Where to Go When You’re Growing Up in Red Hook

Red Hook Community Justice Center youth leader Keith Pettaway outlines his favorite local spots


Red Hook has a dual identity as both a working waterfront and a popular destination for fans of lobster rolls, key lime pies, cruises, Swedish furniture, and art. But for lifelong locals, the neighborhood’s go-to places evoke a sense of place and home. One of the youth leaders at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, Keith Pettaway gives us a glimpse into the Red Hook of the present and the future.

U.S. Fried Chicken & Pizza (129 Dwight Street) is iconic to the area I live in. We call it “the pizza shop,” because that’s essentially what it’s known for. If you’ve lived in Red Hook for a long time, you’ll know the pizza shop and know the guys that work there. They’re like family.

Coffey Park (bordered by Dwight, King, Richards, and Verona streets) is where we go for fun. It has baseball fields, basketball courts, a playground for kids, a big open field for picnics and barbecues. In the summertime, lots of barbecues are going on and kids are playing in the sprinklers.

The best place to relax is Pier 41 (toward the end of Van Dyke Street) because from there you can see the Statue of Liberty. The pier is right by the ocean, so it’s pretty peaceful and calming. And you can usually see the fireworks on the Fourth of July. And Valentino Park (Ferris and Coffey streets) — I’ve done the free kayaking on multiple occasions. I get seasick, but it is really fun, especially with friends and everyone trying to wet each other while not tipping over.

The pier is right next to Ikea (1 Beard Street). We go in and lie on the beds and sit on the chairs and couches and just walk through. We always come out with some type of food. Try the frozen yogurt next to the exit.

The Red Hook Community Justice Center (88 Visitation Place) offers second chances to people that don’t normally get them. These are kids and people that have committed low-level crimes like petty larceny and truancy, and we can relate to them because of our age. These are things most teenagers go through. At these hearings, we’re assigned different roles, sometimes as judge, jury, or advocates. Essentially, the jury gets to hear out the respondent and they get to assign them a sanction — a second chance — with a workshop or program instead of punishing them. So giving back, seeing their faces when they receive a sanction instead of going to court or jail — that feeling alone makes it worth it.

The best thing about Red Hook is probably the people and the recreational sites, like the Red Hook Recreation Area (between Bay, Columbia, and Clinton streets) and Center (155 Bay Street). There’s a pool by one of the ball fields. If you live here a long time, you get to know a lot of people. You’ll have a really big family. And the recreational centers are where people hang out and meet, especially in the summer.

The Village Voice is exploring one borough per day for the week of April 2, 2018. For full coverage to date, visit our Neighborhoods Week 2018 page.