Red Hook Picture Show

Graving dock.

We’re trying out a semi-regular feature here on The Real Estate this week: illustrated, aimless walking tours of neighborhoods we are personally interested in; plus a little digging after-the-fact to put the pictures in a bit of context.

This week’s balmy weather found us in Red Hook, which ended up giving us an excuse to check out the New York Shipyards site, where Ikea is currently demolishing the old buildings–and the graving dock–to make way for its first New York City location.

More picture-postcards after the jump.

Click for map.

Click the link above for a handy map–with numbers corresponding to the pictures on the right.

(1) Graving dock–lock to harbor.

First stop: the New York Shipyards. As you all know, Ikea is going to be building a big blue box here. Demolition is going on right now, six days a week. This is an enormous area seperated from the rest of Brooklyn by a line of red-brick rowhouses. All are due to be torn down, to the consternation of many residents. The upside is that Ikea will be developing the waterfront and making it publicly accessable. There is talk of free ferries to Manhattan from the store, and shuttle buses to various subway stops in Brooklyn.

Graving dock–stair detail.

The graving dock, built in 1866, it due to be filled in with debris and paved over to create a 1,400-space parking lot.

Desolation at the Ikea site.

While this property is definitely underdeveloped and underutilized, there is something quite striking and beautiful about the industrial wasteland it has become.

Defunct ship cranes.

Broken windows.

The shipyard also houses these enormous warehouses. Right now they’re empty carcasses strewn with rubble. Rainwater leaks in through the rooftop and the wind blows through off the harbor.

For more background on South Brooklyn’s industrial future–or lack of it–see this Brooklyn Papers article on the mayor’s “Industrial Business Zone” policy.

(2) Homeless shanties, Red Hook Park.

Nearby, at the southern edge of Red Hook Park, homeless people have set up a shanty town made from refrigerator boxes and tarp. There’s a power cord running to a light pole; when it’s cold out, these people run their electric heaters, courtesy of the Parks Department.

(3) 69 Coffey Street.

Heading into the trendy part of Red Hoook, along Van Brunt Street where the new bakery Baked, the Hope and Anchor restaurant and the bistro 360 are, 69 Coffey Street is rapidly being erected. See our previous coverage for details.

Nazis among us?

Yeap, it’s right next-door to the infamous swastika house! But relax–it was built in 1926, when the swastika was a hindu or Native American symbol, before the bad guys forever turned it into a symbol of nastiness.

(4) 216 Conover Street.

This beauty of a building dates back to 1846, and is now occupied by a high-tech parachute factory on the first two floors, with the owner of the company living on the top floor. In the summer the large doors are open to the outside; you can peek your head in and see workers bent over their sewing machines, making–you guessed it–parachutes! The company, Atair Aerospace, is currently building an addition in the two adjacent lots. There’s a lot of old brick work they’re using, and the finished building should be quite handsome.

(5) 41 Wolcott Street.

Closer to the projects, on the east side of Van Brunt Street, 41 Wolcott Street is going up. It’ll be a two-story, two-unit house with a total of 3,123 square feet. This side of Van Brunt isn’t as trendy as the west side, and it’s a pretty dirty block. Nevertheless, gentrification is creeping this way, so it could sell/rent for a goodly amount.

(6) Red Hook Houses East.

So many pictorials of Red Hook exclude the Red Hook Houses housing projects. Although a little frightening at night, during the day they’re surprisingly spiffy. Built during F.D.R.’s presidency, these projects are some of the largest in the country. Life magazine once called these projects one of the 10 worst neighborhoods in the U.S., and christened them the “Crack Capital of the World.” (And where is Life now?) About five years ago we walked through the houses at 4 in the morning, and it was scary as hell. Now it’s markedly different, and with Ikea and Fairway moving in soon residents are looking forward to job opportunities (these projects have a soaring unemployment rate).

Red Hook Houses East.

Wolcott and Richards.

And finally, the corner of Wolcott and Richards streets, where on Jan. 23, 2005, 10-year-old Markita Nicole Weaver was dragged and crushed to death by a Department of Sanitation vehicle while she was playing in the fresh snow. The D.O.S. finally admitted that their vehicle was involved nearly a year after the girl was killed. See B61 Productions for details.

Hope you enjoyed the tour. We’ll be stopping by Red Hook again in the near future to note other developments that are in the pipeline.

-Matthew Grace

Red Hook Picture Show