New York is a destination as loved as hated in the community of cabin crew in my company. Capital of the world, the city that never sleeps. You can fly there 10th time and still you won’t get bored. But to get there, first you have to spend 13 hours in a huge Airbus A380, loaded with the passengers to the last seat. Flight, to mildly put it, isn’t the easiest one.
Looking for Polishness
For me personally, it was a 4th time in the Big Apple. Each of them was undoubtedly worth the hard work on board. This time I didn’t have problems what to do neither. I went into the city in search of Polishness. Direction – Greenpoint – Polish neighborhood, known by New Yorkers as Little Poland, located in northern Brooklyn.
20 minute subway ride to the other side of the East River separating Manhattan from Queens and Brooklyn, and hear I am. Excited I leave dirty subway on Greenpoint Avenue station (yes, Warsaw has only one and a half lines, but at least we put more attention on quality then quantity;) ). I begin to watch for Polish signs. Literally not even a minute passes, and on the other side emerge Bakery Rzeszowska and Księgarnia Literacka.
I enter and with self-confidence and a smile from ear to ear, I say dzień dobry! (good morning). Simple sentence, and I’m happy as little child. Joy reaches its zenith when, in response I hear the same thing! I know that you’ll now think of me, at best, as a positive fool, but for me a Polish accents, somewhere so far away from home are like honey on my heart :)
With a short chat, I learnt that Ms. Renata comes from Podkarpacie (Polish region). She emigrated to New York in the early ’90s. In addition to the bakery, Ms. Renata also cleans office buildings in Manhattan. Like other Poles with whom I spoke there, he states that one job wouldn’t be enough to survive in New York.
I’m going further. At the corner of Manhattan Avenue and historical Kent street, I pass Mięso i Wędliny (meat and hams), the Office of Attorney and a Polish deli Green Farms Supermarket, where the entire range of products are Polish. From water Nałęczowianka by Krakus cans to Wedel sweats.
I get to the next bakery Old Poland Bakery. Behind the counter a young girl also from Podkarpacie, which came 4 years ago and now began to study pharmacy. As it turns out, coming to the US even with a diploma it’s very difficult for a work permit. And people working in the black market are condemned to the lowest-paid jobs. So, my interlocutor, her diploma from Poland, must support with the local.
The food stores is so busy that you can’t even talk n calm. So I’m heading to the bookstore Księgarnia Literacka, rightly hoping that on Tuesday morning I won’t meet there crowds of customers.
“The last dance” of Polish Greenpoint
From ms. Ania, working there, I learnt that nowadays Polishness in Greenpoint is close to the end. How would the experts say, the district passes gentrification, which means is changing its character. From where even two decades ago was dominated by factories, now becomes trendy neighborhood. Different sorts of artists started to coming who transform the old factory on their ateliers. Next to Polish points are being open new cafes and pubs. Little Poland is close to the heart of the city, so it’s also settled, first of all, by New Yorkers slaughtered by high rents in Manhattan.
It all contributed to an increase of rents in the neighborhood. So those who are not the owners of the properties the live in, are forced to move out. Indeed on the street often I heard Polish language, but mostly from the mouth of the older generation, whose time of arrival to New York dates back to the 70s. Then, where live the majority of Polish community today?
The new Polish district
I was directed to the Ridgewood district in Queens. While reaching to the subway station Fresh Pond Road, I hear a young Polish girl talking on the phone in their native language. I became convinced that I’m in the right place.
On the streets not less Polish signs. Kefirek Deli, financial cooperative Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union, the office of Radio Maria. And pass them mothers with children, youth. It’s estimated that lives here around 15-20 thousands of Poles.
Here as well, for a little chat, I went to the bookstore, where in addition to the purchase of books and music (Polish of course), you can also rent a movie. Nice lady, about 50 years old, wrongly believing that she looks bad on pictures, didn’t allow me to take her a photo.
As she told me, about 15 years ago Ridgewood was dominated by Latinos and didn’t have a good reputation. Poles buying here real estate, opening restaurants, stores, financial cooperatives, “they raised up the district”.
End of Little Poland?
Is the outflow of New York’s Polish community from Greenpoint to Ridgewood marks the end of Little Poland? I don’t think so. Americans settling there in place of the Poles, likes the multicultural character of neighborhood. It’s certainly something more “cool”, something more original going to Polish restaurant, buying Polish ham and sausage than passing the next Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.
Short reportage youcan watch here :)