Some of the more desolate stretches of Franklin St. in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood project images of an Eastern European enclave hanging in the balance. And this perception isn’t too far off given the huge Polish community here. At one end, the street dead ends into a playground seemingly from the South Bronx in appearance with a metal fence across the street drenched in jagged explosions of colorful graffiti. Look closer and couples are sitting on the merry-go-round or playing with their dogs. Further down in the direction of Brooklyn Bridge, blocks of long ago boarded up brick factory buildings from the 1800s create a silent but refreshing desolation. Just look to your right over the East River at the Manhattan skyline through the tall decrepit lengths of chain link fence and youll swear you’ve scored a backstage pass to these priceless views. Is it possible that you can be this close yet see tumbleweed blowing past? You’re really alone except for folks on bikes and more bikes outnumbering cars 20 to 1 coasting along for the ride gawking at the scene. Even Franklin Avenue’s more bustling blocks are still laidback with no need to look both ways before crossing.
Two standouts, Brooklyn Label and Permanent Records, further enhance the street’s urban outpost aura. At Permanent Records, (that’s right, record shops are still alive and well), its back to glorious pawing through the bargain bins and racks filled with LPs as well as CDs and DVDs. Even in this mp3 world, according to a recent Rolling Stone Magazine article, vinyl sales have actually increased lately due to superior sound quality on some recordings. Vintage posters line the wall and flyers announcing neighborhood cultural happenings crowd the counter. Walk a few blocks down to Brooklyn Label, a huge windowed turn-of-the-century cafe that satisfies each and every whim of the breakfast lover in all of us. First and foremost, you’ll know coffee is king with the gigantic chalkboard listing many specialties. Sit down, grab a menu and pick from their crisp Cast Iron Waffles topped with fresh seasonal fruit, pure maple syrup or fresh whipped cream; Beer-zokow Challah French Toast: thick slices of locally baked Challah bread topped with pure casman cinnamon and cranberry-pecan butter or pure maple syrup; Brooklyn Label Granola: toasted organic oats, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, raisins, chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, served atop fresh fruit over yogurt or milk; Tofu & Potatoes: organic firm tofu baked with light curry spices, crispy fried potato, tomato, broccoli, scallion and topped with provolone & homemade pico de gallo. Wash it all down with a cardamom-honey cappuccino or chili infused Mexican hot chocolate.
This one street gives you a taste of how all of Greenpoint marches to the beat of a different drummer, far from the homogenization that has infiltrated so many other communities throughout this country.