Love and Warsaw

Two thriving Greenpoint dance clubs vie for Polish nightlife supremacy

But Saturday is the big night at Exit, with a line wrapping around the McDonald's next door, and limos, SUVs, and car service Lincolns all double-parked outside. Exit's resident DJ, Cedrick Borodziuk, says it wasn't always that way. The 30-year-old grew up in Greenpoint and first came to the club when it was more a hangout space for young Polish Americans. "You'd see the same faces every weekend, mostly Polish," he recalls. "The music was Euro-cheese, and the atmosphere was totally different."

As Cedrick BK, he now mostly spins house anthems while partner DJ Nondas, a Greek, spins deep and Latin house. Borodziuk calls the new crowd "awesome," and while he says they don't ever get as wild and crazy as at Manhattan clubs, patrons at least finally seem to be coming to dance.

After all, dancing is the only reason he comes to Greenpoint at all. Born in the small Polish town of Augustow, Borodziuk was raised by his grandmother, reuniting at 15 with his parents in New York City. He hated it. "When I came the first time, I was like, 'Dude, what I'm doing?' " he says. "Greenpoint was dirty and I didn't like it. I got used to it, but I don't like it any better. Williamsburg got really nice, but Greenpoint is still the same. It's still dirty." He now lives in Rockaway Beach, where "there's a nice breeze."

photo: Staci Schwartz

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See also:
Slideshow: Hot Like That
Scenes from the Polish/New York party life
by Staci Schwartz/stacipop.com

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Flaga, Exit's manager, also thinks the community needs a change. "I think living in Greenpoint, Polish Americans are more Polish than people in Poland," he says. "I visited Poland last year and did a little clubbing to see what was in the market. They play such danceable music. I'm a house guy. I'd love to have that music here, but you can't drop it on them. I talk to people a lot, especially people coming from Poland on vacation, and they hate Polish clubs. They say, 'I'd rather go to Manhattan and dance my ass off than stay in here, because you guys don't play what's on the market.' Before the renovation this club was like the twilight zone—we were in a bubble." He calls the new Exit "an introduction for Polish Americans to whatever's going on in the city" and compares it favorably to Club Europa, where "you'll see something completely different—you'll see more Poland in the 1990s."

For Exit regular Elana Pesin—a Russian immigrant who moved from Hoboken to Greenpoint two years ago—it's not the Poles who are in a bubble, it's the Americans. "For an average American, it would be a little different because it's mainly Polish people here," she says. "It depends if you're open to other cultures. If you're a little bit sheltered and not used to people speaking other languages, then you might feel a little uncomfortable."

The way many uncomfortable young hipsters deal with the Polish nightclub scene in their new neighborhood is to make fun of it. A Polish nightclub? Queue up the accordions for those two wild and crazy guys! Flaga sympathizes, but is eager for the laughter to die down. "It used to be, in the '70s and '80s, Polish people were coming in here as illegal immigrants to work as maids and in construction," he says. "Now most of the people I hang out with work in banks, in private businesses. Me, I'm an aerospace engineer by trade, so this too is a joke: the Polish astronaut.

"That stereotype is always going to last because people need to laugh at someone, but it's simply not true," he concludes. "I laugh too, but also use it against Americans. I can say things about Polish people that are impolite for others to say. If I screw up I say to my boss, 'I'm Polack, what do you expect?' He doesn't say anything. It doesn't work here though. Everybody is Polish."

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