Popular Posts

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Slaughterhouse In Brooklyn, And Misery Next Door

Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times

A worker at New Lee's Live Poultry Market on Greenpoint Avenue, where hundreds of chickens are slaughtered every day.

Click here to read the full piece from the New York Times

For decades now, the pattern has been the same: New York City factories fall prey to the hunger for offbeat places to live, and once-gritty industrial neighborhoods like SoHo, TriBeCa, Dumbo and the meatpacking district are transformed into enviable residential enclaves.

Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times

Andrew Rodgers, on his rooftop deck overlooking the slaughterhouse. “It smells like death, like rotting garbage, like rotting flesh,” said Mr. Rodgers, who is seeking to move out of his duplex.

But in each evolution, there is a fraught, in-between moment when the factory and the home must exist side by side. Such is the situation, literally, on Greenpoint Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and, yes, it is fraught.

It is there that residents of a 15-unit apartment building, which was carved, tellingly, out of an air-conditioner factory, live alongside a squat one-story structure where, six days a week, hundreds of chickens are slaughtered and dispatched to restaurants and supermarkets in Chinatown and elsewhere. The residents complain of regularly being awakened at dawn by a collective cackle as trucks from upstate farms, each carrying 600 anxious chickens squeezed into narrow crates, arrive at the slaughterhouse doors.

Samantha Knoll, 36, who pays $2,500 for a ground-floor one-bedroom she rents with her husband, Matthew, says she finds feathers that have flown in through her windows. As the day wears on, Ms. Knoll says, she can tell the precise moments when the panicked chickens expire by the diminishing cries she hears.

“It slowly dies out,” she said, her twisted smile expressing her squeamishness.

She and Andrew Rodgers, another ground-floor tenant, said that on particularly hot days, an unbearable stench wafts in, emanating from the feces and slaughtering byproducts next door.

“It smells like death, like rotting garbage, like rotting flesh,” said Mr. Rodgers, 40, a certified public accountant who moved into a $2,650-a-month, two-bedroom duplex in October, and is seeking to move out. “You can hear the chickens clucking and screaming and the truck guys cursing and carrying on. These guys are delivering chickens to a slaughterhouse. It’s not exactly Goldman Sachs.”

He and other tenants would like the slaughterhouse to pack up and leave. The problem is that the slaughterhouse was there first. In fact, it has been on the block since 1928 and its main business is made unmistakably clear in a sign in block letters over its front door: “LIVE POULTRY SLAUGHTER.”

“Why did they move next door?” asked John Lee, an owner and a manager of the slaughtering business, New Lee’s Live Poultry Market. “They knew it was a slaughterhouse.”

Like many neighborhoods affected by both immigration and competition for cheaper housing, Greenpoint is evolving. Some of the Polish immigrants who give the neighborhood its ethnic flavor are moving to newer Polish neighborhoods, like the one along Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, Queens, or to the suburbs. They are being replaced by young couples and singles who cannot afford Manhattan.

These newcomers are drawn to a patch of Brooklyn that happens to be right near bohemian Williamsburg and has its own rough-hewn, Old World charm — Manhattan and Greenpoint Avenues are meccas for Polish food — and a lively art and film scene along an increasingly animated Franklin Avenue. Subways can whisk them to Midtown Manhattan in half an hour, and a new East River ferry service may speed up the commute.

When 118 Greenpoint Avenue opened as a condominium building two years ago, the apartments seemed highly desirable — tall ceilings, modern kitchens and bathrooms, duplexes outfitted with laundry rooms. Condos were offered at prices as high as $675,000.

But residents say many condos ended up as rentals, perhaps because of the difficulty of selling apartments near a slaughterhouse. Nevertheless, it was the block’s quirky charm and affordable rents that drew people like Mr. Rodgers, who has a side line as an independent filmmaker with a company called B1L Productions.

“I’m no dummy, and I thought it would be a curiosity for a production company if we could tell our clients to ‘Follow your nose to B1L Productions,’ ” Mr. Rodgers said. “I had no idea of the way they delivered birds in the morning.”

No comments: