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Red Hook, Brooklyn’s ‘industrial funk,’ charm attracting creative types

With a backdrop of pre-Civil War warehouses and shipping yards, Red Hook harbors a waterfront vibe with a thriving community of creative types.

The neighborhood is a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water: the Buttermilk Channel, the Gowanus Bay and the Gowanus Canal flank the sliver of land.

Renovated factories on Van Dyke Street and the small townhouses throughout the neighborhood give the area a rustic New York feel, but residents say that’s part of its charm.

“I happen to really like that sort of industrial funk,” said local Jennifer Petri, 54, an artist and singer-songwriter, while she was hunting for a new studio apartment on a recent afternoon. “It’s gorgeous. I love the charm.”

Petri said she also appreciates the nabe’s artistic side.

It boasts numerous galleries, including the contemporary Kentler International Drawing Space, which has been at 353 Van Brunt St. since 1990, and museums such as the Waterfront Barge Museum at 290 Conover St., which opened in 1985 and hosts art exhibitions, tours of the railroad barge and showboat performances.

According to Sallie Mize, 29, programs manager at Kentler International Drawing Space, artists helped clean up Red Hook after decades of being industrial and unkempt.

“The arts community has been here for a really long time and was responsible for revitalizing the area,” Mize said.

Today, despite having no subway stations directly in the neighborhood, Red Hook is a destination for New Yorkers from all over.

For groceries and home goods, they head to the big Fairway at 480-500 Van Brunt St. and to Ikea at 1 Beard St.

In the warmer months, visitors flock to Valentino Pier between Coffey and Van Dyke streets, which offers green space, a boat launch and a beautiful view of the New York Harbor.

The 55-acre Red Hook Recreation Area on Halleck Street draws residents from nearby neighborhoods too, for its ball fields, courts and pool.

“The neighborhood has changed tremendously,” said Jane Gutterman, 63, arts administrator at the Brooklyn Waterfront Arts Coalition, an artist-run non-profit founded in 1978. “[There are] so many galleries, wonderful restaurants. When we started in Red Hook you wouldn’t want to leave your car there, now you can’t find a parking spot.”

Parking is also tough because many Red Hook residents own cars.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed waterfront streetcar would run from Astoria, Queens, to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which will cut through Red Hook.

For now, however, only two buses run through the neighborhood, but residents can get to downtown Manhattan via the New York Water Taxi, which runs from the Ikea to Pier 11 on Wall Street.

“It takes an effort to get here,” said 32-year-old resident Marcus Ricci, who has an 18-minute walk to the subway in nearby Carroll Gardens. “It’s sort of isolated from public transportation.”

But perhaps that isolation is what has made the community so close.

Locals grab drinks together at Sunny’s Bar at 253 Conover St. They head to the three-story Brooklyn Crab restaurant at 24 Reed St. to enjoy its Alaskan King Crab Rolls and to hang out in its outdoor space, known as Reed Park.

The small-town feel comes at a big city price, however. According to StreetEasy, the median recorded sales price in Red Hook rose 24.5% from $1,124,500 in 2014 to $1.4 million in 2015. The median rental price in April 2016 was $3,000, up from $2,500 that month in 2015, StreetEasy found.

But while there are new developments planned for Red Hook, the community is determined to keep its rustic identity from changing too much.

“There remains a sense of respect for tradition,” said Carey Larsen, 41, a real estate salesperson with Citi Habitats. “Many buildings are being restored and preserved to keep the area quaint and authentic. In Red Hook, residents look towards the future, but don’t forget the past.”

Find it:

Red Hook is bordered by the Gowanus Expressway to the northeast and is surrounded by the Buttermilk Channel to the west and the Red Hook Channel and Gowanus Canal to the south, according to StreetEasy.

Red Hook restaurants

Pizza Moto338 Hamilton Ave.The once-mobile pizza oven found
Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Pizza Moto

338 Hamilton Ave.

The once-mobile pizza oven found a permanent home under the Gowanus Expressway, where a turn-of-the-century coal oven was hidden in the walls of its current building.

The Good Fork

391 Van Brunt St.

Chef Sohui Kim adds a Korean flare to her dishes -- like her steak and eggs main course -- while providing her patrons with an old-school nautical ambiance. It's a great spot for brunch or dinner after your Ikea shopping spree.

The Red Hook Lobster Pound

284 Van Brunt St.

Top off your lobster roll with a side of mac and cheese and a slice of Steve's Key Lime pie for dessert.

Bars and nightlife

Sunny's Bar253 Conover St.A popular spot for area
Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Sunny's Bar

253 Conover St.

A popular spot for area residents looking to drink and hear live music since it opened in the 1980s.

Brooklyn Ice House

318 Van Brunt St.

Patrons enjoy beer and bar food on the backyard patio.



220 Conover St.

Stop by for drinks and Italian food in this bar that is modeled after an old-world Venetian hotel.


Where to shop

Erie Basin388 Van Brunt St.This vintage jewelry retailer
Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Erie Basin

388 Van Brunt St.

This vintage jewelry retailer specializes in engagement rings dating back to the 1700s.

Kempton & Co.

392 Van Brunt St.

Fashionistas with a penchant for totes will be delighted with this shop's maritime-inspired bags and clutches bearing the words "Red Hook."


359 Van Brunt St.

A tasty stop along Van Brunt Street that will leave visitors craving birthday cake any day of the year.

Things to do in Red Hook

Red Hook FlicksValentino Pier, Ferris Street between Coffey
Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Red Hook Flicks

Valentino Pier, Ferris Street between Coffey and Van Dyke streets

Beginning July 12 and lasting for eight weeks, visitors are treated to an evening flick on the pier with a backdrop of New York Harbor.

Waterfront Barge Museum

290 Conover St.

Get a taste of old-school Red Hook with exhibits, performances and tours on a former railroad barge.

Pioneer Works

159 Pioneer St.

Tap into your creative side at this contemporary culture center's exhibitions, classes and more.

Transit basics

Buses:B57, B61Ferry:New York Water Taxi to the Ikea
Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang


B57, B61


New York Water Taxi to the Ikea Dock at 1 Beard St.

Red Hook real estate data

Median sales price: $1,400,000 Number of units on
Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Median sales price: $1,400,000

Number of units on market: 39

Median rental price: $2,500

Number of rentals: 220

(Source: StreetEasy)

The buzz

Citi Bikes are coming to Red Hook.Beginning in
Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Citi Bikes are coming to Red Hook.

Beginning in August, the Department of Transportation will install more than 70 bike docks throughout the area covered by Brooklyn's Community Board 6.

Red Hook residents will benefit from the "immediate, convenient, affordable way to connect across the neighborhood, to the subway and to other parts of the City," said Dani Simons, spokeswoman for Motivate, which manages the public bicycle rental program.

Proposed docking station locations include Reed Street near Fairway Market and the intersection between Coffey and Conover streets, and the city will begin installing them in August, Simons said.

Craig Hammerman, district manager for CB6, said there is a clear need for Citi Bike in Red Hook since the neighborhood has no subway stations in its boundaries.

"We have a lot of destinations, especially along the waterfront, that visitors want to get to and can't," Hammerman said. "We saw a need [for Citi Bikes] for practical and recreational purposes."

Local reaction is mixed, however.

"I think they'll get a lot of use," said Chelsea Ebin, 34, a hairstylist who works out of the record store at 360 Van Brunt St.

But Mary, 58, a business owner in the neighborhood who requested to go by her first name, said eliminating parking spots to make room for Citi Bike docking stations in Red Hook would be "insane."

"I'm pretty much against it," agreed resident Davey Anger, 26. "They seem like pretty low-quality bikes."

Q&A with Jane Buck, owner of Foxy & Winston

Anyone can find a sweet something while browsing
Photo Credit: Kyoko Yabuki

Anyone can find a sweet something while browsing Foxy & Winston, a textiles and paper goods shop at 392 Van Brunt St. Shop owner and designer Jane Buck, 43, draws on the seaside neighborhood as her muse for her textiles. Buck, who is originally from England, has lived in Red Hook since 2012. She opened her shop in 2005 while living in nearby Park Slope.

If you moved out of Red Hook, what would you miss most about the nabe?

The sunsets at the pier -- they are pretty spectacular! And of course all the lovely people. It's such a special neighborhood.

How does Red Hook influence your designs?

Since moving to Red Hook, I have had a tendency to go nautical with my stationery and textile designs -- lots of tugboats, anchors, sirens of the sea and other creatures.

What is your favorite Foxy & Winston memory?

[Probably] the time I sold [former Mayor Michael] Bloomberg a stuffed pig doll for his grown-up daughter, who has a real pet pig. That was a pretty entertaining conversation. My mum was visiting from England and she was so thrilled to meet him! It was a post-Hurricane Sandy visit, unscheduled. Secret Service men entered my shop and gave someone the all clear via walkie-talkie, then in stepped the mayor! He was quite charming and funny. Bought the stuffed pig cushion for his 30-something-year-old daughter. I recall telling him it was machine washable in case she dribbled on it, assuming she was a baby -- that was when her age came up in conversation.

Which Red Hook events are your favorites?

The Red Hook Flicks summer movie series, which takes place at the Valentino Pier with food from local food vendors, [and] the Barnacle Parade, which is a float parade to commemorate Hurricane Sandy. It's a fun evening that usually winds up with music and dancing at the Red Hook Bait & Tackle bar.


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