I was passing through Clay Street, an obscure little side street in northern Greenpoint, near the BQE overpass, when I came by a simple brick building with a curious little off-center, hand-painted sign over the entrance. What, pray tell, is the Russian People's Home of Greenpoint? And why is it so small? And why is it in the middle of nowhere?
According to New York Shitty, this is an artifact of previous waves of Greenpoint immigration. We tend to think of the Brooklyn neighborhood as the home of many Catholic Poles. But, prior to that, there were many Polish and Russian Jews. The sign is a favorite of NYS's Miss Heather, who has mentioned it many times. She seems quite obsessed with it, actually. I get that. It happens to me.
I don't know when the Russian People's Home was established or if it is still in operation—there are no records of its operation anywhere—but I know that this address used to be a saloon in 1902 run by one Stephen Kerkens. He was arrested at that time for kicking a little girl who lived in the same building. A lot of people who lived and/or worked here at that time were arrested, including: Frank Ferkel, who was taken in for firing shots at a wedding, including one that struck a six-year-old boy; John D. Gaul, another saloonkeeper, who was in the country illegally; and the parents of eighteen-month-old Frank Salinsky, who fell from the third-story window in 1895 and died.