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.”
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.