Neighborhood: Red Hook (Brooklyn)
Population Density: Red Hook is quite sparsely populated, with an average of only 8,023 people per square mile. That statistic is misleading, however, as the neighborhood itself is only 0.85 square miles.
Adjacent Neighborhoods: Red Hook abuts the East River, with beautiful views of the harbor and downtown Manhattan. It is across the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway from Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, and a half-hour stroll from Brooklyn Heights.
Public Transit: Red Hook’s notorious distance from the subway is what has kept it the treasured secret it is to its residents for so long. The New York Water Taxi, which is free on the weekends, stops at two Red Hook locations. For those further out, the complimentary Ikea shuttle runs from 3 to 9 pm daily from the Borough Hall, Smith and 9th Street, and 4th and 9th Street subway stations. The B57 reaches Red Hook from downtown Brooklyn and, further on, Queens, but B61 is the area’s most popular bus: There’s even a bar named after it on Columbia Street, downstairs from the rooftop restaurant Alma.
What’s Here? Newcomers know it as the home of IKEA, and many Brooklynites trek out to it for a “Fairway run” just once or twice a month, but these popular retail giants are not all that Red Hook has to offer. The area’s beautiful views, relaxed atmosphere, and rich sense of community make it one of Brooklyn’s most lovely quarters. Jalopy, a bar, music school, and event space, offers banjo classes, rockabilly shows, and beer by the bottle. The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition ensures that a number of New York artists have large, comfortable studios in the neighborhood’s old waterfront warehouses, and hosts frequent concerts, art exhibits, classes, and readings.
Flat or Tall? Flat. A low-lying area, Red Hook was once pocked with tidal mill ponds created by the Dutch farmers who settled there in the 1600s.
History: Red Hook was settled in the 1600s by Dutch colonists, who named it “Roode Hoek,” or “Red Point”; some longtime Red Hookers still refer to their neighborhood as “The Point.” Throughout the 19th and early part of the 20th century, Red Hook was an active port-in the 1920s it was the busiest freight port in the world. (Many of its current businesses, like Bait and Tackle and Fort Defiance, pay homage to that history.) Red Hook hit hard times during the Great Depression, and in the latter half of 20th century, when the advent of containerization made its ports insufficient; in 1990 LIFE magazine named Red Hook “the crack capital of America.” But since the turn of the 21st century, Red Hook has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance. And Superstorm Sandy seems only to have made things better there, in the long run; after many local businesses and artists’ studios were severely damaged by the storm, the citizens of Red Hook have made revitalizing their neighborhood a top priority.
Activities: Valentino Pier, a waterfront park, offers terrific views of the river, and grassy spots for picnicking. Stop by Fairway Market to stock up on picnic supplies, and head to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie for the neighborhood’s signature dessert. Round out your Red Hook day with drinks on the wide patio at Brooklyn Crab, essential viewing for a summertime sunset.
Check It Out: The Waterfront Museum, on Conover Pier, is housed aboard a barge built in 1914, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It hosts tug and barge tours, and even a summer camp for kids.