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Greenpoint on NY1

 

Though some say Greenpoint is the birthplace of "Brooklynese," these days the language spoken most often in the neighborhood is Polish.

Margaret Tokarski says, "All the people who come from Poland, they don't speak English. They come to Polish community because it's more convenient for them to find some language, to find some information about America."

Tokarski's bakery is in the heart of Greenpoint, where she's lived for five years. She says, "Sometimes I feel I am more in Poland than in America."

Perhaps Tokarski feels that way because there are upwards of 40,000 Poles in this Brooklyn neighborhood. So it's no surprise that we found bookstores offering familiar authors and familiar titles all translated into Polish, even such practical books like "Computers For Dummies."

But if you're hungry for food instead of knowledge, you'll find Steve's Meat Market around the corner celebrating 25 years in Greenpoint...and it has a Keilbasa for every occassion. But it was another dish that caught my nose - a potato dumpling with meat filling.

Poles aren't coming to Greenpoint for the food, but when they get here they find help from groups like the non-profit Polish and Slavic Center. Kaya Sawczuk is it's General Manager, and she says, "This is where you can receive information that you need to start your life here."

They offer classes in citizenship and English, plus they have programs that provide lunch for hundreds of seniors each day. The center also offers a credit union to help increase home ownership.

Still, most admit there's room to improve Greenpoint. Longtime resident Tadeusz Chabrowski says, "For instance, the waterfront, with its fantastic view of Manhattan...but when you're looking on our side of the waterfront it is a disaster area."

Chabrowski says the time for change is now: "For a long time Greenpoint was, I would say, half-asleep. Right now we are a lot more aware what can be done in a neighborhood like this."

And not everyone in Greenpoint is Polish. Joe Vance came here looking for a small town atmosphere. He says, "My wife and I are both from small towns in Southern Indiana, and friends of ours who lived in New York suggested we look at Greenpoint. We looked here, we came here, and now we own a house here."

So while it's not strictly Polish, you can get a taste of Poland - literally - just a stones throw from Manhattan.

- Paul Messina

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