Monday, September 26, 2011

Red Hook, Brooklyn

Old Rail line 
When I lived in Austin, Texas, two fun bumper stickers were commonly displayed: "Keep Austin Weird" and "78704."  For locals, these slogans represent support for local small businesses and artisans, as well as affirm a type of eclectic bourgeois bohemian lifestyle.  On a recent sightseeing walk through the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, I am pleasantly reminded of this Austin eccentricity.  

According to Dom, the Made-in-Brooklyn walking tour guide, Red Hook's name derives from the red color of the clay, and the Dutch word for point, which sounds like hook. Accurately named, this neighborhood sits on a point in the New York Harbor, between downtown Brooklyn and Bay Ridge, with views of Governor's Island, Lady Liberty, Manhattan, a smidge of Staten Island, and New Jersey.

Art Gallery

Red Hook could not hide its industrial sea port past even if it wanted to.  Along the wharf artists studios, art galleries, restaurants, and residential lofts have replaced the former warehouses that stored various imports like cotton and coffee. These artisan restaurants and studios also dot the main street.  Down some of the cobbled side streets a visitor can see a community farm, a local brewery [Six Points], a maraschino cherry factory [which pinked up some local bee honey a while back when the bees were partaking a bit too much], a winery [Red Hook Winery], a chocolatier [Cacao Prieto], and a key lime pie shop [Steve's Authentic].
Six Points Brewery

All this local business needs a bit of an economic boost, though, especially for a neighborhood with very limited public transportation. This is where IKEA comes in. Located on the water, IKEA supports its business, and the local community's, by funding the water taxis from Manhattan and shuttle buses from downtown Brooklyn. Of course, you could take the fifteen-minute scenic walking route from the nearest subway stop [I did] and experience the true meaning of industrial neighborhoods en route. 

Back of Fairway & Lofts
Near IKEA is the Long Island answer to Texas's Central Market, a European styled food market: Fairway. In addition to reasonable prices on every type of conceivable cooking ingredient, above the Red Hook Fairway are lofts with the best views of the harbor and the docks.  This former warehouse boasts some spectacular picture windows and has kept some of the structure's original warehouse beams with the warehouse numbers still imprinted upon them.  

View from Lofts

Old beam
Several years ago Red Hook had notoriety for how unsafe it was.  Now, with development and creative businesses sprouting up around the community, this neighborhood provides a peaceful retreat from other overly congested areas of Brooklyn.  You can actually park [for free!] in the IKEA parking lot, and IKEA has added some beautiful green space along the water where you could sit, picnic, and enjoy the waterfront views.  As an added bonus, you can watch Manhattanites racing from IKEA to reach the departing water taxi with their giant rugs, pillows, and kitchen supplies in tow.  Or, just watch the ships in the harbor.