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Thread: Red Hook, Brooklyn

  1. #1

    Default Red Hook, Brooklyn

    The view of downtown Manhattan from Beard Street Pier in Red Hook in March of 2002.

    Red Hook Stores, the Civil War-era warehouse at 480-500 Brunt Street.

    The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to returning trolleys to the streets of Brooklyn, NY.

    The BHRA museum and trolley barn is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, on the historic Beard Street Piers (circa 1870). BHRA currently has a fleet of 16 trolleys (15 PCC trolleys and a trolley car from 1897).

    Statue of Liberty and Staten Island Ferry. The view from Beard Street Pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

    At the Warehouse Pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn, in May of 2001.

    Warehouse Pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

  2. #2

    Default Red Hook, Brooklyn

    Cool pictures of vintage buildings!

  3. #3

    Default Red Hook, Brooklyn

    A Breached Trolley Rebirth
    By Joshua Robin
    Staff Writer

    Clang, clang, clunk went the Brooklyn trolley.

    A year after the borough toasted a plan to roll street cars on the Red Hook waterfront, the projectis dead, halted by red ink and legal controversy.

    Once roundly praised for merging nostalgia with mass transit for far-flung Brooklynites, the trolley fell victim to a cash shortfall amid infighting, rivalry among trolley groups, charges of greed, and a struggle that even broke up best friends.

    Bob Diamond, the force behind the quixotic venture, now faces a swarm of problems of his own, not the least of which is a possible $1,000 fine for trespassing into a manhole, as well as how to dispose of 16 trolley cars he bought.

    "I think we've hit the rock bottom right now," said Diamond, the 43-year-old Brooklyn Heights trolley fan who for the past 12 years labored to bring street cars back to Brooklyn after a 43-year absence.

    A rival railcar group, meanwhile, which recently splintered from Diamond's Brooklyn Historical Railway Association is proposing to build a separate line on the other side of the Gowanus Expressway, using tracks near Borough Hall last used in 1930.

    To succeed, the group will need to avoid the same mistakes that prompted its founders to quit Diamond's line.

    "His way did not seem to work out. We hope our way does," said co-founder Arthur Melnick of Midwood.

    The group Diamond founded in 1993 once had federal and city officials dishing out hundreds of thousands in seed money, but in the end, he managed to lay track on only two streets at the tip of Red Hook's gentrifying peninsula.

    Those who followed the sputtering end of the trolley plan say two factors caused the failure.

    First, Diamond, who also manages a New Jersey apartment building, didn't do enough private fund-raising to supplement the $310,000 in public funds he got, said Tom Cocola, a spokesman for the city Department of Transportation. In June, the agency revoked its consent to allow him to build the line.

    "We stand that at this point in time, Mr. Diamond hasn't shown us the ability to get private money, to raise private money," Cocola said.

    Second, according to Diamond's critics, his distrust and unwillingness to delegate power among his volunteers cost him.

    By Diamond's own admission, he fired his second-in-command, Greg Castillo, who was also his childhood best friend, and watched passively as other volunteers deserted him.

    "Everybody was viewed as a potential enemy," said one former volunteer, who did not want to be named. He said Diamond once even asked him to sign a loyalty oath, but never followed through.

    Diamond acknowledged his shortfall in fund-raising, but pointed out that he raised about $500,000 in grants and private funds. It still wasn't enough, because unlike his competitors' plan, he had to lay his own tracks. He said he spent the private money to purchase insurance and to buy and restore 16 trolley cars, cars he now seeks to sell.

    Diamond also dismisses complaints from those who fled the organization, saying his management style became necessary when volunteers became "greedy," thinking the project could make money.

    "I think I wasn't controlling enough," Diamond insisted.

    Told that, Jan Lorenzen, a former volunteer who founded the new trolley organization with Melnick last year, said money was never the motivation. "We do this because we like trolleys," Lorenzen said.

    Despite the downward trajectory of Diamond's streetcar project, its founder maintains his nonchalant, folksy manner even as he faces legal hurdles and duels with the city officials and former allies who left him.

    Last Wednesday, Diamond was given a $1,000 city ticket for removing a manhole cover on Atlantic Avenue, attempting to visit an old subway tunnel where he hoped the Red Hook trolley would eventually run en route to Downtown Brooklyn.

    "I was really insulted when they told me I looked like a terrorist," Diamond said, vowing to fight the ticket.

    In another brush with the law, Diamond is refusing city orders to remove tracks laid down along Conover and Reed streets in Red Hook.

    "For BHRA to dismantle the project based on 'orders' from CDOT [the city Department of Transportation] may in fact be tantamount to destruction of public property, and open BHRA personnel to criminal prosecution or other civil liability," Diamond argued in an open letter posted on his Web site.

    Meanwhile, the 16 trolley cars Diamond bought now sit in storage at a Red Hook warehouse and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Diamond wants to sell them and use the proceeds to revive his dream.

    Greg O'Connell, who is converting the property where five of the cars are stored into a Fairway supermarket and lot, has sued Diamond to force the removal of the trolleys, but the two men are negotiating to resolve the problem.

    Diamond, meanwhile, has filed claims against the city's Department of Transportation, alleging that when city crews trucked away old rail tracks in May, workers took not only equipment bought with tax dollars but also $616,000 worth of equipment belonging to the organization, including some that Diamond said he bought with his own money.

    Cocola denied those charges. "I guess he's doing all he can to spice up the story," he wrote in an e-mail.

    While Diamond's project is kaput for now, he hasn't abandoned the dream of bringing trolley cars back to Brooklyn (a place that, after all, inspired the Dodgers shorthand for Trolley Dodgers.)

    As for the rival trolley project which Diamond dismisses as a "copy cat" of his own that group is proposing two main trolley lines, saying they would cost $15 million to build.

    Cocola, of the Department of Transportation, said the agency would consider any proposals submitted. To date, none has been.

    One of the proposed lines, the Park Line, would hug the Brooklyn waterfront south of the Brooklyn Bridge along a route that travels through a planned city park. The other, the Street Line, would haul riders along routes from Borough Hall along Washington Street to the trendy neighborhood dubbed DUMBO or "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass."

    "Not only can they serve as a tourist thing. They can also be practical," said Lorenzen, of Williamsburg, whose day job is working on airplane interiors.

    Added Borough President Marty Markowitz: "Trolleys make just as much sense today as they did 100 years ago."

    Copyright Newsday, Inc.

  4. #4

    Default Red Hook, Brooklyn

    I wonder how much Red Hook will change when Ikea opens their store there in 2005.

  5. #5
    Forum Veteran
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    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI

    Default Red Hook, Brooklyn

    Hopefully, it'll fail. *They are pushing hard, though. *Sick of chains - Ikea, Home Depot, etc, bulding on valuable waterfont land. *It's unacceptable. This can be in any damn location.

  6. #6

    Default Red Hook, Brooklyn

    August 20, 2003

    No Red Barn, but That's a Farm in Red Hook


    In the middle of a large, empty playground, just down the street from a strip of engineering businesses and industrial parts manufacturers in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a farm is beginning to take shape on top of the buckling pavement. It is not yet much to look at: just a few raised beds amid the weeds sprouting between the cracks in the ground.

    But the farmers a group of teenagers organized by a nonprofit group called Added Value have already planted baby lettuce and late-season greens, which they will sell later at the Red Hook Farmers' Market and to neighborhood restaurants and shops, or donate to food pantries and soup kitchens. Through the program, now in its third year, the students have been planting and harvesting Japanese eggplant, pattypan squash and sugar-snap peas on a quarter-acre in Far Rockaway, Queens, and at a smaller garden on Wolcott Street in Red Hook.

    But the playground, until recently populated mainly by men flying toy helicopters, the occasional resident practicing tai chi and people using drugs, offered the program space to realize even greater ambitions. The lot, nearly two acres bounded by Sigourney, Otsego, Halleck and Columbia Streets, will be home to one of the largest farms in the city and will allow the group to expand into composting, hydroponics and even fish farming.

    The spot, near a huge public housing complex, industrial warehouses and a car pound, is far from bucolic, though it is maintained by the Parks Department. But it was enough to bring a program co-director, Ian Marvy, 30, to tears when he saw it about two years ago.

    Michael Hurwitz, 30, the other program director, said Mr. Marvy told him, "Oh, my God, this is our future."

    Near the end of last week, even as the city sputtered through the paroxysms of the blackout, that future was becoming present. One bed, measuring 8 feet by 128 feet and 10 inches high, had already been built and a few teenagers were filling it with soil from a huge pile in a corner. A few other teenagers were fighting off biting flies to work with John Ameroso, an educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension who is a consultant to the project, on building a second bed. Denia Cuello, 14, was dancing across a 2-by-8 piece of lumber placed over the soil to compact it. The group is behind schedule in filling field green and herb orders for 360, a nearby French bistro, Mr. Marvy said, so they cannot wait for gravity to compact the soil.

    "I am not going to be a farmer when I grow up," said Denia, who lives in the nearby Red Hook Houses, bounding off the bed. "They got to do so many things." Even so, she said, she has found that she likes to build things, and she especially likes earning her own money for clothes and sneakers. "When I need something, I don't have to ask my mother."

    The program pays participants, who work 16 hours a week, $250 or $350 a month, depending on seniority.

    Although Mr. Hurwitz and Mr. Marvy, who met while working at the Red Hook Youth Court, started the program in part to create job opportunities for low-income city teenagers, their farming efforts are about much more, they say. The city has a rich tradition in community gardening, but Mr. Marvy and Mr. Hurwitz were quick to distinguish their program as having its roots in the urban agriculture movement, which, they say, is different.

    Urban agriculture focuses on growing food for a variety of reasons. For Mr. Hurwitz and Mr. Marvy, those reasons are to provide affordable, high-quality food to low-income areas that do not have regular access to items like ruby chard or red mustard. The program also focuses on teaching job skills, communication and leadership to young people.

    "We wanted to create entrepreneurial opportunities for kids," said Mr. Hurwitz, who has a background in social work. "Every drug dealer I ever worked with was a better entrepreneur than I am."

    Mr. Marvy and Mr. Hurwitz plan to build 30 beds, and turn half of them over to neighborhood schools, centers for the elderly and Just Food, another nonprofit group that promotes urban farming. There are plans for a greenhouse so they can grow year-round, including plants for the city's parks. The two men also plan to start a vermiculture program, using worms to help turn waste into worm castings, a high-quality growing material that they can package and sell.

    For the teenagers, the program offers, at first, a job. Jose Felix, 18, has been in the program since it began. "It's good to get paid and learn a lot at the same time," he said. "It's better than working in a fast-food job where you're not learning very much and you're not getting paid enough."

    But taking part in the program has also given him other opportunities. Recently, he traveled to Costa Rica for a youth conference, which he said opened his eyes to the advantages he has in the United States.

    "The youth in Costa Rica were basically doing things their parents were supposed to be doing," he said, adding that the boys had jobs at 14 and young girls were having babies. "You can just do so much more here."

    Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, said he had approved the project because it was an adaptive reuse of a site that was being used. "And it's a community-oriented, environmentally appropriate project with economic development possibilities."

    It involves plants, young people and environmental education, making it a perfect Parks Department project, Mr. Benepe said.

    But even as urban agriculture should be encouraged, he said, it seems unlikely to spread far and wide in the city because land is so valuable and there are so many pressures to develop the little that is vacant. Much of what exists are demonstration farms with historic backgrounds, like the Queens County Farm Museum, or community vegetable plots.

    At the same time, Mr. Benepe said, it was especially critical in the city to strengthen the connection between people and the food they eat.

    "Most of us are so removed from agriculture, from where food comes from," he said, "just having people understand that vegetables grow on vines or out of shrubs and that it's possible to grow tasty vegetables without pesticides or herbicides" is important.

    Then, too, the city has a history of children's farm gardens, like one that existed at the turn of the 20th century in DeWitt Clinton Park in Hell's Kitchen. There, Mr. Benepe said, in what was not considered one of the city's finer neighborhoods, children learned about agriculture and economics. "That's a predecessor of what's going to be happening here."

    Last week, all that was very much in evidence. Mr. Marvy was describing his vision of a place where young people could learn math and science through farming, while eight of the participants were bustling about in the heat, readying beds, watering plants and ferrying dirt.

    As Jose passed a bed where Nastassia Gore, 14, had been planting baby greens, he asked Mr. Hurwitz if they were mizuna, a feathery Asian green.

    They were not, but were green mustard, which is related.

    "I am thoroughly impressed that you knew that it was a cousin of a mizuna plant," Mr. Hurwitz said. Jose shrugged and moved on.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  7. #7


    January 10, 2004


    The Trolley Guy's Last Ride (All 12 Feet of It)


    Bob Diamond, with trolleys in a garage in Red Hook, has been trying for two decades to return trolley service to Brooklyn, but his efforts appear to have been in vain.

    IN a darkened bay at Red Hook's watery edge, the trolley guy of Brooklyn steps over the bits and pieces of his grand vision to board his magnificent vessel. Come on, he says, in that weary-whiny voice of his. "I'll take you on the world's shortest trolley ride."

    He turns on the lights, rings the bell ding, ding and an 1897 trolley of mahogany and oak lurches six feet and stops. He walks to the rear, rings the bell ding, ding and the trolley lurches six feet back. That's it; 12 feet. Ride over.

    The last stop returns Bob Diamond, the trolley guy, to his cluttered world. In this cold and cavernous bay, from which he is about to be evicted, you will find old trolley fare boxes; books about electromechanical devices of the 1930's; pneumatically powered door engines; a BB gun to scare away pigeons and rats; heavy-duty machine tools; and ever-accumulating piles of spare trolley parts.

    Rising from this mess are two meticulously restored, but stranded, trolleys: the brown 1897 model, once used by the king of Norway, and a green-and-silver 1951 Pullman that once cruised along Boston's green line. And beside them always, Mr. Diamond: a rumpled shrug of a man who was married once for two days; whose dinner most nights is three hot dogs, cheese fries and an iced tea at Nathan's; and who is now the only person in New York with 16 trolleys and nowhere to put them.

    Mr. Diamond, 44, wheezes out the approximation of a laugh. "I'm laughing but I should be crying," he says. "It must be post-traumatic stress."

    This man was once the adopted darling of city officials, proponents of Red Hook revitalization, and anyone else who nursed an ache for the way things used to be in Brooklyn. More than just an electrical engineer, he was a Flatbush visionary an asset of the city.

    He earned his place as a bona fide Brooklyn character more than two decades ago by discovering a forgotten railroad tunnel beneath Atlantic Avenue. He created the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association and enlisted a band of volunteers to restore the tunnel and lead tours. Soon they were launched on the odd but honorable mission of returning trolleys to Brooklyn for the first time since the mid-50's.

    Piece by piece, they built their fleet. The Norwegian trolley, on permanent loan from a Staten Island man. Three Pullman cars from Boston that Mr. Diamond managed to buy for $9 plus $10,000 shipping. A switching locomotive that he recovered from a New Jersey soybean field for $8,000. A dozen more trolley cars from Ohio that cost $10,000 to buy and $50,000 to ship from Buffalo.

    In 1994, Mr. Diamond and his group moved their operation to this bay in a 19th century warehouse at the end of Van Brunt Street. Their efforts attracted the attention of local and federal officials who saw the charm and the need for light-rail service that would link isolated Red Hook to the rest of the borough.

    With the help of the city's Department of Transportation, Mr. Diamond's group received $286,000 in federal money to lay a few hundred feet of trolley line in Red Hook. Who knew? Maybe it would someday lead to the development of light-rail service all the way to downtown Brooklyn.

    The volunteers lovingly laid the track, polished the trolleys and worked out the intricate electrical system needed to activate service. Mr. Diamond estimates that he spent more than $100,000 of his own money earned in part by managing a New Jersey apartment complex on sundry items, including several thousand dollars for jackhammer rentals. "It's still on my credit card," he says.

    Everything seemed to be on track. In 1999, that glorious Norwegian trolley glided out of its darkened bay, looped around the warehouse, and went a few hundred feet down a track; soon, tourists were paying to take the short waterfront ride. Then city transportation officials gave permission to Mr. Diamond's group to lay track on Conover Street, the hope being that a trolley would one day lead to a bus stop a half-mile away.

    Mr. Diamond may have been a visionary, but his single-mindedness caused problems. City officials grumble that he wasn't doing any fund-raising; he counters that his contribution came in sweat equity. As for allegations that he did not want to share responsibility for the trolleys, Mr. Diamond says that he was worried about a "takeover group" within his core of volunteers.

    "When I didn't like them trying to take it over, they said I didn't want to share responsibility," he says. "I wasn't going to turn it over, especially after I sunk in 20 years of my own time and money."

    In August 2001, the bulkhead along the pier outside his trolley bay gave way, damaging the track and auguring a larger collapse.

    The two trolleys inside had nowhere to go. Volunteers left to create their own trolley group. And the disagreements with city officials became so contentious that in early 2002 they announced that they would no longer support the spending of federal money on Mr. Diamond's dream project.

    Mr. Diamond now had five stranded trolleys in Red Hook, including the two in the bay; 11 stranded trolleys and a locomotive at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; a half-built track on a city street and an ever-diminishing number of supporters.

    He accused a former volunteer of breaking into the bay one night and downloading his plans from a computer; nonsense, the former volunteer says. He charged that a city transportation official was related to one of his competitors; not true, a spokesman for the city agency says. He also accused the Department of Transportation of having him tailed and even arrested; ridiculous, the spokesman says.

    A few weeks ago, Greg O'Connell the owner of the warehouse who describes himself as a believer in Mr. Diamond's vision sent an eviction notice to Mr. Diamond and his organization. The group had been using the warehouse space, rent-free, for nearly a decade.

    "We've been left with no other choice," Mr. O'Connell says. "There are other nonprofits. We get many calls to use that space from people who could make a real contribution to the neighborhood."

    "Bob's difficult sometimes to work with," Mr. O'Connell adds. "He's unique."

    Then, a couple of weeks ago, as Mr. Diamond watched, the city ripped up the tracks that had been laid by volunteers along Conover Street; his dream had become a hazard. Tom Cocola, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, says that Mr. Diamond had been notified several times that the tracks had to be removed.

    "We were excited to jumpstart the trolley initiative," Mr. Cocola said in an e-mail message. "But promises made by Mr. Diamond were not met, so we decided that in a time where the city has experienced budget difficulties it would not be prudent to waste any more taxpayers' money on this project, no matter how noble it appeared on paper."

    Mr. Diamond says that he has no idea what to do, and no more money to spend on his vision. He continues to level charges that all his former supporters have betrayed him and may be conspiring to take his trolleys from him.

    "What a huge waste of time and money," he says. "It's sort of like being dressed up with no place to go."

    For now, there is just him, and a young volunteer named Donald. They sit in the back of this Red Hook bay, hunched around a portable heater, watching a black-and-white television, while all about them lay pieces of trolley.

    After taking the 1897 trolley for its 12-foot ride, Mr. Diamond climbs aboard the sleek Pullman to point out the attention given to its restoration, down to the row of incandescent bull's-eye lights. He turns on the air compressors, and begins to open and close the door. For a little while, at least, this stranded trolley sounds as though it is breathing.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  8. #8


    What a forlorn photo.

  9. #9


    What a forlorn article.

    "that weary-whiny voice of his"

    "whose dinner most nights is three hot dogs, cheese fries and an iced tea"

    "wheezes out the approximation of a laugh"

    "They sit in the back of this Red Hook bay, hunched around a portable heater, watching a black-and-white television"

    Some of that stuff is just mean. Shame on you NY Times.

    This is sad. This would have been pretty cool. Not an essential project perhaps, but a real treat.

  10. #10


    New York Newsday

    Red Hook: The Next Murano?

    By Vera Haller

    January 21, 2004, 11:27 AM EST

    Although tourists do not throng to its shores by the boatload to buy glass-blown trinkets as they do in Murano, comparisons can be drawn between Red Hook and the Italian glassmaking center.

    Like Murano, an island near Venice, Red Hook, too, is on the water -- a peninsula jutting into the New York Harbor.

    And like Murano, Red Hook is home to a cluster of glassblowers and artisans who engrave, bend and color glass.

    Some 14 glass or glass-related businesses are located in the neighborhood, according to Phaedra Thomas, director of the Red Hook and Gowanus programs for the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp.

    Affordability of studio space and industrial zoning that allows them to operate the ovens needed to melt glass were some of the reasons that first drew the glass companies to Red Hook.

    "They also consider themselves kindred spirits with the other artists and artisans," such as the many woodworkers who also have settled in Red Hook, Thomas said.

    It was a search for more space in 1989 that led Charles Flickinger to leave Williamsburg and relocate his glass-bending shop, Flickinger Glassworks, to Pier 41 in Red Hook.

    "We're probably the first glass business that moved to this neighborhood and quite a number have followed," he said. "I think I have the best office in New York, 30 feet from the water staring at the Verrazano Bridge."

    With 12 employees, Flickinger Glassworks creates custom bent glass pieces for lighting, cabinetry and display cases by shaping sheet glass into steel molds.

    The company provided the glass used for the refurbishment of the clock atop the information booth at Grand Central Terminal.

    It was the presence of glass companies such as Flickinger that drew Tomas Tisch, a glass engraver, to his studio in the Beard Street warehouse, which like Pier 41 is owned by developer Greg O'Connell.

    "People who love glass, who have a passion for glass, tend to stick together," Tisch said.

    He said those in the glass community depended on each other to provide services. For example, if Flickinger had a client who wanted engraving on a piece of bent glass, he could easily send that work to Tisch.

    "It's just like in an ancient city where all the coppersmiths were in one row and all the silversmiths were in another area and all the butchers were in another. I think that whole idea still holds true," Tisch said.

    Tisch spoke with pride of his craft, which was passed on to him by his father and grandfather.

    Using a simple machine with a spinning grinding stone and water to cool the surface, Tisch creates intricate designs on glass. Much of his work is restoration.

    Downstairs in the same warehouse, another scene of old fashioned artisanry played out in the studio of Pier Glass, where Kevin Kutch and Mary Ellen Buxton were beginning work on a new glass creation.

    Starting with a blob of molten glass taken out of a red-hot oven, they used a tube and hand-made metal tools such as tongs and tweezers -- to blow, bend, shape and mold the glass.

    They periodically returned the worked glass to the oven to be softened so more molding and shaping could be done. The final product was a delicate perfume bottle.

    They also create high-end glass 'sculptures,' which are shown and sold in art galleries. Buxton said the couple's signature work usually included clear glass, a small amount of color and "multiple blown chambers."

    Kutch is optimistic about the future of his business in Red Hook even though other artists and small business owners are apprehensive about development changes in the neighborhood.

    Tisch worries that the neighborhood's quiet atmosphere will disappear if Ikea wins zoning approval to open one of its huge stores in Red Hook.

    And Flickinger, noting rising rents, said he knew of two glass companies in Red Hook that have gone out of business in the past two years.

    But Kutch and Buxton were hopeful their company would grow with the neighborhood.

    Their studio faces yet another waterfront warehouse, also owned by O'Connell, that is being developed to house a Fairway supermarket. If all goes as planned, ferry service connecting Manhattan to Red Hook will open with a stop right at their doorstep.

    In anticipation, the artists have set aside a portion of their studio for a future retail outlet. Their vision: boatloads of shoppers delivered to their shores to buy their glass-blown trinkets.

    Copyright 2004, Newsday, Inc.

    Video - Inside a Glassblower's Studio

    Photos - Red Hook Glassblowers

    Red Hook: A Storied Past

    By Vera Haller

    January 21, 2004, 11:24 AM EST

    Judith Dailey, 58, has fond memories of growing up in Red Hook when the Brooklyn neighborhood was still bustling with longshoremen and their families.

    She remembers seeing movies at the Pioneer Theater, going fishing with her father, a dock worker at Todd Shipyards, and attending church bazaars in what was then an open field behind the convent at Visitation Place.

    "The bazaars were like a mini-Coney Island with rides and games," reminisced Dailey, a teacher's assistant at Red Hook's P.S. 27. One man from the neighborhood gave out candy to all the children, she said.

    She described a close-knit family and community life. Not only did she have her family, which was of Puerto Rican heritage and included seven brothers and sisters, but Dailey said neighbors also looked out for each other. "You didn't get away with a thing," she said. "Everybody knew everybody. It was such a sense of security."

    Red Hook became an important shipping center in the mid 1800s with the opening of the Atlantic Basin, a wharf with warehouses used largely for the storage of grain.

    During its shipping heyday -- from the 1850s until the 1950s -- Red Hook also had its tough side. Al Capone got his start as a petty criminal in the neighborhood before moving to Chicago in 1920. It reportedly was during Capone's days in Red Hook that he was wounded and was given his nickname "Scarface."

    The dark side of life on Red Hook's docks was dramatized in the 1954 movie "On the Waterfront," starring Marlon Brando.

    Dailey, who remains a Red Hook resident, remembers when the neighborhood began its downward spiral as shipyards, including Todd Shipyards where her father worked for 27 years, began closing.

    According to the Encyclopedia of New York City, Red Hook's decline in the late 1950s and early 1960s was linked in part to the demise of so-called break-bulk shipping, when goods were packed in boxes and longshoremen physically unloaded them from ships.

    This mode of moving goods was used less and less with the advance of container shipping, which involves placing cargo in large containers lifted off ships by cranes. The region's new container shipping hub shifted across the harbor along New Jersey's shores.

    "Businesses moved out and people also moved. We lost a lot of families," Dailey said.

    Red Hook's maritime history goes back much further than last century. The area was first settled by the Dutch in 1636, one of the earliest settlements in Brooklyn. The Dutch named the area Roode Hoek -- red for the color of its soil and hook for the way the peninsula curved into the harbor.

    With the opening of the Atlantic Basin in the 1850s, Red Hook became one of the busiest shipping ports in the country. Brick rowhouses lined the residential areas and in 1936, the Red Hook Houses East -- a big public housing project -- was built to provide residences for dockworkers, many of whom where Italian, Irish and Puerto Rican immigrants.

    The decline of the shipping industry was not the only reason Red Hook fell on hard times. The neigbhorhood was physically cut off from the rest of the city when the Gowanus Expressway was built in 1946. Later, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, whose Brooklyn entrance sits at the northern tip of Red Hook, did more to isolate the neighorood.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, Red Hook earned a reputation as a crime-ridden, desolate place. Abandoned warehouses and empty lots abounded.

    That is why Dailey welcomes any new businesses that want to settle in the neighborhood. She supports a controversial proposal to build a huge Ikea furniture store in the old New York Shipyards.

    "I support Ikea because I remember what it was like when people were able to work in their community," she said.

    Copyright 2004, Newsday, Inc.

    Red Hook Photo Tour

  11. #11

  12. #12


    From the Home Depot parking garage, the view across Gowanus Creek of the long abandoned Port of New York Authority granary.

  13. #13
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Sep 2003
    Manhattan - UWS


    Is Red Hook real Estate that hot?



    April 16, 2005 -- Barbara Corcoran has put her money where her mouth is - in Red Hook.

    The founder of the giant real-estate group recently touted Red Hook as one of the hot neighborhoods in the country on "The View." And she's now in contract to pay $1.075 million for a three-story semi-attached brick house there.

    The property at 293 Van Brunt St. was listed at $1.1 million. (Why pay asking?)

    It has two apartments and a first-floor storefront.

    Ms. Corcoran, who was not available for comment at press time, has already enriched the seller, who bought it a year ago for $400,000.

    But Carver Farrell has had to work for his money. The designer/builder, who has done five renovations in Brooklyn in the past four years, says he planned a simple renovation.

    But after he started work, he found more problems than he had bargained for. "We gutted it to a shell. After we discovered it was in such bad shape we rebuilt it from scratch," he says.

    He ended up shoring up the foundation, putting on an entirely new roof, and adding new plumbing and electrical circuits.

    As for Ms. Corcoran, she nearly missed the deal. Farrell had listed the house himself in the New York Times and on the Craigslist Web site. It was only after a bid fell through that Farrell gave the listing to the Corcoran Group.

    If you want to bargain hunt alongside Barbara, be aware that Red Hook's prices have been climbing. The area, which lacks subway access, is luring buyers with the promise of a new Fairway and an IKEA.

    Copyright 2005 NYP Holdings, Inc.

  14. #14
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    For Whom Will the Foghorn Blow?

    Published: January 19, 2006

    Red Hook could've been a contender, just like Marlon Brando's character in "On the Waterfront," a film that immortalized the bleak, harsh atmosphere of the Brooklyn docks (even if it was filmed in Hoboken).

    With acres of piers for hauling cargo, and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, Red Hook should have become a leading industrial port or another charming Brooklyn village like nearby Carroll Gardens.

    But a series of government miscalculations - like cutting the neighborhood off from the rest of Brooklyn with the Gowanus Expressway and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and shifts in the waterfront economy to containerized cargo - left the square-mile peninsula with forlorn blocks pocked by tumbledown houses, unkempt lots and hollow-eyed factories.

    In recent years, however, Red Hook has become a vigorous place again, so much so that it is now a contested ground for apartment developers wanting to cash in on the views, artists and restaurateurs looking for cheap space, factories seeking a haven from gentrification elsewhere and old-line residents wanting to keep the old-time flavor.

    Red Hook is poised to receive stores like Ikea and Fairway, million-dollar condominiums, humming factories and bustling docks, and even a pier for the 1,132-foot Queen Mary 2 and other cruise ships. Yet, its future is caught up in a battle royal.

    A pier under construction in Red Hook is big enough to accommodate the Queen Mary 2. It is scheduled to open in the spring.

    Developers want to convert waterfront warehouses and factories into apartments, even though the areas are zoned for manufacturing. But factory owners and cargo haulers fear that well-heeled apartment dwellers would not take kindly to their trucks barreling through Red Hook's narrow cobblestone streets or their middle-of-the-night foghorns and bright lights.

    "You're going to be doing something they don't like, even if it's interfering with a guy barbecuing on the block," said Michael DiMarino, owner of Linda Tool and Die Corporation, a precision metal fabricator with clients like NASA and Boeing. "I don't blame him, but we were here first."

    Many factions dread the prospect of big-box stores like Ikea, which plans to build a waterfront furniture emporium with 1,500 parking spaces by 2007.
    Blue-collar businesses fear that Ikea's shoppers would clog Red Hook, stalling their trucks. Homeowners worry that Ikea would shatter the quiet.

    Yet residents of the housing projects, whose 8,000 tenants represent three-quarters of Red Hook's population, are eager for the 500 jobs Ikea is dangling.
    Dorothy Shields, 74, the president of the Red Hook Houses East Tenants Association, who has taken a liking to Ikea's Swedish meatballs, supports the store because one of every four of the projects' tenants is unemployed.
    "It's the jobs," she said. "I have so many people who needs jobs."

    Artists and craftsmen trickling in from Dumbo and Williamsburg fear any change because they suspect they will end up priced out of another blossoming neighborhood. Madigan Shive, a 29-year-old cellist, moved from San Francisco into a rental house with three other artists.

    "There's a good chance we could lose our house in the next year," she said. "If I lose this space, I don't know that I can stay in New York."

    The neighborhood quarrel is embodied in two men, John McGettrick, co-president of the Red Hook Civic Association, and Gregory O'Connell, a former city detective turned millionaire developer and one of Red Hook's largest property owners.

    Mr. O'Connell, who supports expanding blue-collar businesses, is a ubiquitous figure who uses the paper-strewn dashboard of his pickup as his desk and file cabinet. Mr. McGettrick, whose father slung cargo on the docks but who favors housing, manages an investigations agency.

    The two antagonists tap into different elements of Red Hook history and are backed by rival civic groups. Mr. McGettrick contends the city hurt Red Hook in 1961 when it zoned as industrial numerous blocks in which frame or brick houses had always been mixed in. Homeowners could not expand and banks would not offer mortgages, and the result, he said, was abandonment and arson. "There is a desperate need to rebuild the population that was lost," Mr. McGettrick said.

    John McGettrick, the co-president of the Red Hook Civic Association, favors more housing for the neighborhood.

    Mr. O'Connell has revamped Civil War-era warehouses set on waterfront piers but filled them with blue-collar trades like wood and glass workers. Those tenants will be joined this spring by a Fairway, the grocery cornucopia, which is also on Manhattan's West Side and in Harlem.

    Much of the tension has crystallized around a mammoth concrete warehouse at 160 Imlay Street that a Manhattan group bought in 2000 for $7.2 million and for which it received a zoning variance allowing conversion into 144 condominiums. Standing on the windswept sixth floor overlooking the harbor, with the building shrouded in netting, the developer, Bruce Batkin, said: "We're not here to rape and pillage. We're going to do something beautiful. How can we do something worse?"

    But the project, supported by Mr. McGettrick, has been mired by stop-work orders resulting from a two-year-old lawsuit brought by opponents including more than 80 local businesses, as well as Mr. O'Connell.

    "Imlay Street could be the tipping point that affects all the zoning in Red Hook," Mr. O'Connell said. "You pay $1 million for an apartment, you don't want to hear trucks loading or unloading early in the morning."

    In court papers, the opponents contend that the city's Board of Standards and Appeals was improperly swayed into believing that the building could not attract industrial tenants. A lawyer described a meeting between a lobbyist for the owners and Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development, which the lawyer said resulted in a $100,000 gift to Mr. Doctoroff's favorite cause, NYC2012, the group that bid unsuccessfully for the 2012 Olympics.

    In an interview, Mr. Doctoroff described the claim as "completely absurd," adding: "I'd isolated myself from the fund-raising effort. I didn't even know there was a contribution."

    He described Red Hook as the city's "single most complex land-use issue" because it has potential in retailing, housing and manufacturing. "Every conceivable issue is wrapped up in this one community, which makes everything you do there very sensitive and very difficult," he said.

    The outlook for industry in Red Hook is no longer bleak. According to Phaedra Thomas, executive director of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, the number of industrial businesses has grown 60 percent since 1991, to 455, and jobs have increased 19 percent, to 5,000.

    Waterfront activity has also rebounded. The Erie Basin Bargeport was vacant 15 years ago, but it now provides staging for 500 barges used for repairing bridges or shooting off Macy's Fourth of July fireworks.

    Another pier operator, John Quadrozzi Jr., president of the Gowanus Industrial Park, has taken a 46-acre complex of grain silos and docks and uses it, in part, to unload hundreds of thousands of tons of Chilean salt for de-icing the city's streets. He says he opposes Ikea but is finding it hard to resist offers from megastores that want to move in nearby. "If I'm a salmon, I can only swim upstream so long," he said. "I get tired."

    John Quadrozzi Jr., president of the Gowanus Industrial Park, says he can resist big-box offers for only so long.

    Factory owners also fret when they see the kind of shops new to Red Hook sprouting on the commercial spine of Van Brunt Street: Baked, a SoHo-like bakery; 360, a French restaurant; and LeNell's, a specialty liquor store that sells 100 brands of bourbon.

    Until now, the Bloomberg administration has encouraged residential and commercial development along the waterfront. The city and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gave American Stevedoring Inc., which operates gantry cranes for moving large containers, only a short lease extension on Piers 8, 9 and 10 that expires in April 2007 and removed the company from Pier 6 and 11. Pier 7 is in litigation.

    But a year ago, the administration, apparently responding to a reaction against rezoning to residential in Dumbo and Long Island City, mapped out 15 "industrial business zones" where rezoning would be forbidden. Such a move would protect companies like Linda Tool from speculative landlords who might raise rents and offer only short leases. What is not yet clear is how many factories would be vulnerable in a murky "ombudsman" zone, where the city could consider zoning changes for housing.

    For developers like Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities, who eyes the waterfront ravenously, the problem is that his property is in the industrial zone. Last year, he paid $40 million to acquire the crumbling pier that holds the old Revere sugar plant.

    He has told city officials that he is considering a residential project that would include a marina. The officials say he may retain Revere's steel funnel silo as a memento of the industrial past. In the coming weeks, Mr. Sitt will lobby the city to pull in the borders of the industrial zone so he can consider other uses.

    Many old-timers want to see the neighborhood livened up with more apartment dwellers. Sue and Annette Amendola, two of the 10 children of an immigrant longshoreman who hauled bags of coffee on his back, live in the apartment where they were born in the 1940's and do not want the neighborhood moribund any longer.

    Sunny Balzano, 71, a painter whose family has owned a bar on Conover Street since 1890, wants more housing, too, but worries that development that would attract big-box stores would also destroy the neighborhood's singular character. He remembers when the noon whistle blew for lunch and children had to escape the sidewalks because of the stampede of beefy dockworkers trying to grab lunch or a shot of whiskey at one of the 40 bars in the neighborhood.

    "In the summer, you can hear the water lapping against the docks and the foghorns and the ships going by," he said. "But if you're going to have thousands of cars, the quality of life is about to change."

    Bruce Batkin, a developer who is converting a concrete warehouse into 144 condominiums, says: "We're not here to rape and pillage. We're going to do something beautiful. How can we do something worse?"

    Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

  15. #15


    I'd like to see this area remain a manufacturing zone, with industrial development encouraged - if for no other reason than it is not being done anywhere else.

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