On a recent field course trip to New York, I spent time with some friends researching the Polish community in Greenpoint, which is an area at the very northernmost tip of Brooklyn. While we were there we conducted 13 interviews which sought to uncover how the area is changing for the residents of Greenpoint, an area which has undergone immense gentrification in the last 10 years.
Once I transcribed the interviews from this I looked for patterns in the dialogue of the residents. Using these patterns as the basis for the piece below, I began to put the sentences together of different residents to create one voice- that of all the people who we spoke to.
“The Brooklyn accent is an evolution of Eastern European voices. 6 or 7 years ago, Greenpoint was Little Poland. Centre of the Polish Universe, something like that. It’s a ghetto, not any longer. My observation, I see Americans, I see Spanish. Huge artistic community. More hermetic, more mixed. This is a sign of the times.
It’s really changing, but it’s really not. It’s hard to say. There are two worlds, old and young. Elderly people, they aren’t too much happy. They are not easily adapting. Everyday watch Polish channel. They care much more what’s going on there. But, nothing basically changed. Yes, from seniors perspective nothing much changed. After five of ten years only knew how to say screwdriver and hammer. Still, live all life no English.
Younger folks, they like it more mixed. They speak English, they can do stuff. There are lots of bars. It is still easy to find a job. To study. They are the 3rd or 4th generations. They represent other waves of immigrants. They are living history. They have connections through their parents. It’s the relationships that you build from across the oceans. Some extra activity to learn polish, and folk dancing. But, now there has been a huge housing market jump. What can we do? $2500-3000 rent per month. No one lives here. Polish are moving to live in Ridgewood, in Queens.
The polish butchers are not as good or famous here as they used to be. In Greenpoint, we still have the Polish Delis. Polish Church. Polish Rock Bands. Polish Soccer League. Polish are very friendly. We take care of people. We’re Mahatma Ghandi.”