A waterfront blog about Red Hook, Brooklyn. From Columbia Street to the Van Brunt Stores and from Valentino Pier to Red Hook Rec Center.

Friday, December 17, 2004


If you're a local business-- you be the judge-- send us your website and we'll post it on our links link. rh

A Real "Post" (the Imlay Affair)

Things have been a bit busy so I haven't had time to post anything beyond the Weekend Happenings, but since its Friday and all, I figure I'll take a minute to write a bit more.

I suppose the biggest story in the neighborhood these days is the future of 160 Imlay. 160 Imlay, and its sister building, 62 Imlay, are the two hulking structures just south of the entrance to the Red Hook Container Port Facilty at Hamilton Avenue. 160 Imlay, the more southern of the two, is currently under renovation. Both buildings were part of the New York Dock Company operations which operated from about 1901 till around 1955. The Imlay Street buildings appear to have been built around 1913. By 1939 they were "part of the two and one-half miles of Brooklyn waterfront owned by the New York Dock Company whose railroad sheds, warehouses, and massive gray loft buildings extend between the water front and the marginal streets from Brooklyn Bridge to Red Hook." (The WPA Guide to New York City, 1939). The Imlay Street buildings front the Atlantic Basin, which was second to the larger and better equipped Erie Basin just a bit down the road. Most recently the buildings were used as a distribution point for a Mercedes Books and Publishing, which I believe is no longer in business. Neither building was ever used for manufacturing as far as I know. So the long and the short is that BSA accepted the variance request.

From what I understand, both buildings were purchased in 2000 by a group of investors headed by Bruce Federman. The City's Board of Standards and Appeals granted Federman and his partners a variance exemption last year, allowing mixed residential and commercial use of the buildings. Word was that the buildings would be luxury condominiums with commercial space on the ground floor. The variance ruling was very controversial at the time. Going into the proceedings it looked likely that the variance request would be rejected. The ultimate judgement of the BSA seemed to rest on the technical appropriateness of the buildings for modern manufacturing and warehousing. The owners argued that the ceilings on the building were too low, that there were pillars throughout the building that prevented modern warehousing, and that wasn't enough truck access. In the end they accepted the variance request more on the basis of the physical quality of the building rather than its 'marketability' as commercial real estate. Its an interesting argument from a preservationist stand-point in that the claim is that in order to preserve the buildings in anything that even resembles their shape requires recognizing that they are no longer physically appropriate for their original use. Either way, the variance was granted and work was begun.

More recently, the Red Hook - Gowanus Chamber of Commerce filed a suit agains the BSA, arguing that the variance was improperly awarded. The case has been argued more or less throughout the year. A decision was expected in November, but that was pushed back until December. Although, she didn't make a decision at that time, the judge did put a restraining order on the renovation work at that time. In the most recent action, Judge Lewis issued a preliminary injunction against all work at the site. According to the Courier (which has very good coverage of the whole process), the preliminary injuction makes it likely that the judge will find against the developers. A final determination was to have been made today, so the word should come down soon.

No matter where you stand on this, its a big issue for Red Hook. Should the variance hold, this project will result in a significant influx of new residents for the neighborhood. I'll go out on the limb and say that this part of the project has a certain amount of appeal for me. You might have noticed that I spend a certain amount of time plugging local businesses. There are a lot of people who have invested in this neighborhood and have opened nice businesses - LaNell's Wine Shop, the Red Hook Pet Provisions, Hiupiles Mexican restaurant, Luce Boutique, the Red Hook Cafe, Bait and Tackle, and the Old Pioneer... And there are some older businesses like DeFonte's Sandwich shop, Sunny's and Lilly's, and even 360 and Hope & Anchor. I'd like to see these businesses do well. I suspect that an influx of new people may help these folks along. But that doesn't mean that I'm insentitive to the real issues of gentrification... There are good arguments to be made on both sides, and I'll encourage people to make those arguments in the comments section.

In the future I'll try to post a bit more on the larger issues of gentrification in Red Hook. Whatever feedback that comes into the comments section will find its way into those posts.

Red Hook Weekend

Okay, I haven't posted much, but its been a busy week. A guy's gotta work, ya know? Anyway, I'm going to post a bit more of what's happening this weekend..

First and foremost, if you're getting a Christmas tree, then shop local! Trees are available at two local Red Hook spots. Some folks on Van Brunt at Commerce are selling trees out of their front yard. They are caddy corner to the Red Hook Cafe - (a great Monday through Saturday breakfast and lunch spot - 4am to 4pm). The Red Hook Flea Market is also selling trees. They are open Saturday and Sunday, 10am to Sunset and are right across the street from LaNell's Wine & Spirits and Red Hook Pet Provisions. I think both places have limited supplies of trees so get there soon!

The Hook has a full line up on Friday night (TONIGHT):

12am Shumai
11pm The Consultants
10pm The Nice Ones
9pm My Teenage Stride

The all seem very poppy and light as far as I can tell from a couple of mp3 downloads. The Hook's website links to their respective home pages and downloads.

And of course, I assume Hope & Anchor will be doing karaoke this weekend, god bless 'em.

That's all I know about for the weekend, but I'm sure there's more... if you know of anything, post it in the comments.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Red Hook in the NYTimes, Again!

Apparently the Times has been sending someone to the Red Hook beat. In today's paper is a bit about Hope & Anchor's new art -- Exhibition You Can't Refuse.

I thought the crowd in there today for the Sunday Brunch looked a little flahier than usual...

Also, someone asked me about linux in the comments the other day... I'm a semi-recent convert to Linux. I use Red Hat 9 and my wife uses Suse 9.2. I'll try to post a bit more about the trials and tribulations of bucking the Microsoft monster soon.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Wow! Redhooky gets linked to Curbed!

Wow, thanks Curbed! We've only been on the web for a couple of days now and we're getting some notice. And thanks to the neighbor who put the nice comment welcoming us onto the internet.

I have to say though, I feel the pressure is on... I can't really slack off on the blog now I suppose. We'll do our best to keep it up to date.

By the way, if anyone has neighborhood info, please put it in the comments and I'll try to work it into a regular post.

Red Hook this Weekend

Okay, not really a post 'about' anything, but as best as I can do with this weekend's Red Hook Happenings:

First of all I assume there will be Karaoke throughout the weekend at Hope & Anchor. It seems like there is always karaoke at Hope & Anchor.

There is a show at the Diesel Gallery -

Diesel Gallery -- 242 Van Brunt Street
Recovering Joy: a 2 artist exhibit with Alexandra Corbin and Joshua Kibuka
Opens Fri, Dec 10 7 - 10:30 pm with performances

There's music at the Hook on Commerce Street -
The Hook, 18 Commerce St.
December 10 Friday
Midnight: Tangerine
11pm: The Ordinary
10pm: The Dopes

I've never heard of any of them, but according to the Hook newsletter / e-mail Tangerine is from Pittsburgh and maybe comprable to Pink Floyd. Hmmm... Also according to the Hook e-mail, the Ordinary is composed of waiters. And the Dopes are reuniting after 5 long years apart...

The Hook is also hosting 'The Fourth Annual Russian Rock in America Festival' on December 11 and 12 Saturday and Sunday. This may potentially be very far out. The the Hook's website will have more details and links.

Later this week (December 15 Wednesday) they have a blues thing going on: "Blue Note/Manhattan Records Holiday Cavalcade" which might be interesting.

Last weekend Lilly's had a frickin' amazing Led Zeplin tribute band "Hammer of the Gods". I'm not much of a Led Zeplin fan, but credit where credit is due. These guys were committed to their Rock.

Of course there are the regular Red Hook happenings... the Old Pioneer and Bait and Tackle, as well as Sonny's. I think there is a reading this weekend at Sonny's, but I'm not certain. I'm also pretty certain that there is live music at the Liberty Heights Tap Room, but I don't recall the name of the band, or when it is... try their website (Liberty Heights Tap Room) and give them a call

So, best as I can see, that's Red Hook for this weekend.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Red Hook in the NYTimes

There was a nice article in yesterday's New York Times that I want to link to the blog. The article is A Time to Fight; A Time to Mellow by Jeff VanDam in the City section. The piece is an "as told" account of life in Red Hook in the 1960s and 1970s. Its a very nice article. Robert O., who tells the story, gives a very poignant, but troubling and violent picture of the growing up in the neigborhood. Red Hook is now an improving neighborhood with rising rents and new residents. Robert himself and his family have been priced out of Red Hook and now live in New Jersey. There is an undeniable sadness to the story.

I had thought to write a bit about gentrification of the neighborhood in response, but I think I'll leave that for another day. Its a big subject that may take a number of posts.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Welcome to Red Hook

Hello, and welcome to Wouter Van Twiller's! My intention is for this to be a blog mostly about Red Hook, Brooklyn. I've only been a Red Hook resident for a little while - a couple of months, but there seems to be so much going on that it might be worth trying to keep track of it all. I'm no insider to the development scene so I don't expect to have any scoops on what's going on with any of the big projects - 160 Imlay, Ikea, Fairway, etc - but I'll try to post what I hear.

Its likely that I'll also post occasionally on politics, linux, New York in general, and the Balkans. Maybe other stuff as well.

As for Red Hook, maybe its be a good idea to talk about how we ended up here, on the edge of South Brooklyn. My wife and I used to live in Winsdor Terrace which is probably about as different you can get to from Red Hook and still be in Brooklyn. We hadn't planned on moving, but push came to shove so it ended up that we were in a position to move. Our first inclination was to stay in Windsor Terrace, but rents were going up and it just seemed time to try a new neighborhood. We'd been to Red Hook, just to sort of check it out. The place sort of jumped out at us as an interesting place to live. So we looked at a couple of places down here and decided to give it shot.

It has proven to be interesting. Its a fascinating place. For those of you who don't know the area, its right on the Brooklyn waterfront. In someways its one of the oldest named places in Brooklyn - it was originally purchased from the local Lenape people by Wouter Van Twiller in 1636. At the time Van Twiller was the Governor of the colony of New Amsterdam. Red Hook was the site of Fort Defiance, which in 1776, fired on the armada of British Admiral Howe, driving the armada back and forcing Howe to abandon his efforts to land his forces further up river. The current Valentino Park and Pier appears to be on the site of the former Fort Defiance Community Park. Its unclear if this was the actual site of Fort Defiance.

As far as I can tell, Red Hook really took off as a shipping area after the US Civil War. Most of the larger and more beautiful buildings -- the Beard Street Stores, the Van Brunt Stores, and much of the larger red brick warehouses -- seem to be from the Civil War era. The folks at the WaterFront Museum can tell you a lot more about the workings of the old waterfront. Its worth giving the WaterFront Museum a visit - they're based in a beautiful old barge that's tied up just below the Red Hook Fields and can tell you all you'll need to know about the Red Hook waterfront.

Okay, that's it for now. There is a lot more history of Red Hook worth posting but I'll leave it there for today and try to get more up tomorrow