Haverford graduate, Parks Department project manager, and Greenpoint resident David Langlieb is under fire for writing an essay about his neighborhood in his alumni magazine. According to the Daily News, the essay, ripe with complaints about the old-school Polish residents and self-deprecation about not being an Ivy League graduate, has incensed the Polish American Congress and Councilman David Yassky, who said, "my eyes pretty much popped out of my head when I read this."
Here's a good chunk of the essay "Moved to Speak" in the Haverford alumni mag:
Communities like Greenpoint are a dying breed in America, and thank God for that. Try ordering a Venti Caramel Macchiato at the Franklin Street “coffee shop” and you’ll see what I mean. While the community has several problems, most of them come back to the high density of Polish people infesting its rowhouses. Mocking Poles for being stupid is perhaps the last form of politically correct prejudice, as well as the most accurate. The other day I asked a local Polak shopkeeper if he’d heard the one about the Polish guy who tried to fill up his gas tank by driving the car in reverse. The shopkeeper didn’t respond because he’d accidentally put his pants on his head that morning and the waistband was cutting off his hearing.
I’m kidding, of course, but Greenpoint’s problems are no laughing matter, and they won’t be solved by teaching the locals how to wear pants. The Greenpoint business district, for example, is even uglier than the morons who work there. Shoddy hand-made signage pollutes the storefront windows, and some of the signs aren’t even in English. A friendly corporate logo or two would do wonders for the place. The good news is that it looks like they’re opening a Blimpie on Calyer Street, where Ula’s Deli used to reside. I’m not sure what they’re doing with Ula, but maybe if she promises to clean her ears once in awhile they’ll let her work the cash register.
Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve done wonders for the community. My non-ethnic whiteness, above average hygiene, and dependable income have already attracted new investments to Greenpoint. Private developers are within months of breaking ground on a massive high-rise condominium complex on the Greenpoint waterfront. There’ll be a rooftop pool, a fitness center, and gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline from across the East River. It’s not quite perfect—a small percentage of the apartments will go to low-income families—but nine tenths of a loaf is better than none.
One thing I do worry about is that Greenpoint will gentrify incorrectly. This is what’s happening in adjacent Williamsburg, where the Hasidic Jews are being displaced by hipsters. Sure, their parents give them enough money to keep the neighborhood looking decent, but the new population is almost as annoying as the old one. And yes, they do wear suits and ties sometimes, but only to be ironic. No thank you.
I’d hate to see that happen to Greenpoint, because it has so much potential. It’s a place I’d like to raise my kids: Within a stone’s throw of Manhattan, amidst lawyers and investment bankers, and as shut off from civil society as humanly possible. I dream of a Greenpoint where Banana Republic is open all night, where groceries are ordered over the Internet, and where the churches are converted to mixed-use parking facilities. Mine is a Greenpoint of the future, sensitive to the desires of its residents who so desperately need a racquet club and driving range. Or who will, anyway, after the vermin are gone.
So join me, my fellow Greenpointians. That is, if you’re literate enough to understand what I’ve written.
Langlieb tells the Daily News, "This was aimed at certain Haverford graduates who move into cohesive communities with little interest in giving back to those communities." (His mother adds that Polish-Jewish relatives died during the Holcaust.) It seems like satire, but is an alumni magazine a place for it? If you didn't know anything about Greenpoint and read the essay, you might think anyone who lived there was crazy. What do you think?
Oh, and the Parks Department says Langlieb's views "do not reflect the views of the agency."
Photograph of the Greenpoint Blimpie by Tien Mao