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Authors share obscure history of Greenpoint • Brooklyn Paper

Authors share obscure history of Greenpoint

Historians Brian Merlis and Riccardo Gomes will discuss their new book, “Brooklyn’s Historic Greenpoint.,”at Word Bookstore on April 2.

These guys really get to the point.

Green Point, as the neighborhood at the tip of Brooklyn was once known, has undergone a well-documented transformation in the past few decades. But two Brooklyn natives are sharing some of the neighborhood’s more extensive history in their new book “Brooklyn’s Historic Greenpoint,” which begins from the earliest European landings in 1624, spanning nearly 400 years until 2015.

Authors and historians Brian Merlis, who was born in Flatlands, and Riccardo Gomes, who hails from East New York, will discuss the neighborhood’s transition from a quaint countryside to the crowded community it is now at Greenpoint’s Word Bookstore on April 2. We asked the duo to tell us some more unusual facts about the area they discovered while researching their tome.

Boho chic

Greenpoint was a creative enclave long before the hipsters showed up, according to Merlis. The neighborhood was home to actor Mickey Rooney, actress and playwright Mae West, and singer Pat Benatar.

“The artist scene is not a new phenomenon,” said Merlis, who has written 20 books about Brooklyn’s history and now lives in Long Island. “It was always a magnet for artists.”

The crying game

Crying babies never ruined movies in the historic ’hood, Gomes said. Mothers would tuck infants into strollers then leave the tykes in local theater lobbies while they watched films. If a baby was crying during the film, a slide would appear on the projector telling mothers to check on their kiddos. But the laissez-faire lobby days changed in 1954, after a mentally ill woman stole an infant from a theater, Gomes said.

“Through neighborhood gossip, they tracked down this mentally disturbed woman,” said Gomes, who now lives in New Jersey. “But that was when people said, ‘we have to stop doing that.’ ”

Bank on it

Before the Great Depression, Greenpoint was home to numerous banks with ostentatious architecture. The sturdy structures had high ceilings and decorative trim to convey an image of wealth and stability, Gomes said. After the banks failed throughout the country, many of Greenpoint’s buildings were redesigned to house retail shops, but if you look closely, you will find some are still standing today.

Gomes said that is why the duo decided to pen the book — to show residents the secret treasures that exist in their neighborhood, while there is still time.

“There is lot of stuff that comes and goes and sort of gets lost to time and people don’t appreciate it,” said Gomes.

Brian Merlis and Riccardo Gomes discuss “Brooklyn’s Historic Greenpoint” at Word Bookstore [126 Franklin St. between Milton and Noble streets in Greenpoint, (718) 383-0096, www.wordbookstores.com]. April 2 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.

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