Tag Archives: Firehouse 101 Novel

9/11 Memorial

Day One Hundred and Seventy-Four: 9/11 again

Today is the 19th anniversary of 9/11. We just got back from the 9/11 Memorial for Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and it still reminds me of that morning when I was still living in California. I still can’t believe that 19 years have gone by in the blink of an eye.

I have students who were not even born when it happened or I have to hear “I was in elementary school when that occurred’. That is surreal for me. Everyone generation has their moment. Our’s was 9/11.

In memory of that day I have enclosed the beginning of my novel “Firehouse 101” and the events that lead the main character, Alex Livingston, to return to New York City. This book can be found on the IUniverse.com website and can be purchased through that site, Barnes & Nobel, Amazon.com or any online book store.

This book is dedicated to my best friend, Ahilya Mangroo, who survived the falling of the towers that day by having to go to a doctor’s appointment in the City first before she had to go to the office that morning.

To Ahilya:

The Introduction of my novel “Firehouse 101”

                   September 11th, 2001

                             3:30 am

There were fifteen hundred Japanese business people and their families in Waikiki this week. The Singi Group, an Internet company was meeting at The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Honolulu. Alex Livingston had been on the job all day and it looked like he was going to be there through the night and into the next morning. He had a thousand goody bags to finish by 7:00 am and he and the staff had to set them up for an early morning breakfast pick-up. The goody bags were filled with many little gifts for the employees as a token of appreciation for their hard work. The Singi Group staff was a trying bunch. Their demands had been exhausting from the start and the staff had been on their toes since their Friday arrival. Alex was accustomed to this as he had worked in the casino industry before moving to Hawaii and was used to the demands of the high rollers.

Marriott Waikiki at night

Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa 9/11/2001

The silver goody bags had to be folded in a particular way and their ribbons had to be tied a certain way. The group’s meeting planner, who had yelled at the staff in both Japanese and English on how these bags should look, had supervised the first five hundred bags. After she finished yelling, she showed Alex and his staff how to do it and watched the next couple hundred being made in front of her. It annoyed Alex that any client would sit in his kitchen to watch what he did this early in the morning.

When Alex finished helping with the last of the goody bags, a few of the staff headed to the hallway to help the banquet set up crew get the early morning breakfast buffet finished.  A special set up had been arranged with the flowers positioned in a way that guests would believe it brought good luck. At 3:30 am, all Alex could think about was the good luck he would have when this group checked out at the end of the week. Thursday could not come fast enough for Alex.

“Yo, Cuz!” Maka yelled from down the hall, “We’re all done outside. The banquet people are done and the captain is setting up.”  Maka was Alex’s lead Room Service Captain. “Maka, can you help me with these bags? We have to get them outside,” Alex yelled back. In the distance, the staff could hear several Japanese businessman in the bar yelling at the television set. They were finishing watching a sporting event that had been taped for them by the hotel. Others had arrived late from Tokyo and had been drinking through the night.

The bar had technically closed a few hours earlier but it was kept open by the hotel for the convenience of their arriving guests. The bar manager had left in a huff an hour earlier. Since Alex had to stay until six in the morning to help banquets get the tour guests out, he had said he’d stay and watch the group. Alex went in the bar every half hour to check on them. They were having a grand old time watching the end of the game and watching another channel that was being broadcast from the East Coast, so Alex felt he had nothing to worry about.

The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

As he helped the staff get the goody bags out, Maka and Robert (the other Room Service Captain), spoke with Alex about Maka’s son’s first birthday party, which had been the week before. “You know, Cuz,” Robert said to Maka, “you should have had more food. You ran out.” Maka turned to Robert and said, “My mom did not expect thirty extra people at the party. She should have though, more people always show up for these events.” “Your mom can cook, Cuz,” Alex said, “I always enjoy going to your house.” Alex had been there a few times over the last year and a half. Ordinarily Alex would not have gotten this close to his staff members in the past, but he had worked with this group for over three years, so they felt more like family.

Alex had been Room Service Manager for the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on Waikiki Beach since he had moved from Las Vegas over three years earlier. A co-worker friend had recommended him for the job when Alex tired of casino life. The high rollers wore him down and he never really liked the tacky glitz of the city even though he had lived there for almost five years. There had been a big Polynesian population living and working in Las Vegas while he was there, driven there by better paying jobs and a lower cost of living. Most worked in the hospitality industry. His friend, Sean, had recommended Alex for the job in Waikiki when Sean’s cousin moved to Las Vegas. Alex jumped at the chance to get off the mainland and as far from his family as possible. In time, his staff at the hotel he become his surrogate family.

“Yo, Alex. Stop daydreaming!” Robert yelled as he and two of the other room service servers brought the goody bags out. Alex could still hear the loud shouts of the Japanese businessman in the distance. At least someone was having fun, he thought. Some of the early morning staff walked by Alex on their way to work and nodded hello. They looked just as tired as he did.

“Alex, how long you been here?” Maka asked. “Since 2:00 pm yesterday, when they threw a last minute box lunch meal at us and I had to help the Banquet Manager,” Alex replied exhaustedly. He had worked non-stop since he had walked in that afternoon and had not even realized the time until it was way after midnight. “Go home after breakfast,” Maka said. “I am, Cuz, I am,” Alex answered. Alex had slowly picked up the local dialect, “Pidgin” English, over time much to the disgust of his father. His father would yell at him on his visits home and tell him to stop speaking like an uneducated islander. Alex never realized it until it was pointed out to him while he was talking to another employee.

It took fifteen minutes to get the tables organized. Finally Alex, Maka and Robert could relax. The three other servers were now assisting the banquet staff with the remainder of the set up. “So Cuz,” Maka asked Alex, “are you going home for Christmas this year?” “No way,” Alex remarked, “I no deal with that.” “Don’t you miss them?” Maka asked, never understanding why in the three years he knew Alex he never went home for the holidays. ‘Too busy’ was Alex’s usual answer but he quietly answered “Sometimes.”

Alex had a strained relationship with his family that had started in his childhood. He always felt that his older sister Lisa, seven years his senior, had gotten everything while he got the leftovers and hand me downs. He adored his mother, a jovial and hardworking C.P.A., (who ran her own business out of New Haven, Connecticut), but he realized that she harbored her own secrets about her family. Like her son, she rarely talked to her own immediate family. What kept Alex from going home was the constant insisting of his father on how he should make something of his life and becoming an investment banker like himself and other members of his family. Alex Senior, as he was known, did not want his son in the hotel industry.

Alex Senior was constantly on his son’s back about his joining the firm and making some real money. He understand neither his son’s dropping out of Penn State to go to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, nor his fascination with the hotel industry. “It’s horrible pay, lousy hours and dealing with picky people,” his father would say. “It’s never dull,” Alex would say, “I get to travel and the money will come as I move up the ladder.” Whose fault was it anyway? Alex would think to himself. His father had taken the family on two foreign vacations a year from the time Alex could walk until he transferred colleges. Alex and his sister, Lisa, even in the lean years that the family experienced, had now been around the world five times.

It had always fascinated Alex how the hotels where they stayed worked. Every chance he got, Alex would peak behind closed doors. His biggest thrill was when he was ten. While the rest of the family stayed by the pool, the General Manager himself escorted Alex on a tour of the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. The General Manager was impressed that someone so young would be interested in his hotel. Getting to see how the hotel worked, who cooked the food and cleaned the rooms plus the rich history of the hotel drew Alex in. After that, Alex wanted to work in the hospitality industry.

“Besides, I hate snow,” Alex continued getting out of his daydream, “I like Christmas when its 86 degrees and can go swimming in the middle of the winter. Don’t believe people when they say they want a ‘White Christmas’. Who the hell wants to shovel all that snow? In addition, I would rather sing, ‘Mele Kalikmaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day’ than ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’. Bing Crosby probably never shoveled snow before.” Maka started to sing, “Mele Kalikmaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day” as Alex and Robert joined in on the second chorus. They were laughing their heads off as the rest of the staff joined in. It was 3:45 am.

Singing ” Mele Kalikimaka”

As the group of six was singing, there was a commotion in the bar and then a scream from one of the banquet captains. “What’s going on now?” Robert asked. “Mouse?” Alex asked. “Mouse,” Maka answered. The banquet captain ran out of the bar area into the hallway where everyone was working and hollered, “Everyone get in here. The World Trade Center in New York was just hit by a plane!” “What the hell?” Alex said.

Everyone scrambled into the bar to see the crowd glued to the television. Smoke was billowing from one of the towers and the television reporter had no idea what was going on. Maybe it was a military aircraft like the one that hit the Empire State Building fifty years ago, Alex thought. The reporter was rambling so fast that no one could understand what had just happened. The restaurant manager ran into the bar with his staff. They were also setting up for the onslaught of breakfast patrons that would be dining with them in two hours.

9/11

Watching the events unfold on Honolulu time at the bar

About forty people were now glued to the television and nothing was being done. Alex thought of his sister and father, who were both working on nearby Wall Street. It was now almost 9:00 am in New York. They were probably in their offices at this point, on the phone, having their morning coffee. He debated calling home but could not take his eyes off the television. He stood there like everyone else, transfixed by the horror he witnessed.

For the next ten minutes, there was the clamor of English, Japanese and Hawaiian being spoken so rapidly that it was unintelligible. Then it happened. In front of some forty people, the second plane hit the other tower. The whole crowd went silent as the explosion tore through the building. Some people started to shout and run out of the bar. Others stood stunned, not knowing what to do.

To the shock of everyone at the bar that morning another plane hit the towers

Some of the women started to cry and quickly were followed by some of the men. People made desperate cell phone calls to loved ones. Alex grabbed his cell phone and called his sister’s apartment in Manhattan but there was no answer. He then called his father’s office but again no answer. He then tried to call his mother, but by 9:30 am, she was probably stuck in traffic some where between Milford and her office in downtown New Haven. Alex did not know what to do, so he went back to the bar to wait with the other people.

Everyone in the room was either talking on cell phones, watching television or downing the complimentary drinks that the bartender was now handing out. This was no time to be sober, one man said. By 5:00 am, more people had entered the bar. Before anyone could say anything, suddenly there was a roar heard on the television. Everyone fell silent again. Tower One was collapsing in front of them. For a split second, there was silence in the bar, no one moved and no one said a word. Then people panicked, workers and guests started to run out of the room. Maka and Robert watched Alex’s face pale in horror and they ran over to console him. In disbelief, Alex started to run out of the room too.

“Where you going?” yelled a bewildered Maka. “I’m going to the General Manager’s office. I have to call my mother!” Alex stopped for a moment. His staff tried to console him and calm him. It did not work. There was a second rumbling and he watched the second tower collapse. No one could console Alex; they were in shock themselves. Alex raced out of the bar to the office without looking back. It was now 5:40 am Honolulu time.

September 15th, 2001

                                                    3:00PM

Planes were finally able to leave the islands and frightened tourists looked over their shoulders at the Honolulu Airport. There was no use singling out anyone with dark skin because the whole airport had a tan and no one was in the mood for jokes. Security was extremely tight. In newspapers around the world, everyone saw a photograph taken by Bob Hakamoto, a journalist with The Honolulu Advertiser. He had been on vacation with his family, getting ready to go to the observation deck of the Trade Center with his family when tragedy struck.

 Sending his family away to meet him later at the South Street Seaport, he ran around taking pictures of the towers and of the firefighters racing to the scene. Soon before Tower One fell; he snapped a picture of two firefighters assisting three frightened ladies that needed help leaving the tower. Not five minutes later, Bob ran for his life as the tower started to collapse. His picture depicting the bravery of these two firemen from New York was published all over the world as a symbol of the good in man. Because of a mistake in communication by cell phone, the picture was titled “Heroes save women and many others as Building Seven falls.” No one knew who the firefighters were or if they had died that day.

The famous Bob Hakamoto photograph in the Honolulu Advertiser on 9/12/2001

September 28th, 2001

                                                     1:00 pm

Alex’s girlfriend, Alice Fallon (or as she was called behind her back, Princess Alice) told him that as a class project, she was having the kids of her second grade class each write a letter and make a poster for the firefighters who helped those women. Alex’s mother had told him that his cousin, a fire chief in Connecticut, said that many firefighters had lost their lives that day, so he was not sure the two of them were alive. He told Alice that it was still a good idea as it might cheer some of the guys up.

Alice Fallon, Alex’s girlfriend, was the great-great grandniece of Queen Lili’uokalani and a member of the Hawaiian Royal Family

January 18th, 2003      

3:30 pm

Alex walked across a quiet courtyard and up the stairs to the pool area to drop off some paperwork. He waved over to some bored co-workers at the front desk who were yawning. They waved back. It was quiet at the hotel and now that Christmas was over, it was getting quieter.  Alex only had about ten orders that day and for the past year had not seen much of his staff. They only checked in to see if hotel occupancy had increased.

Waikiki Marriott

The resort over a year later

You can read parts of the book online at the IUniverse.com website or order the book to see how the story unfolds.

My novel “Firehouse 101” is available for sale online or can be ordered through any bookstore.

https://www.iuniverse.com/BookStore/BookDetails/101408-FIREHOUSE-101

https://www.amazon.sg/Firehouse-101-Justin-Watral/dp/0595367712

https://books.apple.com/us/book/firehouse-101/id512590359

Articles on my novel:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/heights-fire-fighter-justin-watrel-promotes-his-firstede42418c1

https://www.tapinto.net/articles/local-aspiring-authors-shine-at-hasbrouck-heights

Justin Watrel promoting his book “Firehouse 101” after the Brooklyn Book Festival 2011

Author Justin Watrel

Day One Hundred and Eleven: Participating in Pump Operations Class with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department May 18th-20th, 2018

I put aside “MywalkinManhattan” for the weekend to concentrate of Pump Operations Classes that was sponsored by the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. I have been a Volunteer Firefighter for thirteen years (as of June 12th) and this is one of of the many classes I have taken over the years.

First off, I am hardly ‘Joe Fireman’. Most of my friends wanted to know why ‘preppie’ me wanted to be a fireman. The answer to that was easy. I think it had always been a part of me. At a young age, I used to look up to the firemen who used to come visit us in elementary school. Then it was looking at the Richard Scary comics on professions that you might want to be when you got older. I remember looking at the artist, chef and fireman motifs on the cats and wondering what they would all be like (which I do and have done all three).

9/11 changed a lot for me. When I was working in Monterey, California during the tragic events of that day, I saw the bravery and dedication in the guys on the FDNY had and all the volunteers that came the days after. I wrote about my fears and triumphs in my novel, “Firehouse 101” (IUniverse.com 2005). It was funny that just as I was publishing the book, I joined the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ as a member. Here I am thirteen years later still dragging myself out of bed all the time for calls.

Getting back to Pump Operations Training,  this was the first time I ever really learned how to do this. I had seen it on drills but not to this detail where we talked about hose connections, velocity of pressure of the hose and drafting. This was a combination of both lecture and practical and we participated in hooking everything up to the engine and how to turn the equipment on and off.  The second of practical, we drafted water into the engine from a local pond to learn how to get the pressure, pull water from a water source and how to flow it through the engine to the fire.

Pump Class Group Shot

It was a three day eye-opener that got the ‘light-bulb’ in my head moving to how the operation worked and the cause and effects of water to the source of the fire.

I swear, you never stop learning in life.

The Manhattan skyline from Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Day Fifty: Walking Tour of with Trina Morris and F.I.T. of Greenpoint, Brooklyn July 23rd, 2016

*Blogger wants to note that the blog was updated in 2020. Many stores and restaurant have either closed or changed hands since this tour.

My second “Talk & Tour” class with the Fashion Institute of Technology took me on a full day tour of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Many of my classmates had been on the Bushwick tour with me two weeks earlier plus a group of out-of-towners. How people down South find these obscure walking tours in New York City is beyond me. Even I had to get the FIT catalog from school. What made this tour interesting was that my family lived here when they first came to this country at the turn of the last century and both my Grandmother and Grandfather on my father’s side lived here until the 1960’s.

Our Instructor for the day was Trina Morris, whom I have taken many walking tours with which covered DUMBO, Carroll Gardens, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and finally Boerum Hill at a time when I was writing my first book, “Firehouse 101” (See IUniverse.com for details on the book), which was set primarily in Boerum Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods.

I had used the walking tour to get a better feel for the neighborhood and after the tour was over that weekend back in 2002 came back to the neighborhood about 18 times over the course of writing the book to see the changes. Since writing my first novel, all of these areas have changed tremendously with gentrification  All of Brooklyn just keeps changing. Trina seemed thrilled that I had an autographed copy of the book ready for her on the subway ride over.

Getting to Greenpoint is not the easiest trip. We had to take the C Train from school and then transfer to the L Train (recent college train) to the G Train to get to the heart of Greenpoint. Unlike Debbie’s tour a few weeks earlier, Trina’s tour deals with going to all the best stores and restaurants whereas Debbie’s tour concentrated more on art work and talking with owners opening new businesses. Both tours showcased the neighborhoods beautifully but there were times I felt like quite the tourist. Especially when the locals looked at us like we were from Mars. I felt that way when we were in Bushwick as well as the local residents looked perplexed on why we would walk around their neighborhood.

Greenpoint Brooklyn II

Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Our tour started at the G stop on Manhattan Avenue and Greenpoint Avenue, the furthest point you can get into Greenpoint from Manhattan. From there we walked down Greenpoint Avenue and turned right two blocks away to Franklin Avenue. Franklin Avenue has been one of the shopping areas of Greenpoint for years but now newer residents are putting an upscale swing to it with boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and clothing stores giving the street a nice mix of old and new merchants.

When I did a tour of the neighborhood, I stopped at Old Polish Bakery at 926 Manhattan Avenue for a doughnut. The selection of baked products look really good but word of advice. They must do their baking early in the morning because the doughnut was dried out (see TripAdvisor review).

Old Polish Bakery

Old Polish Bakery at 926 Manhattan Avenue

Our first stop on the tour was Zoe’s Beauty Products Salon & Spa at 119 Greenpoint Avenue. This beauty spa has a full line of men’s and woman’s products as well as get a full day pampering. Take time to look at all their products as they have a full line of merchandise for every need. A very nice shop with friendly service and a good selection.

Zoe's Beauty Products

Zoe’s Beauty Products and Salon at 119 Greenpoint Avenue

Our second stop on the tour was at Budin Coffee Shop at 114 Greenpoint Avenue, a beautifully designed store with wooden shelves and an open bar. Budin is what TV would call a ‘hipster’ shop but the service was friendly and they did make a mean iced tea. They have a nice selection of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Budin Coffee Shop

Budin Coffee Shop at 114 Greenpoint Avenue (now closed)

Check out their gift area as well. There is some unusual items. What was nice too was they let us use the bathroom and for that I give them a big thumbs up (see TripAdvisor Review).

Budin Coffee Shop II

Budin Coffee Shop is very trendy inside (now closed)

Our next stop on the tour was a small clothing store named ‘In God We Trust’ at 129 Bedford Avenue, which has a respectable line of casual wear. This biggest observation that I have found in clothing stores in these so called ‘hipster’ neighborhoods is that you can not find a size over 30 inches and a large for men.

In God We Trust

In God We Trust at 129 Bedford Avenue (Now Closed)

It’s like shopping at Bloomingdale’s today. They don’t want to sell to anyone who is not 5:5 and a waist of 30 inches.  Even though the selection was interesting I’m not sure who they were buying for in the neighborhood.

In God We Trust II

Inside “In God We Trust” (now closed)

A fun shop that we quickly went though was the East River Skate Shop at 86 Greenpoint Avenue. They had an interesting line of tee-shirts with unique prints and even though I am not into skateboarding, their line of skateboards would attract any adult interesting in trying the sport.

East River Skate Shop

East River Skate Shop at 86 Greenpoint Avenue (Now Closed)

Walking to the end of Greenpoint Avenue facing the East River is the most beautiful view of Manhattan that had been hidden all these years behind factories. These factories today are becoming lofts, studios and restaurants with a bar called ‘Barge’ that was very active that afternoon. I was amazed on how busy the place was considering it was the middle of the afternoon. On the sunny clear day that is was it had the most spectacular views of Manhattan and a nice soundtrack going.

Also, at the end of Greenpoint Avenue is WNYC Transmitter Park along Greenpoint Avenue, which shares the same views as ‘Barge’ and they show films there on Friday nights. They were setting up for the new ‘Star Wars’ film the night I was there and expecting a pretty big crowd. The park has beautiful views of Midtown around 34th Street. It has a nice smell of salt air as well. Frankly it could use a good weeding.

WNYC Transmitter Park

WNYC Transmitter Park

We turned the corner onto Franklin Avenue,  which is where most of the gentrification is taking place. I was able to tour the neighborhood about a week later to get a better feel for it and Greenpoint is still a neighborhood, not unlike Bushwick, that is still in transition. Many of the old residents still make their home here and you still see it on the upper reaches of Manhattan Avenue, where a sizable Hispanic population still lives for now and on the lower parts of street where a sizable Polish population still lives.

Franklin Avenue is where everyone is moving in. The block faces, along with West Street, the East River where the views of Manhattan are priceless. West Street is where all the former factories and warehouses are located which is quickly being replaced by studios, stores and small factories where the new residents live and work.

When visiting the American Playground between Nobile and Milton Streets, you can see the rapid change in the population with men in their 20’s playing basketball and young mothers with their small children having play dates. It was a mostly white crowd that differed from other parks that I visited in the neighborhood.

American Playground

American Playground on Franklin Street

On the way up to lunch, we stopped at Word Bookstore at 126 Franklin Avenue that has a great selection of independent and commercial authors and they had several local book signings set up. Its a small store with a depth to their selection and the staff is very friendly.

Word Bookstore

Word Book  Store at 126 Franklin Avenue

We then toured You & Yours Vintage Shop at 77 Franklin Street (Now Closed) and People of Tomorrow Consignment Shop at 66 Franklin Street (Now Closed) both offering a nice selection of clothing and accessories for the person and the home. You really have to know what you are looking for when visiting these shops because the merchandise is rather unique. What’s nice is that I found the service both here and at other stores on Franklin to be very personal and welcoming.

Lunch that afternoon took us to Brooklyn Label at 180 Franklin Street (changed hands since my visit there). As the kids say, OMG, this restaurant was incredible. The food was French Bistro and the brunch menu had a good selection of both breakfast and lunch items at very reasonable prices and the portion sizes were huge.

Brooklyn Label

Brooklyn Label at 180 Franklin Street

I had a Croque Monsieur ($12.00) that was out of this world. The sandwich was huge and the Gruyere cheese had a sharpness and twang to it. It was served with a kale salad that had a delicious dressing and the French Fries were cooked perfectly. The sandwich was filled with so much ham and cheese that I could barely finish it. The meal was so big I had no room for some of their delicious sounding desserts. The service was friendly and flawless. This is a definite on anyone’s list when dining in Greenpoint (see review on TripAdvisor. I gave them an Excellent).

Brooklyn Label II

The inside of Brooklyn Label

The food and the company made the meal perfect. It was nice getting to know the people I toured with that afternoon. Some of them had such interesting backgrounds and personal stories from bankers to lawyers to nannies, all of them had a story to tell.

Porter James

Porter James Vintage Furniture at 116 Franklin Avenue

After lunch our shopping trip had us zig-zagging along Franklin Street. We stopped at Pas Mal and Pip Squeak Chapeau at 99 Franklin Street to look at their clothing lines, Porter James, a home furnishing store at 116 Franklin Street. It carries a lot of 1960’s furniture. We also visited Adaption at 109 Franklin Street to look at more vintage furniture.

Pip Squeak Chateau

Pip Squeak Chapeau/Pas Mal at 99 Franklin Street

Adapations

Adaptions Vintage Furniture at 109 Franklin Street

We stopped at the seafood store Little Neck Outpost at 128 Franklin Street, which had food for sale and lots of gifts and snacks as well. They had also have a selection of hot foods to take home.

Little Neck Outpost

Little Neck Outpost at 128 Franklin Street

On my own part of the tour, I went further up on Franklin Street to Commercial Street where the warehouses are giving way to condos and views of Manhattan and Long Island City, which was once thought to be the next SoHo.

Greenpoint Playground at 243 Franklin Street attracted the most diverse amount of children and had beautiful views of the skyline. In a few years, I predict this will be the ultimate Yuppie park as condos and renovations are taking place in the buildings surrounding the park.

Greenpoint Playground

Greenpoint Playground at 243 Franklin Avenue

Manhattan Avery Park (Newton Barge Park) at 37 Commercial Street has some of the best views of Newton Creek’s boating and sailing docks and some unique art work along the fences. Newton Creek is currently being cleaned up so much more activity is going on this side of the neighborhood as well as new condos, restaurants and an ice cream shop have opened here.

Newton Barge playground

Newton Barge Park & Playground at 37 Commercial Street

This is the tip of the neighborhood and there is a lot of renovations going on in the old factories and warehouses. Give it less than three years and this whole area will be luxury lofts. With the views of the city and access to many small pocket parks, this will become a very desirable area to move to in the future. I walked across Commercial Street back down Manhattan Avenue on the upper part of the neighborhood and you are starting to see the transformation of the neighborhood from Hispanic to a younger white crowd with more restaurant and bars opening up on this part of the neighborhood. There are still many reasonable Spanish restaurants to give a try that look quite good.

I took a detour for a snack at Franklin Pizza at 109 Franklin Street (see review on TripAdvisor) on the way back down. This slices here are nice sized and at $2.50 are a little pricey in current New York terms but the pizza is full of flavor and their sauce is delicious. It is the perfect blend of old and new neighborhood as everyone eats here and it is a good gathering place for neighborhood gossip as I found out.

Franklin Pizza

Franklin Pizza at 109 Franklin Street

Our last store in this part of the neighborhood was Flying Squirrel at 87 Oak Street, a  great little consignment store of clothes, toys and furniture for young children. The place was alive with activity as the kids seem to dominate in this store.  The owner, Kate Schmitz, was really nice and explained her concept of the store to me, mixing brand new and consignment goods to attract the young families moving into the neighborhood. She also has a nice line of books as well. It is a great rainy day store for families.

Flying Squirrel

Flying Squirrel at 87 Oak Street

We then took a turn in the block and walked down Oak Street to Guernsey Street to Meserole Street to the main shopping area of the Polish side of the neighborhood on lower Manhattan Avenue. Here we got to try two of the most well-known businesses in the Polish neighborhood, Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop at 727 Manhattan Avenue and Polka Dot Café at 726 Manhattan Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor).

Peter Pan Donut Shoppe

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop at 727 Manhattan Avenue

Peter Pan’s doughnuts are some of the best I have ever had. Who could make a choice? I ended up eating three doughnuts because they looked so good. I had their apple filled doughnut with a white icing, a crème filled doughnut and a glazed doughnut. It put a damper on my dinner plans but like the kids say OMG they were so good. This is one store you can not miss when visiting Greenpoint. I had heard about them for years but never realized how good the doughnuts were for munching.

Peter Pan Donut Shop

The Donuts at Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop are the Best!!

The other store we visited was Polka Dot Café,  Polish gourmet shop, that has now reinvented itself into both a gourmet shop for Polish food and a small café where you can order food. Trina had arranged for us to try some blueberry dumplings that were cooked perfectly and were delicious. I was able to down a few of them on top of the doughnuts.

Polka Dot Cafe

Polka Dot Cafe at 726 Manhattan Avenue

I was so impressed by the food that I doubled back after the tour was over and on top of everything else I ate I had chicken meatballs and a type of pancake that was filled with meat with a flavored ice tea. That chicken meatball made me proud to be part Polish and the food and the service was just excellent. I think the ladies got a kick that I was so happy with the food.

Polka Dot Cafe II

The Polish gourmet treats at Polka Dot Cafe

We all said our goodbyes by the subway as most of the people in my tour went back to Manhattan via the subway at Nassau Street. It was nice meeting everyone and Trina is a good tour guide. I am hoping that she arranges a tour of Bed-Sty next.

My last stop of the day was Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish at 607 Humboldt Street, a Polish Catholic Church that my Great-Grandmother Rock had raised money to help build at the turn of the last century. What a beautifully detailed church that my Aunt Dee later said she had been baptized in along with several great aunts and uncles had been married there. This had been our family church when my family lived in the neighborhood.

St. Saintislaus Church II

The inside of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish

I stayed for the 5:30pm mass and almost cried through the service knowing how important this church was to our family and what a big part it played in our lives. It was a nice service and the priest did a nice job with the mass but it really chocked me up to know that this was part of my past. I felt like my dad was there with me. In a way, I felt like I was home.

St. Saintislaus Church

St. Stanislaus Kostka Church  at 607 Humboldt Street, my family church

As for me, I was so stuffed with food from all over and it was such a nice night to walk, I walked back to Manhattan. I made the turn down Bedford Street and walked through Williamsburg through the ultimate part of the ‘hipster’ neighborhood. It was like walking through a college campus. God, did these kids make me feel old. It was funny how I never felt this way when I used to do the same thing on Rush Street in Chicago. I guess every generation goes through it.

I walked through Williamsburg and then over the Williamsburg Bridge into the Lower East Side and walked across lower Manhattan to Houston Street to see if there were any interesting movies at the Angelica. With nothing I wanted to see, I took the subway back to Port Authority Bus Terminal to go home. I felt so much better after that walk and worked off almost everything. The trip to Greenpoint was really interesting and who knew that my Great-Grandmother was so ‘hip’.

Even if you are not an FIT Alumnus, check out the walking tours that the campus offers. They are reasonable, engaging and you will have a great time.

 

Places to Visit:

In God We Trust (This branch now closed)

129 Bedford Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11211

(718) 384-0700

https://ingodwetrustnyc.com/

 

East River Skate Shop (Now Closed)

86 Greenpoint Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11211

https://www.eastriverskateshop.com/

 

Word Bookstore

126 Franklin Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(718) 383-0096

https://www.wordbookstores.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm

 

Pas Mal/Pip Squeak Chateau

99 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(917) 909-1514

https://www.pasmalnyc.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 12:00pm-8:00pm/Saturday & Sunday 11:00am-8:00pm

 

Porter James Vintage Furniture

116 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(929) 337-9387

https://porterjamesofny.com/

Open: Sunday & Saturday 12:00pm-7:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Friday 12:00pm-7:00pm

 

Adaptions

109 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(347) 529-5889

https://adaptationsny.com/

Open: Sunday & Saturday 12:00pm-7:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Friday 12:00pm-7:00pm

 

Little Neck Outpost

128 Franklin Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(718) 383-3080

http://www.littleneckop.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-7:00pm

 

Flying Squirrel

87 Oak Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(718) 218-7775

http://flyingsquirrelbaby.com/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm

 

WNYC Transmitter Park

Greenpoint Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11211

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/transmitter-park

 

American Playground

Milton & Franklin Streets

Brooklyn, NY  11211

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/american-playground

 

Greenpoint Playground

243 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/greenpoint-playground

 

Manhattan Avery Park

3 Commercial Street

Brooklyn, NY 11222

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/newtown-barge-playground

 

Saint Stanislaus Kosta Church

607 Humboldt Street

Brooklyn, NY 11222

(718) 338-0170

https://ststanskostka.org/

 

Places to Eat:

 

Old Polish Bakery

926 Manhattan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11222

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-Poland-Bakery/288782161332865

(718) 349-7900

Open: please check their website or call them

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d5540706-Reviews-Old_Poland_Bakery-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Budin Coffee Shop (Currently Closed)

114 Greenpoint Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(347) 884-9639

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d7284898-Reviews-Budin-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Brooklyn Label

180 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY   11222

(347) 689-4072

https://www.brooklynlabel180.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d890612-Reviews-The_Brooklyn_Label-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Franklin Pizza

109 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(718) 349-2472

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-9:30pm/Monday-Thursday 12:00pm-9:30pm/Saturday 12:00pm-10:30pm

https://www.franklinpizzamenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d4457313-Reviews-Franklins_Pizza-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Polka Dot Cafe

726 Manhattan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11222

(718) 349-2884

http://polkadotgreenpoint.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d10636693-Reviews-Polka_Dot_Cafe-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop

727 Manhattan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11222

(718) 339-3676

https://peterpandonuts.com/

Open: Sunday 5:30am-7:00pm/Monday-Friday 4:30am-8:00pm/Saturday 5:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d1458238-Reviews-Peter_Pan_Bakery-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905