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

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Happy New Year... and Ikea finally arrives (with a bang and a crash)

I haven't posted at all during the holiday season, things were a bit too busy. We also did the regular holiday traveling from one family to the other and back again which kept me away from my computer for much of the time. Regarless, a happy belated holidays and happy New Year to all.

While we were gone it seems that Red Hook has been busy. Besides the obvious (Ikea) there appears to be at least one other neighborhood development. A new bakery called "Baked" is poised to open just down the block from Hope & Anchor. Word is that it will be open by the middle of this week. From the looks of it, Baked is going to be something of a coffee shop / bakery, which should be a nice addition to Van Brunt Street.

There was one reply on the call for local websites. One of our hi-tech neighbors got in touch - The Future Now, Inc. Their websites (www.grokdotcom and www.futurenowinc.com) are posted on the sidebar. Its good to see "grok" in common usage... very late 60s-sci-fi hip. Let's hear from more folks.

Anyway, the big story of course is the start of the demolition of the Todd Shipyard buildings on Beard Street. Unfortunately, the first building for destruction was probably the most appealing of the lot. It was a pretty red-brick structure with arched windows. Although the demolition generated a bit of press and public consternation, it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. A quick look at Ikea's plans on their website (www.ikearedhook.com) shows that they don't intend on keeping any of the old structures. My own opinion on the project is mixed. I hate to see buildings as pretty and as historically significant as those at the Todd Shipyard destroyed, but at the same time, it was perhaps worse to see them unused and deteriorating. Leaving aside whether or not Ikea is a good idea for Red Hook, the destruction of the Todd Shipyards was years in the making.

Although they may be the ones finally taking it apart, Ikea is only sort of really responsible for what is happening to the Todd Shipyards. Perhaps more directly than many other locations, Red Hook has been "shaped by war and trade". For Red Hook, and the shipyards that are at its core, declining fortunes comes on the heals of two major changes. The first is the movement away from naval power. For the Todd Shipyards, the biggest boom years were during World War II. The Shipyards either repaired, refitted, or built thousands of ships for the war effort. A big navy was vital to winning World War II, whether for transporting troops, moving material or fighting. After World War II long range aircraft largely replaced ships for military transport. What shipbuilding that was done after World War II was mostly moved south and west, where costs were less and work could be done year round.

The second big changed was the use of containerization in shipping. At one time the Erie and Atlantic Basins in Red Hook were among the most busy ports in the world. Containerization revolutionized the shipping industry. When containerization came to dominate, ports like Red Hook which only had limited container facilities were essentially abandoned. Currently American Stevedoring is the only container facility here in Red Hook. Compared to the container facilities in New Jersey, Brooklyn's are relatively smaller. I believe that Brooklyn has a deeper natural draft, however, which makes shipping here still attractive.

You could also argue that containerization is one of the things that makes Ikea possible. Shipping flat packages in containers from low cost production sites is one of the ways that Ikea keeps its products cheap. Without containers, the savings in low end production in Thailand or Malaysia would disappear into the transportation costs.

So maybe Ikea could have been better neighbors by at least saving the facade of the Todd Shipyards, but the yards themselves and all their place in the industrial world was gone long before our new Swedish neighbors got here.

Later this week I'll post two ideas on how Ikea could be a better neighbor - trees for all, and the start of a home design district.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howdy RedHooky. Thanks for mentioning Baked. We are happy to be part of the Red Hook community and look forward to opening our doors. We meant to update you with our web info last week, but we have been in the midst of finishing the space. Our website is: www.bakednyc.com.


Mon Jan 10, 09:55:00 PM

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