|Greenpoint Terminal Market Remaining Buildings - Looking South Down West Street|
In 1910 an estimated 2,500 rope workers emboldened by a recent strike at the American Sugar Refinery (Domino Sugar Refinery) went on strike for higher wages and rioted when they were locked out of their factory. The riots which spanned several days with women acting as shields on the front lines, while men hid behind them and hurled rocks, coal dust and anything else they could turn into a projectile at the police. At times the police fired their service revolvers into the air to keep the crowd at bay and over the course of the protest arrested fifty five men and women.
|Projection of People Climbing|
"Bring to Light" 2011 Art Festival
|Banksy at Greenpoint Terminal Market|
|Autumn Bowl - Autumn Mini (Image Source: Rose Pile)|
|61 to 73 West Street|
|Sky Bridge & Stairs|
|Greenpoint Terminal Market Interior (67 West St. Building)|
Greenpointers Holiday Market
|Greenpoint Terminal Market Fire (image source: Tim Pugh)|
I never got to know the dystopian "Forgotten City". I awoke one spring morning in early May of 2006, during my first year living in NY and looked out the large windows of my Bushwick loft to see a huge column of smoke rising from somewhere in North Brooklyn. Most of the Greenpoint Terminal Market buildings went up in the flames of a 10 alarm fire that day. I regret not exploring the ruins when I moved to within a couple of blocks of the site a few months later. The photo above was taken by local artist TM Pugh and you can find many more images of the fire in the visual archeology section of his site.
The fire, which happened under suspicious circumstances, was investigated and the blame was placed on a 59 year old Polish immigrant named Leszek Kuczera who was reportedly burning insulation off of wires in a practice known as "mungo". According to a NY Magazine article one former fire marshal said "if that was a mungo fire it was the biggest mungo fire in history". I doubt that the Polish immigrant was to blame. Kuczera, who confessed to the crime, spoke little English, was hungover the morning of his confession and later rescinded his confession with an alibi to back him up.
I am not one to buy into conspiracy theories; however, mysterious fires often follow land development and the developer who owns the Greenpoint Terminal Market (Joshua Guttman) has a sordid track record. Prior to the fire, Guttman had a four hundred and twenty million dollar deal to sell the complex fall through and the Municipal Art Society was pursuing landmark status for the entire terminal market complex. Had the Municipal Art Society succeeded, development of the Greenpoint Terminal Market would have been greatly restricted. I met a woman who lived in Joshua Guttman's artist loft building in Dumbo. I was told by her that the building was kept in non-compliance with loft regulations; so, when Guttman was ready to develop the site, likely he or one of his people called the city out to inspect the building. The city then evicted everyone due to the building's noncompliance and the tenants had to be out within hours of the eviction notice. When the tenants sued to continue living there, Guttman reportedly gave keys to at least one local homeless man, maintenance of the building ended and garbage that attracted rats was left in the common spaces. When Guttman was unable to develop the building the way he wanted, it too mysteriously went up in flames in 2004.
When a city abdicates public authority to private developers terrible things tend to happen to those who stand in the way of real estate profits. The year after the rezoning of the Brooklyn waterfront and other Brooklyn neighborhoods, fires increased by fifty percent. Many people were burned out of their homes and several people died in the wake of those fires. It is ironic that during white flight buildings were torched by owners wanting to cash out of declining neighborhoods and now buildings are torched to evict low paying tenants in some of those same neighborhoods currently on the rise.
|Greenpoint Terminal Market Panorama|
|Greenpoint Terminal Market from East River|
- Kensinger, Nathan "The Greenpoint Terminal Market Revisited" The Abanoned and Industrial Edges of New York City. Online.
- "Women Strikers Battle Police" New York Times. Online. 22nd April 1910
- Colin Moynihan "Hidden Populace Mourns Fiery Loss of Forgotten City" New York Times Online. 12 May, 2006
- "Greenpoint Terminal Market" Atlas Obscura. Online.
- Jacobson, Mark "Brooklyn is Burning" New York Magazine Online. 25 September, 2006