FEBRUARY 2003

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Poles Colonize Ridgewood
From Nowy Dziennik
January 9, 2003

By Marcin Szczepanski

Poles have colonized Ridgewood, Queens in recent years. They have opened many Polish stores and agencies in the area. There is the Polish-Slavic Federal Credit Union branch, Polish restaurants and Polish grocery stores. There is a Polish bookstore on Fresh Pond Road, Polish flower shop on Forest Avenue, and Polish mass at St. Matthew's Church, (attended by about 900 people on Sundays)

Poles who buy houses or rent apartments in Ridgewood usually speak English and have been in the United States for a quite a few years. They generally have legalized immigrant status, and possess either a green card or citizenship. Also, they are well educated. Many of them are young married couples with children.

According to the Census 2000, Poles and Polish Americans make up about 10 percent of the population of Ridgewood. Poles were drawn to Ridgewood by cheaper apartment rents as well as by Polish stores and restaurants.

"Poles who settle in Ridgewood usually work in American firms and would succeed even if they lived in a neighborhood where there wasn't a single Pole," said one of the residents. "The reason they choose Ridgewood is because they feel the need for cultural unity."

Ridgewood, Danusia’s Deli. Tuesday Afternoon

There is a variety of Polish meats and an assortment of Polish chocolate, Polish candies, and Polish newspapers in the store. Two Polish women, Dorota and Agnieszka, are the salespersons.

"I don't like Greenpoint," said Agnieszka Skawinska. "Here, you have a higher standard of living."

Skawinska also said that her neighborhood (Ridgewood) is much cleaner. There are fewer drunkards on the streets and apartments here are nicer than in Greenpoint.

Father Lukasz Trocha from the local St. Matthew's Church has a different theory. He believes the brick houses are the reason why Poles move to Ridgewood. Higher standards, of course, are important, but the layers of bricks covering the walls of houses in Ridgewood remind Poles of Europe.

"Please, take a look, the whole block is made of bricks. You won't find that in Greenpoint," said Trocha while driving around the neighborhood. "It's the influence of Germans, who settled here at the end of the 19th century."

Trocha was assigned to Ridgewood two and a half years ago, after graduating from an American seminary. He is the favorite priest of [local] Poles.

Peaceful And Quiet

"It's a peaceful and pretty area. There are trees and grass. A new park was opened recently," said a woman who works at a Polish video rental store on Forest Avenue. She has been in New York for a year, but she has visited Greenpoint only a few times.

It's a bit of an exaggeration that Ridgewood is green. Trees in the area look rather miserable. But perhaps it’s because it’s winter.

Edyta Sieminska, a bartender at Café Del Mar, a Polish bar in Ridgewood, doesn't have anything against Greenpoint. After all, she lived there for a couple of years. But she, as well, prefers Ridgewood.

"I like the ethnic diversity here," she said. "In Ridgewood, there are people of different nationalities, not just Poles and Americans. You can meet an Italian, Yugoslavian, Albanese, a Czech or immigrants from Latin America."

Although there are numerous reasons why Poles move to Ridgewood, the lower rent is really what draws them here.

"[Living in] Ridgewood is cheaper than in Greenpoint. For a two bedroom apartment one pays between $900 to $1,200. A similar apartment in Greenpoint costs $1,200 - $1,600.
A two family house in Ridgewood usually costs $350,000 - $450,000. A house of similar standards in Greenpoint costs $150,000 to $200,000 more. The price of most luxurious houses in Greenpoint cost us much as $850,000," according to Daniel Andrejczuk from Adas Realty, a real estate agency in Greenpoint.

Translated from Polish by Joanna Sufin

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