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

Monday, April 25, 2005

The American Theatre Wing in Red Hook

Okay, in truth Kurt Weill has only the most tangental relationship to Red Hook, but I think its kind of an interesting story. And it wasn't just Weill, but also George Kaufman and other theatre types. Anyway the story is, during World War II the whole country was mobilized in the war effort. This included the entertainment industry, which organized the American Theatre Wing. The Theatre Wing decided to produce a number of short, patriotic skits that would be performed in factories around the country during the lunch break. These were known as "Lunchtime Follies". The Follies were written and performed by major stars of the day, including Weill who was also one of the organizers of the productions. One of the first performances of the Follies was held in Todd's Shipyard here in Brooklyn:

From the June 23, 1942 New York Times article "Whistle While You Work"

"With its canteen for the allied enlisted man continuing in a flourishing state in Times Square, the American Theatre Wing is branching out a bit to take entertainment to factory workers engaged in the war effort. After a sort of break-in performance out Long Island way a week ago, it knocked yesterday on the gates of the Todd Shipyards in Brooklyn..."

There is a more detailed account of the American Theatre Wing at their website. http://americantheatrewing.org/ww2.php

Kind of interesting, no?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Cross Harbor Tunnel

Okay, I've decided to mostly ignore the comments from my "gentrification rant". Not that I don't value the comments and input. I do. Really. Its just that I'm not particularly inclined to deal with them at the moment.

What I will deal with at the moment is a question that someone asked in the comments about the Cross Harbor Tunnel... namely, why do folks in Maspeth care about the tunnel project? Mostly because much of the truck traffic would be transferred out to Maspeth by the tunnel. The tunnel would be exclusively for rail freight. It would link the Bay Ridge Branch rail line that begins at the waterfront at about 65th Street in Brooklyn, and goes through Sunset Park, Borough Park, etc, up into Queens and terminates at the Maspeth yards. The Sunset Park waterfront would be refitted to handle large containers that would be loaded directly on the freight trains that would move straight out to either New Jersey, or Maspeth. From either location you've got much better access to the interstate system and further rail lines. (See the map at the Cross Harbor project web page.) Getting goods back and forth from the relatively poorly located (as in on an island - Long Island), but more sea accessible and deeper Brooklyn waterfront to greater national transportation network has always been a problem. The folks at the Waterfont Museum can give you the rundown on the history of the cross harbor barges.

So the cross harbor tunnel would move the center of the freight shipping activity to the Sunset Park area. It would probably get a good deal of large truck traffic off of the BQE, but it would also dramatically up the amount of rail freight traffic moving through Brooklyn. And it would make Maspeth a major transit point. So at the moment opposition is strongly based in the Maspeth and Borough Park neighborhood. So there ya go.

Doesn't anyone want to know about the Kurt Weill stuff?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Where am I?

This post is kind of an out-of-Red Hook experience... I'm away for the weekend, but I've got a bit of time and a bit of internet access so I thought I'd get something up on RedHooky.

Reading the Times today there's big news on the cruise ship front with Carnival deciding to bring their biggest ships to the neighborhood. I suspect the City had already worked something out with Carnival when they refused to act on the Germany shipping offer that was reported in last week's Carroll Gardens Courier. I've said before that I believe that there is a longer term, if unstated, plan to bring most of the industrial shipping to the Sunset Park waterfront. Figure that there is better highway access in Sunset Park, more of a working industrial base, and talk of a massive cross-harbor freight tunnel that would make moving commodities much easier. One of the more interesting parts of the cross-harbor tunnel project is that it would move much of the freight forwarding and trucking aspects of the waterfront and deep into Queens. (Someone posted a link in the comments section about an AM-NY article covering the tunnel. There is a lot more on the web about the tunnel if you start to Google it.) Keep in mind that the politician that both of the local papers describe as closest to American Stevedoring, and one of the most vocal proponents of both the idea of a working industrial waterfront and the cross harbor tunnel is Jerry Nadler. I've got no complaint against Nadler and I think he's a good congressman, but he does not represent Red Hook. Our Representative Nydia Valezquez is oddly quiet about much of the controversy surrounding waterfront issues. (Although she has been vocal in opposition to more waste transfer facilities in the district, which is great.)

Batkin, of 160 Imlay fame, is cited in the Times article as claiming to have received offers to covert the second Imlay St building into a hotel. That'd be interesting development. Last week's Courier also had a ton of news concerning the Imlay conversion. Apparently both parties were back in court about a week ago. Hopefully this means that a decision will be coming down soon.

Well, that's about it for now. As for the Redhooky methodology... I'm looking to post on a schedule of two posts a week or so. I'm also considering adding a couple of new folks to see if I can get more posts up, but I'll have to work that out a bit. Finally, I'll probably try to post less about the goings on and add a bit more about what I know about Red Hook as a place. In my obsessive digging around on the internet I've found out all sorts of odd things about the neighborhood. Ask me about Kurt Weil's conection to Red Hook! Really.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

So where was I?

So I let the blog go for awhile... and not just because it was too much time. As of late Red Hook as a place has had me at about at wits end. I still like it here and I still find it to be a great and interesting place, but I don't think it wears the winter well. Through January, February and March it seemed that the streets got dirtier and dirtier. The whole place just seemed to get grim and grimy. Let's put it this way, during the course of the winter I found three dead animals in the streets. Okay, actually four. That's pretty grim.

And I think that is probably the reason I'm more in favor of Ikea and the Imlay Street projects, than not. Its a simple matter of hoping that if Ikea comes, there may be more traffic, but maybe there won't be the big piles of trash on Beard St. that are there now. Sure, the derelict buildings might make a poignant photo that captures the tragedy and desolation of urban life, but ya know what? I'm not that keen in living in a set piece for tragedy and desolation. At let's be honest, you know why they found asbestos on the Ikea site? Because the whole freakin' place is tainted by industrial waste. Its great history to know that they built many of the landing crafts from the Normandy invasion in Red Hook, but all that shipbuilding leaves some pretty rough stuff - the dirty underbelly of industrial history. Ya know where you can find the most comprehensive history of the Todd Shipyards Brooklyn operations on-line? At the website for some law firm that specializes in Mesothelioma cases. The site has been poisoned for years. Good luck to Ikea if they want to clean it up.

Regardless, though, I'm here in Red Hook for a while. I do like the place. But I also want to see it get better. And by better, I mean that I want to see it become a better place to live. Yeah, I know... "What about the working waterfront?!?" I've got nothing against the working waterfront, so long as that doesn't mean garbage on the streets, and derelict buildings.

Friday, April 08, 2005

A New RedHooky

Over the past couple of months I've fallen behind on updating Redhooky. I considered dropping the whole thing, but I've decided to just sort of adjust the blogging to reality. I simply don't have much time for it, but I will try to keep up. The only real goal at this point is to post up-dates on what's going -- i.e. events and development. To that end:

From the Diesel Gallery on Van Brunt:

"New Work" exhibit at Diesel Gallery
Karni Dorell and Stuart Nicholson

April 15th, 7-10:30 pm with performances
Show runs through May 7th

Gallery Location:
242 Van Brunt Street (between Commerce and Delevan, B-61 bus stops in front)
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Directions: A, F to Jay, B-61 to Van Brunt and Commerce or F train to Carroll, exit at front of train, take a right on 2nd Pl, walk three blocks to BQE, cross over the BQE at 1st Pl, continue straight on Summit Street, 2 blocks, left on Van Brunt Street (3 blocks to gallery)
By Car: Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, exit Hamilton Ave., do a U turn, go back to Van Brunt St., take a left and go three blocks

Gallery hours: Saturday 1-5pm

Diesel is also running a benefit in the near future, details are below:
It will be the 2nd "Continuum II" benefit on Saturday May 21st from 7 to 10:30pm. Tickets are $125, but the way they've got it all arranged, that will also buy a piece of original donated artwork. So if you'd got the money, its a good way to get good art. Or at least art. I don't know what you like.

It you're interested in either attending or donating a work of art, contact Diesel. Go to the show on Saturday the 15th and they'll tell you all about it.

A Guest Post

A Guest Post from the ever poetic Bill:

Red Hook Blog

I sit on a stoop on Van Brunt Street listening, watching.... scenes that are as foreign to me as rivers and trees are familiar. A plastic bag scrapes down the sidewalk. Trucks lumber past, big and muscular. Van Brunt is a masculine, beefy name, and the namesake street bears its burden well: big trucks shake building foundations, pound broken pavement; loads shift, crash; engine whines and muscles into a lower gear.

Wind at my back, sunlight in my eyes. My front side bakes in the warm, harsh light. My neck feels chilly fingers of a breeze that knows it has time on its side, months to grow strong, colder. I can live here, and I cannot.

The days and months that flow from this moment are vague to me, yet omnipresent, like the drone of a horn or signal that now invades my ears, now is gone. The wind, my friend, has taken the the noise to the river, away, buying me not silence, but respite. Its from a factory, she guesses, just another of a cacophony of backdrop noises that makes up the audible canvas of a city. The reaction of many, or some, would be to find escape, silence. But this is all worth listening to. Are not our thoughts as loud and crazy as what we hear externally? More so, probably, because they strike emotional chords, then reverberates with a force as unpredictable as the idle thought that passes through my head. How can you hear yourself think with all this racket, someone might ask? How can you think without it, I wonder?

In lucid moments, I have a strong urge to shape and mold my life flow, give it direction and purpose. But my history of inaction in the face of decisive, life-changing events hangs over me like a specter. I leave this question of direction unresolved so I can settle on a more pressing issue: hunger.

Back... or I will be soon

Okay, I know its been awhile... but stay tuned Redhooky 1.2 is coming soon.