Saturday June 2 2012
The phenomenon of hipsters clashing with Hasidic Jews in well-past-trendy (but still Hasidic) Williamsburg in Brooklyn* has been well documented and much ironised.** It’s still a sight to see, though.
Right now it’s interesting to see what happens when the hipsters’ older and less hip counterparts (or selves?) move into neighbouring Greenpoint to settle and – inadvertently – to interact with the denizens of that classic riverside Polish enclave.
Apart from the fact that everyone can agree pierogi and Zywiec are awesome, the short answer is: 1) Grumpier (even than usual) landlord Poles and business owners, cleaning up (financially, at least), 2) A more or less equal ratio of tight white jeans with gold bits to rolled-up pistachio and mustard coloured jeans, and 3) Drunk people of all kinds, including ample representation from the Voddied Old Man demographic.
As my new friend Paul, who grew up there in the 1950s explains, ‘Brooklyn was a pretty tough place when I was a kid. People lived behind barricades – physical and psychological. It wasn’t hard to get popped if you weren’t careful.’ Do I need to explain that now the popping is just as likely to be of the champagne cork/new mortgage variety?
Likewise the salty Red Hook, nearby, which once served as the dockside location for such filmic gritfests as On The Waterfront and the ‘50s-set Last Exit to Brooklyn (a personal obsession) and is today a vegetable shopping and cute sailor-themed-bar mecca, as well as the home of the superb Brooklyn Crab restaurant(3 hour wait) – saved for now, for a while, by not being on the subway.
The endless rolling waves of neighbourhood occupation by successive groups of pioneer immigrants, artists/GPI*** reps, gentrifiers, Starbuckers and condo developers is the story of New York, perhaps more so than any other part of America. Immigration itself is the story of America, and the story it tells itself over and over again, too.
For this reason, my favourite of the 20 museums I’ve seen this month is the Tenement Museum in the once-teeming-with-new-arrivals (and yes, still hip) Lower East Side. It’s an astonishing and highly successful example of telling ‘small’ history through a single, un-renovated multi-family dwelling and the stories of the real families who lived there, and I was far from the only person who got a bit Irish on the (Irish family) tour that day. It was the tiny white coffin that did it, be warned.
I think I miss my kids.
Want to figure out what NYC neighbourhood is for you? This is a superbly time-wasting site from New York Magazine with which to wallpaper your relocation fantasy (but not dampen your jonesing for the city, be warned). I get Brooklyn every time. Oh, wait, that’s a filthy lie. I get Brooklyn every time I make money an object.
*Today, it resembles nothing so much as the Haight in San Francisco or the so-called lower Cuba ‘Precinct’ which – to spell it out – is to say, faux ‘funky’, resplendent with shops peddling drug paraphernalia/shops pretending to be coffeeshops in Amsterdam, and devoid of whatever made it so…whatevs…in the first place.
**See, for example, the website Hipster or Hasid or the excellent book, What Was the Hipster?
***Gay Property Index (Not as useful for covert upcoming neighbourhood spotting as the Closeted Gay Property Index.)
Here’s a song for anyone trying to break out of their little world: