Thursday, June 8, 2017

RED HOOK - From Shipping Center to Shopping Center

In my opinion, Red Hook, is the best name of any of the neighborhoods in Brooklyn and had a romantic and daring history. Red Hook was known for being the center of the shipping industry in New York and for crime, violent crime, murderous crime. The Gallo family lived here. Lately, it was where you could visit to buy drugs easily on a street corner. So, to distract from that legacy, there's a new name. The realtors have taken to calling parts of Red Hook the "Columbia Street Waterfront District." Doesn't have quite the same ring to it and takes much longer to say. But Red Hook is so up-and-coming that Tesla, the motor car company, has a showroom there.

Red Hook was a working class and low-income area at a Southwest point of Brooklyn. The mouth of the Gowanus Canal is at the edge of Red Hook. It's surrounded by water on three sides, and when I first visited Red Hook, it felt like more like the sea than anywhere in Brooklyn - like sailors and people who understood how to build and repair ships and sails and net. It used to be a site of shipping commerce, but the people of commerce lived in Brooklyn Heights. The people who moved commerce lived in Red Hook.

Near the waterfront, there were two-story wooden houses paint fading from blues and greens, some had portholes in the front doors, some had life preservers hanging the front walls. They are being torn down for the sake of development. Farther into the neighborhood were 2-story red brick houses and some made of limestone.

Red Hook still has the oldest warehouse in Brooklyn (called "stores" when they were built) now turned into an arts complex, Brooklyn Waterfront Artists. Nearby, there's another warehouse turned into Fairway Market - a very nice supermarket right at water's edge with a place where you can eat the sandwiches you buy inside. And next to that is the Waterfront Barge Museum - not much to see, but fun to be inside an old barge.

Just down the street, there was for a while an old abandoned Revere Sugar Refinery. I saw it was decaying, but historic and worth restoring. The refinery was last owned by a Philippine investor and once there was a drug bust netting 307 pounds of cocaine - which I guess they were exporting or importing as powdered sugar. Anyway, the sugar mill is gone and currently, there are plans to build a hi-tech complex on that site that will "bring jobs" into the area (and will also bring the people to work those jobs who will drive out the current residents).

Home Depot and Ikea are already in Red Hook, and right in between those two megastore lies a large public housing unit - Red Hook East and Red Hook West. In getting permission from the City to build the Ikea and Home Depot, the claim was that they would create jobs for people living in the nearby public housing. So I ask, how many people have you ever found to help you at Ikea? Or at Home Depot? Can you imagine the musical chairs that went on in applying for those 15 or 20 jobs?

Not sure if it is still there, but one of the Red Hook schools used an old playground to build planters for a raised garden and taught children how to grow vegetables and learn about nutrition.

There's also a 3-acre community garden near the public housing project in Red Hook where local residents grow and sell produce.  How long before realtors discover this "waste" of land?

Since Brooklyn is now an uber-expensive place to live, I suggest you visit Red Hook before everything historic and local is wiped away.

No comments:

Post a Comment