Close-Up on Red Hook, Brooklyn


Like a prehistoric, three-legged fish crawling out of some slurpy, subterranean swamp, here is Red Hook in its current state of evolution: two healthy-looking 30-somethings wearing drugstore sunglasses, using the backboards at the Harold Ickes playground to practice their tennis strokes. It’s a real open court, this neighborhood, part-deserted, well located, and prepared to be made over in the image of its newest and least-hardy settlers.

Oldish-youngsters aren’t much newer to this area than gentrification is to certain parts of Brooklyn. What’s changing, drastically, just this month, is the basic interface of the neighborhood: One long blink and Red Hook won’t look, sit, taste, or travel anything like it did before. On April 15, Carnival’s Queen Mary 2 docked, with great fanfare, at the new Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal, at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Columbia Street. And while Red Hook might seem bleak to the first few rounds of Carnival-goers, their ships will soon come in to truckloads of fresh produce: Fairway Market on Van Brunt Street looks about ready to burst open. Meanwhile, the Ikea site, also on the waterfront, awaits transformation; developers float visions of parks, condos, and fish markets; and relatively long-term residents rest just a little uneasy.

Local blogger Callalillie smartly embodies the embarrassed post-yuppie ambivalence of future corporate shoppers. On the one hand, she claims she would gladly trek to Manhattan for vegetables, if it meant saving the gnarled warehouses she adores. On the other, she write that when Fairway opens, she’ll be one of the first in line, buying each and every one of the canisters in the spice section. Looks like she won’t have to choose.

Mass Transit: At the moment, transportation isn’t much more efficient than a cruise ship. The B61 bus, which makes several stops in Red Hook can be caught at Jay Street/Borough Hall or Atlantic Avenue and Court Street. Same goes for the B77 bus, which runs up and down Ninth Street from Park Slope.

Public transportation: South Brooklyn style
photo: Carla Blumenkranz

Main Drags: Van Brunt St. takes visitors on a representative tour of abandoned buildings, construction sites, bodegas, bars, and restaurants.

Boundaries: Hamilton Ave. and the BQE distinguish Red Hook from adjacent Carroll Gardens.

Average Rent: Studios are “pretty much nonexistent,” according to realtor Frank Manzione. But one-bedroom apartments rent for $1000-$1200; two-bedrooms for $1500-$2000; and three-bedrooms (“pretty rare,” Manzione says) for $1800-$2400.

Average Price to Buy: Newly built condominiums are just coming onto the market. Manzione estimates they’re priced at $700,000 for two bedrooms; $825,000 for three.

Restaurants and Bars: Line particular blocks of Van Brunt. 360 is a destination in itself and practically next door to the Hope Anchor Diner, Baked, and the Pioneer Bar. Other notable bars and clubs in the neighborhood include Lillie’s, Sunny’s, Liberty Heights Tap Room, and The Hook.

Promenade: Like Brooklyn Heights’, but with better views and without the promenaders. Check out the abandoned trolley, the Beard Street Warehouse and film studios around the back, and unnervingly close New Jersey. (You’ll find it at the very tip of the neighborhood.)

Crime Stats: The 76th Precinct reported one murder, one rape, 35
robberies, 27 felony assaults, 26 burglaries, and 54 grand larcenies
for 2005.

Politicians: All Democrats here. Sara M. Gonzalez represents City Council’s 38th District, covering the entire waterfront. Velmanette Montgomery and Feliz Ortiz are in State Senate and Assembly, respectively. Nydia Velazquez represents the 12th Congressional District.