In the northwest section of the Borough of Brooklyn in the City of New York is the neighborhood known as Greenpoint. It covers a triangular parcel of 946 acres, bounded to the north and east by Newtown Creek, to the south by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and North Seventh Street, and to the west by the East River. An early settlement on Long Island, Greenpoint has a rich history, from the Dutch era to annexation with the City of Brooklyn and consolidation to the City of New York. Since it remained backcountry land with only a few farms through the mid-nineteenth century, rail transportation was slow to arrive. Modern mass transit would not serve Greenpoint until the 1930s. However, Greenpoint became a key terminal for railroad service to Manhattan Beach in the 1870s. The following is a history of Greenpoint and a chronicle of some of its early rail service.
At one time, Greenpoint was referred to as the “garden spot of America” by the Brooklyn Eagle. One of the few Brooklyn communities to retain its original name, its story begins with the Dutch who acquired what later became Greenpoint in 1638 from Keshaechqueren Indians. The Dutch named it Green Hook for a thick growth of four-foot-high sea-green grass that extended from the East River at point a near current Freeman Street. The settlement later fell under the jurisdiction of the town and nearby village of Bushwick. The name Green Hook held until the nineteenth century, when the word was changed to point.
In the Dutch era, Green Hook was a narrow strip of land about one hundred feet long and two hundred feet wide of mostly solid rock, except for the depth of a few inches of soul just above the water. It was separated from what is now modern-day Williamsburg to the south by Bushwick Creek. The creek ran through meadows and mud flats with two deep channels and many little tributaries. Although not part of the original settlement, the neck of high ground east of the meadows and north of Meeker Avenue later became Greenpoint. To the north was a creek called Maspeth Kill, later known as Newtown Creek, whose banks rose in height and continued southeasterly into a salt marsh that formed an irregular triangle known as the Back Meadows. Its apex was at the juncture of Driggs Avenue and Humboldt Street.
In 1645, Dirck Walcottson built the first house, which was near the foot of Calyer Street west of Franklin Street. Known as Dirck the Norman, Walcottson was the head of a group of Scandinavian families who settled soon after the land was purchased. He and his family would go on to own all of Greenpoint. However, his sons later sold off the land.
Arguably, the most influential man in the history of Bushwick and Greenpoint from early settlement to annexation with the city of Brooklyn was Captain Pieter Praa, the son of Dieppe Huguenots who fled France because of religious persecution. When Praa was five years old in 1670, his family came to New England and later removed to Bushwick. He went on to live with his wife on the edge of the meadow at Freeman Street, east of Oakland Street. Among other local positions held, Praa was a captain in the militia and a magistrate. He later bought thirty acres of land in what became Long Island City and died in 1740. At the time of the American Revolution there were only five families in Greenpoint, all of them Praa decendants.
Growth of Industry in the Nineteenth Century
In the early nineteenth century Greenpoint was sparsely populated farmland witu eight farms. The only public road skirted the community’s extreme southern edge. It began at Wood Point Landing on Bushwick Creek, near Guernsey Street and Driggs Avenue and ran to Bushwick village. In fact, Greenpoint remained almost inaccessible until the 1830s. However, between 1840 and 1860 the neighborhood became an industrial center and a recognized leader in manufacturing.
The turning point followed the arrival of Neziah Bliss, an ironworker who moved to the area in 1832. He became a leading resident who surveyed Greenpoint in 1834 and later laid out streets. Meserole Avenue was the first street cut through the point and the first houses were erected during 1837 on the John A. Meserole farm. Other streets were made to connect with the adjoining communities of Williamsburgh, Bushwick, and Hunter’s Point. With Bliss’s guidance, the first public highway was opened in 1838. It crossed both Newtown and Bushwick Creeks by bridge and followed modern-day Franklin Street. Upon completion to Astoria in 1839 it was called the Greenpoint and Hallett’s Cover Turnpike. Bliss also built a foot bridge largely at his own expense across Bushwick Creek to Williamsburg.
Bliss was also responsible for other infrastructure improvements. As a steam navigation enthusiast, Bliss was acquainted with Robert Fulton and was responsible for the establishment of two ferry lines during the 1850s which offered access to Manhattan. One of these connected with East Tenth Street and the other midtown.
Another endeavor that Bliss choreographed was convincing the Brooklyn City Railroad, which was organized in December 1853, to cross over the bridge he built at Bushwick Creek, giving Greenpoint a horse-drawn rail connection to downtown Brooklyn. Service began in late-summer 1855. In early 1892, the State Railroad Commission granted the company to change the entire system’s motive power from horses to electric trolley. Shortly thereafter, there was discussion of consolidating all Brooklyn trolley lines. In 1893 the shareholders of the Brooklyn City agreed to lease the line to the Brooklyn Heights Company. After the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company was incorporated in January 1896 to improve all Brooklyn roads, it consolidated the Brooklyn Heights Company into one system.
At one time or another there were several trolley lines in Greenpoint. They included the Graham Avenue Line, the Lorimer Street Line, the Nassau Avenue Line, the Franklin Line, and the Crosstown Line. Trolleys lasted in Brooklyn until the 1950s and were replaced by bus service. Today, there are four lines that run through Greenpoint: the B24, the B32, the B43, and the B62.
Greenpoint was annexed to the city of Brooklyn in 1855. With an improved infrastructure, population increased and industry flourished. Businesses included printing, pottery, petroleum and gas refining, glass making, and iron works. In fact, the Continental Iron Works built the iron-clad Monitor of Civil War fame. Most of Greenpoint’s population was Dutch, English, or Irish until the 1880s when immigrants from Poland, Russia and Italy arrived. According to tradition, both Greenpoint and Flatbush, Brooklyn were the origin of the dialect known as Brooklynese.
Manhattan Beach Railroad
In the late nineteenth century, resort communities lined the shores of Long Island as prominent New Yorkers and Brooklynites escaped the confines of urban life to vacation in the country. Companies such as the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) provided both passenger and freight service to many beachfront destinations including Manhattan Beach. As part of a right-of-way from the East River to Manhattan Beach and other areas of Long Island, Greenpoint was a railroad terminal for the better half of a decade. The story begins with the Glendale & East River Railroad Company which was chartered in 1874 to build from Greenpoint to Manhattan Beach. As constructed between 1876 and 1877, the narrow gauge right-of-way curved southeast from the waterfront and crossed over Franklin Street and onto North Fifteenth Street. It continued in a southeasterly direction through today’s McCarren Park after which it curved eastward near the current intersection of Richardson Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The line then crossed over the South Side Railroad toward Bushwick. The original intention was to construct the road to Glendale. However, the road was bought by the New York & Manhattan Beach Railway Company and rerouted. From Bushwick, the right-of-way was continued to East New York over a route leased from the Brooklyn & Rockaway Beach Railroad. It was later built south to New Lots Road and Manhattan Beach.
The first site selected for Greenpoint Station was the E.F. Williams shipyard on West Street which extended 680 feet on Oak Street and 100 feet on West Street. Although it was considered sufficient as both a terminal and ferry dock location, the site was unable to be acquired. In its place the railroad leased two spar yards on Quay Street in February 1878 for a term of eight years at an annual rental of $6,000. The property belonged to David J. Taff and Cornelius Winant from the Cunningham estate.
Opened on May 15, 1878, Greenport Station was located between Quay Street and Bushwick Creek just west of West Street. It featured five tracks and a depot building constructed between May and July of 1878. The two-story, sixty-by-one-hundred structure was on the south side of Quay Street, north of the tracks. Also constructed in the summer of 1878 was a round house, turntable, machine shop, and sidings, on the grounds just west of West Street. The contract for the round house was awarded to F.S. Bartlett at a cost of $4,000 and built north of tracks adjacent to the depot building. One term of the property lease required the railroad to establish a ferry to New York. Consequently, on the dock head of the creek side just below the station, two ferry strips were constructed. Service ran to and from Twenty-Third Street in Manhattan.
|Station and depot building opened by the New York & Manhattan Beach Railway||May 15, 1878|
|Depot building erected||May – June 1878|
|New York & Manhattan Beach Railway leased to LIRR||December 1881|
|Depot building renovated||Spring 1884 (author’s analysis)|
|Depot building renovated||Spring 1885 (author’s analysis)|
|Depot building closed||September 28, 1885|
|Last passenger service||May 8, 1886|
|Station closed||After May 8, 1886 (author’s analysis)|
|Last freight train||1890|
On timetables effective Thursday, May 16, 1878, inaugural summer passenger service included ten trains daily to Manhattan Beach running on top of the hour between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. For the return ride back to Greenpoint, there were also ten trains leaving Manhattan Beach on top of the hour between 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. In a short time, summer getaway trains attracted more riders. In mid-August additional trains were added that bypassed way stations, stopping only at East New York on the way to Manhattan Beach. Additionally, the right-of-way was double-tracked. The new set-up not only provided more service to Manhattan Beach and to other areas of Long Island, it allowed for improved travel time.
Between May and June of 1878 a way station named Fifth Street was set up only a three-minute ride east of Greenpoint Station. The site is now within McCarren Park, just south of the park building between Bedford and Driggs Avenues. At the time, these streets were named Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street (Van Cott Avenue), respectively. The right-of-way ran in the center of Fifteenth Street and the station was south of tracks between the two streets. It is uncertain whether a depot building was constructed but the station closed after the 1879 summer season.
Fifth Street Station
New York & Manhattan Beach Railway
|Station opened||Sometime between May and June 1878|
|Station closed||September 1879|
In December 1881 New York & Manhattan Beach Railway was leased to the LIRR. When the owner of the New York & Manhattan Beach, Austin Corbin, became president of the LIRR he built the Long Island City & Manhattan Beach Railroad. In service for the summer of 1883 the right-of-way, from Fresh Pond Junction in Glendale to Cooper Avenue in Ridgewood, permitted trains to be diverted to Manhattan Beach via Long Island City and Glendale rather than Greenpoint and Bushwick. The newly constructed road to the beach was built as standard gauge to allow LIRR trains to run from Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to Manhattan Beach via East New York. However, the tracks from Greenpoint to Cooper Avenue Junction were not initially widened so the railroad maintained select shuttle service to connect with beach trains at Cooper Avenue.
For the summer season beginning May 29, 1884 the LIRR made extensive improvements to service. The roadbed from Greenpoint to Cooper Avenue was torn up and replaced with a standard gauge, single-track right-of-way. The ticket office and waiting room at the Greenpoint depot building were also refurbished and a large platform leading from the waiting room to the cars was installed.
The following year the Long Island City & Manhattan Beach Railroad Company, the New York & Manhattan Beach Railway Company, and the New York, Bay Ridge & Jamaica Railroad Company were consolidated to form the New York, Brooklyn & Manhattan Beach Railway, which was later leased to the LIRR. The Greenpoint depot building was again refurbished with an improved waiting room but this would be the last summer of service as riders preferred to travel to Manhattan Beach by way of Long Island City since ferry service at Greenpoint was discontinued at the close of the 1883 season. Another factor to make Greenpoint an undesirable terminal was a group of vagrants who made travel in the factory area near the waterfront unsafe at night. The Greenpoint depot building was closed September 28, 1885 and the last passenger trains to run to and from Greenpoint were on May 8, 1886. Freight service continued until 1890 at which time the route was abandoned and the right-of-way from the East River to South Side Crossing was removed. The route from South Side Crossing to Cooper Avenue Junction became a freight-only line known as the Evergreen Branch.
While industry declined in Greenpoint after World War II, population grew as a result of new transportation lines. The need to connect Greenpoint and Williamsburg with Queens and Manhattan, as well as the rest of Brooklyn, was more than twenty years in the making. It came to fruition as part of a cross-town subway line. The first section from Greenpoint to Long Island City opened on August 19, 1933 snd provided shuttle service to Queens Plaza where connections were made for Manhattan. One station was at Greenpoint Avenue and the other was a temporary terminus at Nassau Avenue. The remainder of the right-of-way to Borough Hall was formally opened by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on July 1, 1937 when a ten-car train loaded with city officials, civic leaders, and transit officials made a roundtrip run over the new rails from Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station to Queens Plaza.
Greenpoint is well-known for its Polish-American population. Polish parishioners flock to several Roman Catholic churches in Greenpoint including St. Stanislaus Kostka on Humboldt Street which was once visited by Pope John Paul II while he was a bishop. The growth of the Polish community began in the 1930s and was responsible for the naming of the Kosciuszko and Pulaski Bridges over Newtown Creek. One namesake is after Taeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish military tactician and volunteer in the Continental Army, who was instrumental in the American victory at Saratoga during the Revolution. The other is after Polish patriot Casimir Pulaski.
The Pulaski Bridge opened on September 10, 1954. The 6,021-foot-long Meeker Avenue Bridge, officially named the Kosciusko Bridge on July 10, 1940, opened on August 23, 1939 providing a connection between Brooklyn and Queens over the newly-constructed Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Highway (Expressway). It was the first section of the road completed, from Meeker Avenue in Greenpoint to Queens Boulevard in Woodside, and no doubt led to population growth since the automobile became the preferred method of transportation for some following World War II. The remainder of the expressway south to downtown Brooklyn and beyond was constructed after the war. The second section between the Williamsburg and Kosciuszko Bridges opened to traffic on October 14, 1950.
Today, the main commercial district is Manhattan Avenue and thanks to rezoning, the community became more residential between 1986 and 2005. Besides, residential and industrial areas there is also some parkland. Monsignor McGlorick Park on Nassau Avenue contains a monument commemorating the Monitor. McCarren Park stands on the former site of Bushwick Creek between Berry and Leonard Streets. It is named for State Senator Patrick Henry McCarren, one of Brooklyn’s most powerful Democratic leaders. He was best known for spearheading the legislative fight for the Williamsburg Bridge. There also has been ongoing efforts to cleanup Newtown Creek since the nation’s largest oil spill was discovered in 1978, leaking since the 1940s and 1950s.
 The Encyclopedia of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson (New York: New-York Historical Society, 2010), 553.
 John B. Manbeck, The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn (New York: Citizens for NYC, 2004), 143; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 553; Henry Isham Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924 (New York: Lewis Historical, 1925), 1102.
 Ibid., 1102-1103.
 Ibid., 1102-1104.
 Ibid., 1105.
 Ibid., 1102-1106; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 553.
 Ibid., 553-554; Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 1102-1007.
 Ibid., 1107; “Brooklyn City,” New York Times (1851-Current file), December 21, 1853, http://www.proquest.com; “Long Island,” New York Times (1851-Current file), August 17, 1855, http://www.proquest.com; “The Trolley for Brooklyn: Consent Given by the State Board to the Brooklyn City Company,” New York Times (1851-Current file), January 27, 1892, http://www.proquest.com; “To Buy Brooklyn Roads: Another Big Street Railroad Syndicate Formed,” New York Times (1851-Current file), December 1, 1892, http://www.proquest.com; “Brooklyn City Railroad: Its Lease to the Heights Company Ratified-Opposition,” New York Times (1851-Current file), February 16, 1893, http://www.proquest.com; “Nrws of the Railroads,” New York Times (1851-Current file), January 19, 1896, http://www.proquest.com.
 Geoff Cobb, “The Return of the Greenpoint Trolley?,” Greenpointers.com, accessed on May 20, 2016, http://greenpointers.com/2016/03/29/the-return-of-the-greenpoint-trolley/#more-65968; “Maps,” MTA.info, accessed on May 21, 2016, http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/busbkln.pdf.
 Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 1102-1106; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 553-554.
 Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 403; Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Plate 23: Bounded by Oakland Street, Meserole Street, Eckford Street, Norman Street, 15th Street, (East River) West Street, Commercial Street and Ash Street.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 1, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e2-0b56-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99; Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Vol. 6. Plate, C. [Map bound by Manhattan Ave., Leonard St., Van Cott Ave., North 14th St., Franklin St., Calyer St.; Including Lorimer St., Guernsey St., Dobbin St., Banker St., Gem St., West St., North 15th St., Quay St., Meserole Ave., Norman Ave., 2nd St., Nassau Ave., Fourth St.]” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 1, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e4-41ae-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99; Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Vol. 6. Plate, H. [Map bound by Van Cott Ave., Van Pelt Ave., Monitor St., Meeker Ave., Richardson St., Humboldt St., Conselyea St., Union Ave.; Including Jane St., Newton St., Bayard St., Frost St., Withers St., Jackson St., Skillman St., Lorimer St., Leonard St., Eckford St., Ewen St., Graham Ave., Russell St., N. Henry St.]” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 1, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e4-41b3-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99; “Branch Notes,” Trains are Fun, accessed May 19, 2016, http://www.trainsarefun.com/lirr/branchnotes.htm.
 Vincent F. Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 4, The Bay Ridge and Manhattan Beach Divisions; LIRR Operation on the Brighton and Culver Lines (Garden City, NY: Seyfried, 1984), 206-207.
 Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Plate 23”; Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 404; “Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing and History,” Trains Are Fun, accessed February 22, 2016, http://www.trainsarefun.com/lirrphotos/LIRR%20Station%20History.htm; Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 4, 207.
 “Travel, Transportation & Railroads,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 21, 1878; “Our Brighton,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 8, 1878; “Coney Island,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 13, 1878; Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 404.
 Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Vol. 6. Plate, C.”; Ibid; “Travel, Transportation & Railroads,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 10, 1878.
 Ibid., 404-407; “Preparing for Summer Travel,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 18, 1883; “Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing and History”; “Branch Notes.”
 Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 404-407; “A New Track and Cars,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 24, 1884
 “Manhattan Beach Railroad,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 20, 1885; “Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing and History”; “Branch Notes.”
 The Encyclopedia of New York City, 554; Vincent R. Kirk, “Subway Links to Transform Old Sections,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 13, 1933; “New Crosstown Subway Line is Opened: Queens Hails Mayor at Summer Hall,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 1, 1937.
 Ibid.; Manbeck, The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn, 144; “St. Stanislaus Kostka Brooklyn NY,” St. Stanislaus Kostka, accessed on May 23, 2016, http://mobile.dudamobile.com/site/ststanskostka?url=http%3A%2F%2Fststanskostka.org%2Fwordpress%2F&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dpolish%2Bcatholic%2Bchurch%2Bgreenpoint%26oq%3Dpolish%2Bcatholic%2Bchurch%2Bgree%26gs_l%3Dmobile-heirloom-serp.1.0.0j0i22i30l3.1817.9880.0.11188.8.131.52.184.108.40.2064.2741.2j9j5.16.0….0…1c.1.34.mobile-heirloom-serp..5.19.2025.2Xgeal-XY1Q#2886; “Bridge Awaits a Name: Pulaski and Newtown Creek Are Proposed in Council,” New York Times (1851 – Current file), September 11, 1954, http://www.proquest.com.
 “Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Historic Overview,” NYCRoads.com, accessed on May 25, 2016, http://www.nycroads.com/roads/brooklyn-queens; “Opening Set Today for Three Road Links: New Links in City’s Arterial System,” New York Times (1851 – Current file), October 14, 1950, http://www.proquest.com; “Bridge Linking Greenpoint Section of Brooklyn and Long Island City Is Opened,” New York Times (1851 – Current file), September 11, 1954, http://www.proquest.com; “Kosciusko Bridge is Named by Mayor: He and Bennett Tell Polish-Americans at Newtown Creek that Homeland will Live,” New York Times (1923-Current file), September 23, 1940, http://www.proquest.com; Mathieu, “New $5,500,000 Bridge Which Will Be Opened Today,” New York Times (1851 – Current file), August 23, 1939, http://www.proquest.com.
 The Encyclopedia of New York City, 554; Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss, Brooklyn by Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges, and More Got Their Names (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 24.