Living in Greenpoint
Greenpoint is like the older, more contemplative brother of the guy you wanted to date in High School. That is, if you consider Williamsburg its younger, louder sibling.
Greenpoint borders Williamsburg to its west and Queens to its north. Due to the distance to subway stops, Greenpoint is an affordable neighborhood for those early in their careers or new to the area. Its quiet streets and Polish neighbors contribute to the feeling that you've truly left Manhattan behind after a long day at work. Despite the fact that Greenpoint long lay unpopular, the past ten years have shown a new wave of hipsters and young professionals seeking to stretch their salaries further.
It pays to move east. Greenpoint's appeal is partially due to its proximity to Williamsburg, sans hipster prices. Expect to pay less overall for a shared apartment in Greenpoint and definitely cheaper for studios and one-bedrooms.
Greenpoint's skyline is low... you'd be hard-pressed to find more than a few buildings that reach higher than four floors. Many apartments are railroad-style, two apartments per floor in a three to four floor building. If you're lucky enough to be on the ground floor, you might have access to a back patio or yard. It sounds odd being so close to Manhattan, but a fair number of people have pools in their backyards!
If you're in the market for something new and shiny, try one of the many new buildings lining McCarren Park or sprinkled throughout the neighborhood. The past few years have seen a surge in new apartments and, so far, construction hasn't seemed to slow in the recession. Obviously these tend to be a bit pricier, but they're still cheaper than their counterparts in Williamsburg.
Hope you like pirogues, because Greenpoint is a Polish person's dream. The Eastern section of Greenpoint is literally lined with Polish bakeries, restaurants and law offices. The community is friendly and neighborly, particularly in the family homes that line the streets around McGolrick Park. The western section of Greenpoint tends to house the hipster spillage from Williamsburg. Many a small dog has played in a dog run near McCarren Park.
Greenpoint is one of the safer areas, due in large part to the underlying sense of community in the neighborhood. While it's always smart to be attentive (particularly when crossing under the BQE at night), it's relatively quiet. Many shops on Nassau and other main streets keep their lights on at night.
Parks and Recreation
Greenpoint actually has a fair amount of foliage to justify its name. McCarren Park is, by far, the largest burst of nature in the area. With a baseball field, basketball courts, dog runs and an outdoor track, the park attracts anyone remotely athletic. The year-round Farmer's Market held here on Saturday mornings is the perfect place to sample the local produce and get elbowed by some elderly Polish women en route to the cabbage.
McGolrick Park in eastern Greenpoint serves as the epicenter of Little Poland: older men deal cards on picnic tables, bilingual kids play on the colorful playground and mothers chat on the park benches, all in foreign tongues. Once in a while someone breaks out an accordion. It's charming as hell.
As for fitness centers, there's really only the YMCA on Meserole Avenue. You can't beat the price and it's a decent place to exercise. Plus, there's a pool!
Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment
Greenpoint struggles to compete with nearby Williamsburg's nightlife, but still has a few gems up its sleeve.
Enid's, a chill bar/restaurant on Manhattan Avenue has great food and drinks, not to mention a kicked-back vibe. Matchless, across the street from Enid's, is a former auto-repair shop that offers darts and billiards as distractions. The Richardson on Graham Avenue is fairly dark inside, but serves a more upscale evening.
There are a number of other neighborhood pubs spread out around the area, where you're likely to meet the locals over a couple of Zywiecs. You're also only a quick cab ride away from the Music Hall of Williamsburg, in case the music scene is your thing.
Shopping and Eating
Graham Avenue and its neighboring streets are great for vintage shopping, as well as for fresh ravioli made at one of the Italian delis. Manhattan Avenue to the north offers many discount stores and the larger banks, which you should hit up to avoid ATM fees at all the places that still don't accept plastic.
The anti-chain resident people will be delighted to know that there's only one Starbucks in northern Greenpoint. You can get your caffeine fix at a variety of other independent shops, like Cafe Grumpy on Meserole Avenue or Variety on Graham Avenue. Boneshakers on Kingsland is a great cafe with vegan fare.
One truth about Greenpoint is that you could very well live a good 15-minute walk from the nearest subway stop. But that's ok because the cheap rent makes up for it.
Your two main subway lines are the G and the L. The G runs north-south through Greenpoint (stops: Greenpoint Ave., Nassau Ave. and Metropolitan Ave.). If you're commuting to midtown Manhattan, take the G up to Queens and then transfer to the E/V for the last jump to Manhattan. If Union Square or 14th street is more your target, take the L (stops: Lorimer St., Graham Ave. and Grand St.). It's really crowded between about 9 and 10am on weekdays, but gets you directly to the city in only a few quick stops.
If you live a bit further from the subway stop, there are several buses that can get you there. The 43 and 61 hit the northern parts of Greenpoint, while the 24 and 48 cover the east-west axis.
You may also opt for the bike solution, in which case the Williamsburg Bridge is your best (and most scenic) bet for a trip to Manhattan.