On and Around Herbert Street

Nestled between Graham Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in East Greenpoint, Brooklyn, lays Herbert Street. At exit 33 off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, to which it runs parallel, Herbert Street, and its surrounding areas, has experienced a deluge of young people taking up residence, resulting from the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning of 2005.

A part of Brooklyn Community District 1, Greenpoint, along with Williamsburg, had a population of 160,338 at the time of the 2000 census. Population growth began to pick up at the latter part of 2000, when a multitude of new residents moved in, and lofts and industrial buildings were converted to homes, as developers arrived to erect condos and many new luxury constructions in the area.

Yet the recession of the late 2000s, around the time when much construction in the area began, challenged funding and real estate interest, stalling many construction projects. In recent years, many young professionals have been moving into Greenpoint, altering the demographics.

“I’ve seen a lot come and go. Whenever they see an opportunity, they start to hammer,” said Benito Acevedo, who has lived in East Greenpoint for 6 years, “then they’ll be sitting there as if they’re waiting for the economy.”

93 Herbert Street stands adjacent to Acevedo's house

Acevedo lives at 91 Herbert Street, a typical, vinyl-sided Greenpoint house, framed by a delicate wrought iron fence. His house is adjoined to 93 Herbert Street, where work has been in progress since the property’s demolition in 2007. In the plot sits a multi-story edifice, covered by tapestries and a large plywood scaffold on the front sidewalk, and has seen little change.

Luckily, 93 Herbert Street has only had 1 violation, which was classified as non-hazardous, back in 2007, for failure to waterproof adjoining property. Acevedo has not experienced many of the deplorable conditions associated with living amid construction but has had some agitation.

“It’s just so bad when they start hammering out here,” he said “and waking everyone up. I hope there’s no more construction for the next ten years.”

Galina Arnaut lives on nearby Beadel Street and has noticed a lack of work on the surrounding construction sites in the past 11 months, particularly the empty lot at 123 Kingsland Avenue, where a stop work order was issued this past January.

“I never notice squatters, but there was one time in the summer people had obviously broken in, the plywood was broken down,” she recalled. “It’s just weird that all of these buildings are like a five minute walk from each other.”

Some residents, like Arnaut, seem slightly annoyed and confused, yet mildly positive, while they wait in limbo, generally appreciative of the potential improvements to their neighborhood.

“It just makes me roll my eyes,” resident Daphne Gardner explained. “Those buildings have been empty for a while, but once they’re apartments they’ll be really expensive and high end.”

67 Herbert Street remains stalled

Gardner lives down the block from 67 Herbert Street, an empty structure, filled with rusted windowpanes on a plot solemnly decorated with scattered bits of broken bottles and surrounded by plywood adorned with a litany of graffiti masterpieces.

“It’s really an eyesore,” said Melissa Gomez, a mother of two who lives across from 67 Herbert Street, and a few buildings down from another stalled construction, 508 Humboldt Street. “Some bums were living in it for a while,” she added.

With 32 complaints and 18 violations of both hazardous and non-hazardous conditions, 508 Humboldt Street, which also shares the address of 38 Herbert Street, sits directly at the base of exit 33 off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. An apartment building was supposed to be assembled on it, but the project was curtailed since the first permits were issued in 2008.

80-year-old Mary Pizzuto has lived in her home on Monitor Street for thirty-two years and raised grandchildren and great-grandchildren in her house. She endured the construction of the large condos at 14 and 16 Monitor Street and encountered some onerous problems resulting from the construction.

“When they put the beams in they dug so deep that the rats came out from under the ground,” she explained. “13 within one year to another year died underneath my car. Low and behold they chewed the wires and the car died, too.”

Yet she kept on good terms with the builders, who repaired any other damages, and never complained about the rats.

“How can I prove that the rats belong to them, they come from the ground,” she said, “Whatever they did they had to did it, whatever was damaged got fixed. Everybody has to live and let live, whether you win or lose everybody makes a little noise in their lifetime.”


Cinema Palace to Apartment Complex

RKO Keith's Theater

The RKO Keith’s stands at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Main Street.

The first thing you see if you were to walk down Main Street toward Northern Boulevard is a hulking beast of a building that takes up most of the block. It stands blank and empty amid the bustle of Flushing’s many colorful storefronts. The light-up marquee has been taken down long ago, leaving only the rusting steel supports. The huge windows have been filled with cinderblock and mortar inside their ornate wooden frames, graced here and there by graffiti. Only a bright sign by the crosswalk informs passersby that it is actually a historic landmark, the RKO Keith’s Theater.

In February, Queen’s Community Board 7 approved the development of the site into an apartment building. Condo developer Patrick Thompson paid the $20 million dollars to acquire the bank note for the old cinema palace.

Nearby business owners had not yet heard of the plans.

A local furniture company, Ur Choice Furniture, lies in the RKO’s shadow. The property was already abandoned when Michael Diaz came to work for his uncle at the furniture store. “I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing,” he said of the plan to turn it into apartments. “Isn’t it better for there to be something there instead of [the theater] laying in ruins? Hopefully it will help our business.”

Another small business owner of Puppies and Pets Hotel who identified himself only as Kenny, also expressed his approval in broken English. “[It] should’ve been done a long time ago. Do you know how many years we’ve been suffering from that property?”

The answer is 25 years.

Opened on Christmas Day in 1928, the RKO Keith’s Theater was designed by Thomas W. Lamb, who was known worldwide for his movie palaces. The lobby and grand foyer were landmarked for this distinct style, complete with twinkling stars and a fountain to make it look like a Spanish courtyard.

In 1986, Tommy Huang bought the theater, closed it and stripped it in preparation for a mall. However, in 1997, the theater was still in disrepair and Huang pleaded guilty to two felony charges to dumping over 10,000 gallons of oil into the basement and improper removal of asbestos.

The development of luxury condos has come up twice since then but when the housing market plateaued in 2008, all projects were halted. Only last year did they start to pick back up.  In fact, in 2009, 45.8% of land in Community District 7 went toward purely residential purposes according to the American Community Survey while 12.2% was vacant land.

Ann-Marie Folan, a broker of the Folan Real Estate Group, was enthusiastic about the housing market in Flushing. “It’s a prime location actually,” she said. “I think they’ll be able to sell [apartments] there. There’s a lot of people moving to Flushing from Long Island right now because of the high taxes there.”

The RKO Keith's Theater

The RKO Keith's stands at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Main Street.

David Giles, research associate of the New York City think tank Center for an Urban Future, was skeptical of the plan. “When you look at the city as a whole, the surplus of luxury condos is not necessarily the most productive form of real estate development for the economy,” he said. However, he conceded that Flushing is a bit different since small businesses and manufacturing are growing at a rate that is keeping up with population.

The decision was made on the grounds that the impact to the community would be more positive than negative. Spokesperson for the Community Board, Marilyn Bitterman, said that she did not think that concerns over gentrification were warranted since the apartments would be priced at market rate.

According to the American Community Survey data, about 79% of housing units without a mortgage had a selected monthly owner cost of over $400. This cost is 35% or more of the income of almost half the residents of Flushing. The apartments, since they are new, will probably be on the upper end of this scale, though no figures were released about pricing, meaning that they will be unaffordable for roughly half of the existing population.

The lobby, however, is still a landmark even though it is mostly stripped. Preservation movements sprang up as the community considered what to do with the theater. One such movement was established by Ed Tracey called “Save the RKO Keith’s” and now has over 3,000 members.

The Lobby of the RKO Keith's

A picture of what the lobby would have looked like when it was opened in 1928.

As a result, the developer had to compromise. The lobby will be renovated into what it would have looked like when it opened and the rest of the property will be made into a seventeen story apartment complex.

Ed Tracey could not be contacted, but the webmaster of “Save the RKO Keith’s” Rick Gallo was positive toward this development. He remembered visiting the theater with his father when he was very young, and seeing it torn down or forgotten would be a “tragedy.”

“We feel this is the right decision. We wanted it to be a theater but it’s obviously not feasible, especially in that area,” Mr. Gallo said, adding, “it’s been sitting there since 1986, accumulating rust; it’s time someone did something.”

Harlem Based African Artisans Brave Economic Uncertainity

African Garments and Bags At Malcolm Shabazz Flea Market

While strolling by African art stores in Harlem, mahogany wooden masks gape through the front windows.  A store with piles of folded “African cloth from Abuja,” and a handful of hair braiding salons with women sitting outside them, chatting amongst themselves in different dialects, paints a community of African immigrants.

It is a community of different types of artisans, trying to make it in a land of economic uncertainty and a jarringly different cultural context. According to census estimates, the number of African-born immigrants in New York has increased from 78,500 in the year 2000 to more than 125,000, and the majority of that population resides in Harlem neighborhoods. With an unemployment rate almost double New York’s unemployment rate and an influx of African immigrants that come to settle in New York, particularly in Harlem, business is tough for artisans like Boukar.

Boukar, who refused to give his last name for personal reasons, sells African cloth, masks, jewelry and bags at a stall at Malcolm Shabazz market on West 116th street in Harlem. His days begin with warm smiles and encouraging gestures towards customers, in an attempt to veer them away from dozens of other African craft and textile stores at the market.

“Tourists come here, African handcraft is very popular,” Boukar said. He has been selling African goods at the stall for four years, ever since he migrated from Mali. However, he has noticed that business has dipped and risen with economic trends, which makes it hard to budget to consistently make a profit in an already shaky job situation.

“People ask for discounts every time, they will tell you to reduce the price of everything, even a garment that is 25 dollars, because they are always looking to cut a deal in this economy,” he said.“This year is much better from the last few years. But I’m still living from paycheck to paycheck.”

Others, like Fanta Fofana, a Harlem based hairdresser from Guinea who specializes in hair braiding, go out on the street and court customers themselves, in an attempt to beat competition from other hair braiders, who have hoards of stores in Harlem .“It’s very slow on weekday morning, so I have to fight for customers,” said Fofana.

She waits by the 2 train early in the morning, and with business cards in one hand and hairstyle book in another, scouts out potential customers as soon as they step out of the subway, before they are tempted to be braided nice by someone else. She negotiates with the customer, charging anywhere from $80 for kinky twists, to $200 for a head of small micro braids, depending on how much the customer is willing to pay.

Many small scale African immigrant business owners and artisans in Harlem find it hard to point to steady, predictable customer or profit figures, which make conducting business particularly difficult.

“We are street smart. We don’t have calculations like that, like other business people. This is a different world. We can only make very rough estimates,” said Mamady, who comes from Mali and has been selling African wares in Harlem for 21 years.   “But I will tell you one thing, business had been very slow around here, depending on the economy.”

For those who have been selling African crafts and textiles for decades, changing professions at this time is as daunting as their current financial situations. “I don’t make money,” lamented Mr. Dam, a self employed Senegalese designer, as he stooped over an old sewing machine. “I cannot even count my customers right now, there is no reliable amount of customers to count on,” he added.  “Work is different, so I have to constantly be changing the pricing and it’s hard when I have to pay bills. You cannot save money here, like this. I could go back to Senegal, but I have lived here for so long, I wouldn’t even know how to start. ”

So immigrant African artisans stay in Harlem, where, even though jobs are hard to find, self owned businesses are difficult to manage, and customers are swayed in or kept away according to unsure waves of their own fiscal situations,  their situation might still be easier that going back home, after being in Harlem for years.  While African immigrant have the same problems; the same economically difficult environment and frightening unemployment rate that other immigrants face in Harlem, some feel that the problem is worsened because African immigrants are not given as much attention as other immigrants like the Latino community in Harlem, and are left to fend for themselves.

“African immigrants are not celebrated the way other immigrants are celebrated. We can barely even get the African burial ground,” said Frankie Edozien, a Journalism professor at NYU who identifies himself as Nigerian-American. “We are also a part of the New York fabric in a lot of positive ways.”

African communities in Harlem have attempted to alleviate the dark cloud of economic uncertainty by at least providing money for emergency incidences. Some communities have formulated systems, modeled from traditional values from home that require that members of that particular community contribute, weekly or monthly,  a small amount to a collective fund that can then be used for things like sudden deaths and family emergencies. Systems like these have helped to foster a better sense of belonging and security within African immigrant communities, linking Diaspora to home, and giving its members support, and a more optimistic perspective on their situation.

“Africans have lived in this area for a long time. Every Corner you see somebody you know,” said Dam, referring to his community.  “We are always hoping things will get better around here.”

Discovering Dim Sum in New York City’s Chinatown

By: Claire Schmidt

Jin dui, a typical dim sum pastry that is made from rice flour and lotus seed paste, and is coated with sesame seeds.

It is 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning and the smell of shrimp and soy sauce permeates through the air. Almost each table is filled at Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Pell Street in New York City’s Chinatown, yet the room is relatively quiet. The atmosphere is unlike that of a traditional dim sum restaurant. Groups of two of three sit around square tables and use their pencils to check off dim sum specialties on a small white slip of paper, a practice that has shifted from the original cart-pushing method of twenty years ago. Young, Chinese waitresses collect the slips and within minutes are back again with stacks of steaming bamboo baskets filled with vegetable dumplings and steamed rice noodles. After about 50 minutes, with full bellies and paid checks, people begin to clear out for the next customers

While not all dim sum experiences are exactly like this one, more and more dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are modernizing their methods in order to cut back on waste and serve a better quality product. With over 10,000 people added to the region since 2000, many restaurants are trying to adjust to the trendy, young newcomers, with a primary age range of 25 to 29 years old according to the American Community Survey. They are trying to find a balance between the authentic Chinese dim sum experience and new, more innovative approaches. While the changes, such as ordering from a menu rather than the traditional cart, have helped to preserve the freshness of the food, something has been lost among the constant push for efficiency. The practice still remains very much a social destination for large families and friends, but the performance aspect of dim sum and the anticipation of visually glimpsing the food items before ordering them are no longer as common as they once were.

“When I was a child the waitresses would come by carrying the baskets with a strap around their necks. That was really old style china,” said Grace Young, the New York City based author of The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. “As they came around they would also say the dish, but they would say it in a very “singsongy” way. It was this sell-job to draw attention to the dumpling that you are carrying. Part of the whole excitement when I was a child was the anticipation of what’s coming. Now there is no anticipation. You just look at a menu and check off what you want.”

The term dim sum (Cantonese) or dian xin (Mandarin) means “a little bit of heart” and is associated with small Chinese dishes, served in circular steamer baskets. These small meals are made to touch the heart with their delicate beauty and subtle flavors. Dim sum is usually linked to an even older tradition called “yum cha” or drinking tea. The practice developed from a custom that would take place along the ancient silk road in China hundreds of years ago, when fatigued farmers and travelers would stop to rest at a roadside teahouses. At first it was considered inappropriate to pair tea with food, as it was thought to lead to excessive weight gain. However, it was later determined that tea can actually aid in the digestive process. As a result teahouse owners began to sell many small snacks.

Dim sum dishes include various types of dumplings, steamed buns, and rice noodle rolls. For dessert there are often egg tarts, mango pudding, and jin deui, chewy, sesame seed covered dough balls. Traditionally the dishes are stacked atop metal carts and are pushed around by elderly Chinese waitresses. The servers circle the dining room multiple times before going back into the kitchen to refill their supply.  They stop at certain tables to offer their items to those customers that catch their eye. Then after a dish is placed on the table, the waitress will mark off a white tally sheet, signifying the size and price of what was ordered so that the payment process is effortless.

Dim sum was primarily morning meal, sometimes offered as early as 6:30A.M. and traditionally was not eaten after two o’clock. Now many restaurants in Chinatown are offering it all day long. “Dim sum has gone a far way since it originated from the silk road in China,” said Wilson Tang of the Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers Street, a dim sum restaurant that has been around for 90 years
 “There are so many more items that are served now, and the term is used more loosely as dim sum can be served any time of day.”

While the restaurants are staying open longer, the amount of time that customers are spending at these restaurants is actually diminishing. “The most dramatic change is that it has become fast food. You come and are done within 45 minutes,” said Young, who remembers going to dim sum almost every Saturday as a child and spending from two to four hours drinking tea and relaxing with uncles, aunts, and cousins, as well as her immediate family.

Another change in many of Chinatown’s dim sum restaurants is the method that the food is being served. Many places are now in favor of the made-to-order menu technique versus the traditional cart pushing method that was common twenty years ago.

“Nowadays in Chinatown most places don’t have the food on carts,” noted Young. “They don’t use the carts because if the food doesn’t get taken, then it goes in circles and circles. Then when people look at the food and it looks slightly dead, they don’t order it. Restaurants realize they are wasting ingredients; they cook food that’s going to have to be tossed.”

However, if the restaurant is popular then the matter of dead food will never be a problem. “If it’s a really good dim sum restaurant there is not an issue of freshness because the waitress comes out and everything is taken,” added Young.

Many restaurants, like Jing Fong on Elizabeth Street, still offer dim sum from the carts, and those that preserve this piece of Chinese culture create an experience unlike any other. “It’s a beautiful system ’cause it’s loud and festive. There’s a communal spirit to it all,” said Christopher Namba, a 20-year-old patron of Jing Fong. “Being Chinese, it’s something that I grew up loving, and so now I try to take my friends to let them see a part of my own cultural history that I’m really proud of.”

Many dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are also experimenting with new flavors and varieties. “It’s a really easy kind of food for a chef to just get inventive, to do something that’s kind of what people know, but you change a filling a little bit or you put something in a kind of a wrapper so you have something that’s not brand new, but it has a little twist on it,” said Ellen Blonder, author of Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch, who also noted that as dim sum chefs travel more often they begin to incorporate outside flavors into their cooking. “I like to call dim sum the original tasting menu,” said Blonder. “You don’t really have time to get bored with the food.”

As the customer base becomes largely American, many restaurants are also making the tradition of dim sum more approachable to the inexperienced. “I notice more menus with descriptions and pictures,” adds Tang. “As more and more 
Americans come to eat, they have more questions that Asian waiters can’t always answer because of the language barrier.”

Dim sum has always been a very family oriented gathering, and while it still remains a very social event, the level of interaction has decreased from what it once was. “In my family we once squeezed 14 people around the table because it was more fun to eat with all the people crowded around than have two tables,” said Blonder.

On this Saturday morning, it is clear that the social element of dim sum has been transformed for a younger, more technologically savvy generation.  At one table in particular three young Asian girls guzzle cans of Coca-Cola from clear straws and take pictures of each other with their iPhone cameras. At another table a Caucasian woman stares deeply at her cell phone, her fingers moving at a rapid speed on each key while her dad sits across the table with silent contentment.

People have become less interested in familial interactions. “Now the focus is not so much on the conversation and eating. Now it is people in their own orbits, kids on their phones and not interacting,” stated Young. “That’s a really weird thing to see when I go into a dim sum restaurant. To see that traditional, social element is gone. It’s really sad.”

Harlem Clergy and Police Struggle to Maintain Authority

It’s another slow Sunday morning at Greater Highway Deliverance Temple on 111th street in Harlem -church members slowly filter into the tabernacle, women shrug off their coats, and children impatiently shuffle into the pews. It is a quiet day outside, one that contrasts with the echoes of a recent homicide and shootings that haunt the very streets that members of the congregation walk through on their way to the service.  The church is nestled in a neighborhood that faces dismal times.

A mother and her daughter listen to the sermon at Greater Highway Deliverance Temple in Harlem

Although, according to NYPD crime statistics, the crime rate has not significantly risen in Harlem from last year, residents still worry about the crimes that still manage to take place in their neighborhoods. Stringent budget cuts and disheartening unemployment rates continue to plague Harlem neighborhoods, while religious and law enforcement authorities struggle to improve the situation.  The neighborhood has been tainted by misdemeanors that have left the community stumped, unstable and unsafe.

“There have been 10 shootings altogether around this neighborhood, five in this precinct. The most recent shooting was on January 30th, when a 17 year old male with a firearm shot at the police between 118th and 128th street. There have been 418 arrests in the last year and a homicide in February. We need to get the perpetrators of violence off the street,” said Capt. Nilda Hofmann at a community meeting.

Many attribute the crime rates to the unemployment rates that torment the neighborhood and the lack of authority to stop criminal activities. According to a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization, Harlem’s unemployment rate is almost double New York’s unemployment rate. “I really feel that the unemployment rate means that more people are just hanging out, up to no good,” said 23 year old Christopher Vernon, who moved to Harlem six months ago. “[People] can’t find jobs, so they do criminal activities. That’s a very uncomfortable situation.” He added “The church could have moral influence and seems to somewhat have an influence, but the cops have the most power in the community. They do what they want. They can also decide to ignore things, and they can stop you when they want to.”

Frustration over the perceived passive role that the clergy and the police play in the community is common among residents. “Most of our concerns fall on a deaf ear, in this community, in Harlem,” said Carlene Hernandez, who has lived in and around Harlem since 1979. “The churches basically run food pantries and just pray for you, and then get on with running their churches. That’s it, they are low profile. The police just make themselves visible. But nothing is changing. Drugs are still being sold. It’s still the same.”

While attempting to change the situation, the church, which is seen as a haven for relief in the community, now faces serious fiscal storms of its own, while police departments scrounge for resources to keep the streets crimeless. Significant cuts in budget spending have hindered the ability of authorities in the community to counter the effects of crime and unemployment. Churches like Greater Highway Deliverance Temple struggle to provide the community with the same resources they used to offer.

“Jobs are a great issue in this area. We used to help a lot of people that were here,” commented Bishop Liston Page Sr, presiding prelate of the Greater Highway Deliverance Temple Ministries. He said the church’s ability to fully aid the community was intercepted by the church’s economic status.  “Our budget has been tapped. We had to cut back because of the condition in which we are living.”

The church has had to cut its budget by 30 percent, from the quarter million dollar budget it used to receive and utilize every two weeks. It has also had to cut several members of church staff, contributing to the unemployment situation.

“We now have to ask people to do just a little bit more, so that we may be able to get through this crisis, so that we can implement some programs we need for the community at this difficult time,” said Bishop Paige, referring to the community development programs the church runs, which aim to empower members of society by offering job skills and helping with housing problems.

The police department also continues to be constrained by budget cuts that limit its ability to fully cleanse the community of crime. “We’ve had to spend less, and hire less,” said Capt. Hofmann. She said that just as the members of the community face economic challenges that are constantly present and obstruct their daily lives, the public should seek to understand that the police department is “not immune to the fiscal reality, which affects the way in which the community can successfully run.”

As fiscal realities continue to burden the nation, and dire shortages of resources continue to be a thorn in the police and clergy’s ability to assert justice in Harlem communities, many residents in Harlem fear that things will not change fast enough, and darker days of crime, desperation and injustice are still to come. “People keep taking things from other people,” said Hernandez. “When people don’t have, they are going to be forced to feed their families somehow.”

Greenpoint Pride Attracts Newcomers

A brisk walk along rows of vinyl-sided houses lining the street to the Nassau Avenue G train for a one-stop ride towards Church Avenue, exiting at Metropolitan Avenue, followed by a brief walk to Lorimer Street to transfer to the L Train and arrive in Manhattan along 14th street. For some, this process may seem like pulling teeth, but for many young New Yorkers, it is the reality of their daily commute from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to Manhattan.

Despite garnering a stigma of remoteness due to such travel requirements, Greenpoint has gained an ironic popularity from its location.

“Greenpoint becomes desirable because of not just what it is but what it is surrounded by,” said Oleg Lyubner, a twenty-nine-year old Greenpoint resident of six months “It is minutes from Williamsburg which is just one stop from Manhattan, and to the north is Long Island City.”

Lybner, a book publicist in Manhattan, is among the many young professionals and artists moving north of Williamsburg to settle in Greenpoint. Also known as Little Poland, Greenpoint has been home to a significant Polish population since the late 1800s. With time, however, Greenpoint has become a trendy destination for youth, and demand and economic pressures have crept into the community and pushed some natives out.

“We’re kind of losing,” said Bata Zdanowska, who has lived in Greenpoint for fifteen years “Everyone prefers to be in Poland. Immigration is cut right now because of expenses. The houses, the living.” Zdanowska and her husband raise their two children in Greenpoint, and despite fellow Polish residents leaving, maintain the Polish culture within their household.

“Saturdays they go to the Polish school where they have dance and history classes,” she explained.

For others, coming to live in Greenpoint is the first opportunity of its kind for their families. Marta Perkowska, a senior at Long Island City High School, left her family in Poland to live and study in America. “For school and maybe [a] better life,” she said. In her few years here she has noticed some dwindling of the Polish population in Greenpoint.

“There used to be a lot,” she said “Many moved to Ridgewood the reason was the houses [were] cheaper and look better.”

It seems that despite such transformation in the population, locals are embracing the new residents. “The boss has been trying to cater to the younger crowd,” said twenty-six-year old Steven Tychanski, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Poland with his family in 1972 and opened Steve’s Meat Market nine years later. Steve’s, which boasts “The Best Kielbasy in the U.S.A.” now offers chorizo, shell steak, and even chicken kielbasa  “which is not typical Polish food,” explained Tychanski, “slowly this may be more and more.”

Many Greenpoint residents, reluctant to let go of their Polish customs, will not be seeing their culture fade any time soon. “I didn’t learn Polish until a year ago, I didn’t learn it in school, and my parents never taught me,” Tchyanski said “A lot of them aren’t too friendly if you don’t speak Polish,” he added.

Yet the general attitude towards the newcomers seems positive, as Zdanowska summarized, “They’re nice, I talk to them, they like the food.”

St. Patrick’s Day in Hoboken



Washington Street spewed green this Saturday as Hoboken, New Jersey celebrated its 25th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Though the holiday falls on March 17, there was no lack of Irish spirit amidst this frenzied town.

Parties in balcony peer over Washington Street


A stroll down Washington Street at 9 a.m. revealed blocks of already crowded bars, some charging up to $50 for entrance.  With the temperature in the upper 50s, thousands set out in their short-sleeved, green apparel for the parade at 1 p.m.  A staggering man trying to give away his pizza greeted Edward Gars, a regular parade attendee and student at Rutgers University, outside Sullivan’s Bar.

Though he jokes about the increased likelihood of “ruffied” pizza, Gars enjoys the hectic atmosphere.  “Everyone makes a fool of themselves and no one cares,” said Gars.  “And I love the green pizza.”  Benny Todinos, a local pizza shop, baked green food coloring into the crust, a simple color change that results in a line extended down the block.

The enthusiasm for the parade was not limited to New Jersey inhabitants, however.  Jessica Brown, a junior at NYU, took the PATH train the night before to stay with friends in anticipation of the festivities. “I love everyone getting out on the street,” said Brown.  “From little kids with bobbing clovers on their heads, to drunken youth, all the way to the die-hard men in those awesome Irish outfits.”

Some parade goers did not reciprocate the crowd’s sentiments for the festival.  “I remember liking parades when I was younger,” said Sam Crown, a resident of Hoboken for 33 years, “but I thought it was too much for me—too noisy, too many kids drinking, and just not as enjoyable as I had hoped.”

Though opinion on the celebration is bipolarized, public drunkenness has posed a problem in Hoboken during past parades.  Mayor Dawn Zimmer imposed a “zero-tolerance” policy on public drinking, public urination, disorderliness and unruly house parties, resulting in a number of advertisements for costly apartment bathrooms.  Despite the risk of confirmed fines of up to $2000 and mandated community service, police sirens sounded throughout the day.

Handwritten advertisement for bathroom at St. Patrick's Day Parade

Christopher Edward, a senior at Stevens Institute of Technology, commented on the aftereffects of the day’s events.  His apartment complex, littered with half-empty beer bottles and shattered glass, echoed with the noise of various parties.  Despite his return impression of home being a “tad messy,” his first experience with the Hoboken parade is positive.  “It was pretty cool how everybody, even though not Irish, felt like a part of a group that had something in common,” said Edward.  “The alcohol infused atmosphere was definitely very relaxing.”

Edward’s roommate, Drew Durf, avoided street traffic by grilling sausages on his 4th floor balcony.  “I love seeing the girls dressed up, but I can’t deal with the cover charges,” said Durf.  “I can enjoy myself here for free.”