemetery. The reason why this part of Greenpoint Avenue is so wide is that it was built to accommodate the street car lines going to and from Calvary, which met the ferry docks not too far from where the so called “transmitter park” is found today.

from “A history of the city of Brooklyn By Henry Reed Stiles” courtesy google books

The Green-point Ferries are from the foot of Green-Point Avenue, Brooklyn, E. D., to the foot of East Tenth and East Twenty-Third streets, New York. The first named route was established in 1852 (lease dated 1850), by the efforts of Mr. Neziah Bliss, of Green-Point; and was soon transferred to Mr. Shepard Knapp, being now held by G. Lee Knapp. The Twenty-Third street route was established in 1857, and held by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, per G. Lee Knapp. Rent of the Tenth street ferry, $1,300, and of the Twenty-Third street, $600 per annum, both expiring in 1874.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remains of the Greenpoint Terminal Market, immolated just a few years ago, persist on the riverfront. They await the application of venture capital and the blade of earth moving equipment, and will begin a conversion to towers of steel and glass.

Soon, one will not be able to see the spectacle of the Shining City of Manhattan from Greenpoint, except via regulated and officially decided “sight lines” or “visual corridors” offered by gaps between high rise apartment buildings- or if you happen to live in one of them.

Just like in Long Island City.

from the “DIGEST OF SPECIAL STATUTES By THE CITY OF NEW YORK” courtesy google books

1865: This act incorporates the Green Point and Calvary Railroad Company, and authorizes the construction of a railroad, to be operated by horse power only, from at or near the Green Point and Tenth street ferry, at the foot of Green Point avenue, in the city of Brooklyn, thence along Green Point avenue to Green Point avenue plank road, across the bridge over Newtown creek; thence easterly along said road to the easterly side of Calvary cemetery at or near the point where the, said road intersects the main road leading from Calvary cemetery to Hunter’s Point; thence to Central avenue; thence along Central avenue and Commercial street to Franklin avenue, to Freeman street, to Washington street, to the place of beginning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One view which will remain unoccluded for the foreseeable future, of course, is that which is enjoyed by some hideous thing which cannot possibly exist or lurk within the cupola of a Sapphire Megalith in Long Island City.

Such an entity- with its singular and unblinking eye casting about rapaciously, a global army of loyal acolytes and fanatic employees, and a desire to devour all the wealth that there is, was, or ever will be- this hungry and impossible thing which would be “too big to fail”- were it not entirely mythical- what perspectives on the transformations of North Brooklyn could it offer from atop its hildskjalf?

Of course, such paranoid wonderings often occur, when one spends his time getting high in Greenpoint.


Greenpoint is generally defined as the district bounded by North 7 Street on the south, the East River on the West, Newton Creek on the north and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on the east, corresponding approximately to the area of ward 17 in the 19 century. th

Once also known as Cherry Point, Greenpoint, got its name from the eponymous spit of grassy land that extended into the East River near the foot of what later became Freeman Street. The name came to designate all of the 17 ward when Greenpoint, Bushwick, and Williamsburg were joined to Brooklyn in 1854. At that time, the 17 ward was home to approximately 15,000 inhabitants. A sandy bluff, over one hundred feet high in some parts, overlooked the shoreline between Java and Milton Streets, but it was leveled before the middle of the 19 century for use as building material and landfill both in New York and locally. The original Greenpoint spit disappeared between 1855 and 1868 when the western half of the blocks along the once white sandy shoreline west of West Street were created by landfilling. During this period, the blocks west of Commerce Street between Ash and Eagle Streets were also created or in the process of being filled.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 18, 2012 at 12:15 am

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