More than an old building, a gateway to Greenpoint
by Emily Gallagher
Jul 18, 2018 | 1136 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week it was revealed that the new owner of the building at 561 Manhattan Avenue at Driggs Avenue, which was home to Bar Matchless for the last 15 years, has filed to build a six-story condo with a restaurant on the ground floor.

I have not talked to anyone who is excited about this development, though I admit my connections seem to be fairly one-sided when it comes to community preservation.

Community preservation is a holistic term that combines the idea that a place is made up of its history, its people, and its culture. The people in a community always change, but generally folks are attracted to a community because of a spirit the place holds, which is a combination of history and lived reality.

I recently saw the movie "Sorry to Bother You." One of the details I loved in the movie was its exploration of the complex situation under our current system of wealth and poverty, eat or be eaten.

In the film, the protagonist continuously accepts and does jobs because they offer him money that can at first solve his very real problems (housing foreclosure), but then encourage him to take part in the exploitation and destruction of the very community he was striving to save.

Because once you get a little bit of that money, and the power and respect and flexibility that comes with it, it's hard to think about the bigger picture.

The building on Manhattan Avenue is markedly old. It's in a style that was popular at least 100 years ago, and it is visually connected to our industrial past.

The bar on the first floor was successful, popular, and problem-free. Music, activities and community meetings were held there. I'm sure the rent for the upstairs was lucrative as well.

We get upset with developers who come into our community and change the very fabric of it, because a new building inevitably means former tenants are removed and a new tenant with a different income level replaces them.

To turn an old building in fairly good condition into a six-story condo demonstrates poor environmental and community sustainability.

The building at 561 Manhattan Avenue sold for $4,450,000. But it will cost all of us more than that in terms of precedent for preserving the historic past of Manhattan Avenue, the main drag of our community, where there is a great deal of stabilized housing, historically interesting buildings, and a real community feel.

Greenpoint has thus far resisted the ugly glut of generic-type buildings that grow like a virus on our northernmost neighbor. The condo buildings on West Street set a tone for new construction that few of us appreciate.

But replacing industrial buildings is different than replacing the residential main drag of a community. This is just the beginning, I am sure.

The community needs to decide if we are going to take preventative measures to preserve our community character, or if we're going to give up and watch our story disappear into the glass, steel and faux-wood panelling that is starting to crush through.

This building is not just an old mixed-use building with apartments and a bar. It was a functioning gateway to the neighborhood, it set the tone as you entered the neighborhood, and it was a fun and funky mix of past and present that told an entire story and established where our neighborhood begins and becomes itself.

Now that gateway will be a faux-luxury condo. That is not the Greenpoint story for the last several hundred years, but I suppose it is about to be the only one left allowed to stand.
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