Those who’ve been dying to check out up-and-coming Red Hook will now have a much easier, much more comfortable way of getting to the cozy, cute nabe. The New York Water Taxi Commission has just added a brand new stop that will ferry passengers to Van Brunt Street from Lower Manhattan, DUMBO and Midtown on the West Side. Locals residents have been championing for a stop for the last few years, citing that it would be a boon to business development in the area, particularly for those still hurting from the effects of Superstorm Sandy.
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It’s not a shocker that some Brooklyn neighborhoods are outselling their Manhattan counterparts. What’s a bit of a surprise is that the Columbia Street Waterfront District, a quirky 22-block enclave wedged between Red Hook and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is one of them.
Until recently, Columbia Street was known as a far-flung and largely forgotten strip that fell victim to Robert Moses’s highway expansion project—the BQE—which, when built on a below-ground slice of Hicks Street in 1957, severed the area from the rest of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, breaking up what was then “South Brooklyn” into distinct neighborhoods.
From “coffices” to lab-like minimalist gourmet coffee meccas to cozy neighborhood hangouts, neighborhood cafes are a fine example of the essential “third place” mentioned in discussions of community dynamics: that place, neither work nor home, where regulars gather and everyone’s welcome.
Along with yoga studios, art galleries, community gardens, vintage clothing shops, restaurants with pedigreed owners and adventurous menus and, some say, a change in the offerings on local grocery shelves, cafes are often the earliest sign of neighborhood change. The neighborhood cafe serves as a testing ground for community cohesiveness while adventurous entrepreneurs test the still-unfamiliar waters around them. Beyond the literal gesture of offering sustenance, cafes provide a place where you can actually see who your neighbors are and appreciate the fact that at least some of them are willing to make an investment locally.
There’s been a lot of novels set in New York City (guilty myself, two times). When done right, such work can serve as a portal to the past, when New York was a distinctly different place, one often defined by its era and often in direct contrast to the current conditions.
In Eamon Loingsigh’s powerful new novel, Light of the Diddicoy, reference is made in the very first line to the area “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” Of course, any New Yorker worth his/her salted caramel custard from Shake Shack knows DUMBO, the Brooklyn nabe known for its pricey lofts and tony boutiques, its art galleries and swank eateries and a grassy park that sprawls along the water’s edge below the span of East River bridges. Lovely. The characters in Loingsigh’s novel aren’t so privileged, for they lived in DUMBO 100 years ago, long before any clunky acronyms, when the waterfront was a war zone, and the novel’s narrator, Liam Garrity, a displaced and desperate Irish immigrant, all of 14 years, fell in with a brutal gang as a matter of survival.
If you’re looking to turn your apartment into a peaceful retreat from New York City’s noisy, overflowing streets, start by installing these zen, bamboo-covered light fixtures. Designed by Jeremy Pickett of Brooklyn’s Pickett Furniture, the Brann hanging lamps seamlessly blend modern minimalist with fine, old-world craftsmanship.
When Coney Island was torn up in 2010 to make way for the glitzy new Luna Park, a part of its history was ripped out: the weathered, decades-old planks of the beach’s iconic boardwalk. Luckily, two Red Hook-based designers — Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf of Uhuru Design — took in the landfill-destined wood and used them to build functional pieces for the home.