Losing Enid's
by Emily Gallagher
Feb 05, 2019 | 1231 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, I was out of town on a business trip and suddenly my phone filled up with messages.

They were all links to an article saying that the restaurant Enid's, which has been at the corner of Driggs and Manhattan Avenue for the last 20 years, would be closing in March.

Even worse, I heard a rumor that the building has been sold. Which means, almost inevitably, that beautiful 1900s-era building will be demolished for a glass case condo, devoid of any history at all.

Just a few weeks prior, I had taken a visitor there and said, "When this restaurant goes, I will know my era is over." So getting this information was halting.

Of all the places I have lost in the last five years - which I tallied at over 15 small bars and restaurants, not a small number - Enid's will hurt the worst.

On Sunday, my friend and I ate brunch there and reminisced about the place and all the different milestones our lives that Enid's was a part of. First dates, community meetings, deep heart-to-heart talks, raucous dance parties, times spent alone.

I found out my best friend was getting divorced there, over candlelight, holding his hands while he sobbed in misery.

And I made friends there, too.

When I first moved to the neighborhood in 2006, there was always a line outside Enid's. This past Sunday, there was one again.

Thinking about how many moments of my life had transpired there was staggering. Friends who now live all over the country messaged me about it. And when I sat in the booth with my friend, I felt distinctly...old.

Some New York City natives sneer when transplants become nostalgic, because every new person starts a new version of "beginning" in the moment they arrive.

Some will be charmed and decide to stay and put down roots. Others will have a little fun and then leave, just passing through.

But for every person who decides to stay and invest in a place, the love is real no matter how old or new it is.

After brunch I lingered a bit, meandering the streets and stopping in other small shops, but every conversation started the same: "Did you just go to Enid's?"

Some of the shopkeepers told me they used to work there. Others told me it was their anchor here, like it was mine.

"I moved here 20 years ago,” one business owner told me. “I've stayed in the same apartment the entire time, and I decided to open this store because I love Greenpoint, I love being here and walking to work and knowing my neighbors.

I feel nervous now,” they continued. “Am I next? But I'm also aware that I was that sign of change to the previous community, and that they felt similarly about me. Nevertheless, I feel sad."

I took the issue up on Facebook with some native New Yorkers to get their perspective. My friend Amber Sexton, a former Greenpoint and Williamsburg resident who grew up in the West Village, put it eloquently.

"It’s New York City and it’s always about losing,” she posted. “I’ve been losing my local community my whole life. I grew up in the West Village and I’m almost 50, everything I ever knew has changed for the wealthy.

“Crime and transit are the only things that have improved while I’ve been alive,” she added. “Mostly everything cool turns into a chain store. People have to move further away and culture dies."

"There is something soothing about the bleak realness of what you say somehow,” I responded. “It’s like I’m feeling an ancient pain that is only really new to me. I used to teach and talk about the pain at the Tenement Museum when I worked there, but to actually feel it and it be your own is a totally different thing.

I always thought surviving in New York City was about scrappiness, but now I see that at a certain point it also becomes about detachment and resilience, to not let the change bother you to distraction

To get attached enough that you have a real home and community, but to not get so attached that your heart suffers immeasurably for its sake. It’s a balance that some places never ask for, but New York City demands.

As many of you know, inspired by my love of this neighborhood and the frustrations of watching real estate interests do whatever they want, I started attending Baruch College part-time last year to get a policy analysis degree.

I thought I would go to the root, intellectually. But walking home after my most recent class, I realized I have to go to the root emotionally as well.

As I was brooding, I happened upon some a new sign that read Sam's Home Goods. I walked in and was greeted by a younger and an older man, and my guess was that they were family. I bought some cleaning tools and said, "How long have you been open?"

The older man held up two fingers and smiled widely, "this is our second month! Please come back and support us!"

I thanked him and said I would. I walked out of the store and up through the park, surprised at a tear running down my cheek. Onwards, ever onwards, and trying not to focus on what's lost, but still compelled by it for the sake of positive social change.
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