Newel & Driggs

Submitted by on Oct 9, 2014


Strollers pushed by mothers with new babies in their bellies congregate at the corner of Newel and Driggs in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. If you took a snapshot and photo-shopped it with sepia tones, it could be the same corner a century ago. Here the motherly mob waits for their children to spill out of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy much like they have done since the school was founded in 1895 when Polish shipyard workers and seamstresses. Here they stand in the shadow of St. Stanislaus Kostka church with it’s Gothic architecture, stained glass windows, twin spires reaching to heaven and touches of history (claim to fame): in 1969, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla (now Saint Pope John Paul II) visited; in 1991 Lech Walesa who led Poland’s fight against communism also made a pilgrimage to this part of the U.S. called “Little Poland.”

I stand on corner of Newel and Driggs and I feel the doors of history opening, and the whispers of those who stood on this same corner decade after decade wanting to create a better life for their children. I too want a good life for my daughter, but I stand here wanting something else too – for her to understand what it means to be Polish, for her to keep her heritage. I think she and I will find it here on this block still full of the red and white of the Polish flag.

I was born on Newel Street and lived a half a block down from St. Stanislaus Kostka. My mother must have pushed my navy blue pram by the school dozens of times as she walked me to the nearby park the year and a half we lived in the first floor railroad apartment of a six family home. I find myself searching for the number of the building – 39 – trying to feel a memory. I have a picture here of me coming down the steps when I was a tiny tot. They concrete steps look the same today, as does the railing. Walk up. Here I began.

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