21 July 2013


I first heard of the place called "Red Hook" way back in the late 1980s, at my first job out of college.  The engineering firm I worked at managed a few waste treatment plants.  One such facility was in Red Hook and the one thing I heard from colleagues about the place was that it was not a safe place to visit, that you would hear gunshots in the middle of the day.  I think once or twice I had to go into that field office, one located near the NYC DOT tow pound by the Navy Yard.  Somehow I thought that was Red Hook.  Fast forward to many years later I had some visits to the Ikea store in Red Hook and once got lost in Red Hook when I was on a 20-mile round-trip run to Brooklyn Bridge Park.  The area didn't look too bad, desolate yes, but not necessarily unsafe.  I wanted to explore it better but it is too far to run to and I don't like to drive just for the purpose of exploring an area.  Today on the way back from a Bike New York event, I took a side trip on bike to better see Red Hook, at least the waterfront part that I up to today didn't know about.

Van Brunt Street was the road I mistakenly ran along last year when I was trying to cross the Gowanus Canal, coming back from visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park on foot.  This time on bike I purposely traveled along it until it hit the waterfront.  There was a Fairway Supermarket with a big parking lot.  I went behind the supermarket and was smitten by the sight of an old streetcar.  I recall seeing some tracks on the street and suspect the area was once serviced by streetcars.  It's nice to have one sitting around for viewing.  I followed the waterfront around Fairway and headed back after I hit the street, but I learned later on, per Google Map, that I should have gone further and see Pier 44 Waterfront Garden and Waterfront Museum.  I am pretty sure I didn't see any wide-open welcoming gate when I hit Conover Street, but who knows?

Without Pier 44, assuming it is accessible and I just missed it, it's a short waterfront.  Still nice view though.  I went out to the end of a finger pier and took a few shots, as well as some from near the food court area of Fairway.  A turn here and there and I found myself on Beard Street, with the Ikea building very visible in the distance.  I never actually explored the entire waterfront area behind Ikea, so today was the day.  It was a little longer than Fairway's, but still short, at least when explored on bike.  Or is it?  Google Maps shows a Columbia Street Esplanade, but when I hit Columbia Street the place looks so desolate.  Maybe I'll find this esplanade next time when I travel in a group.  What I also wish I got to see today is the site of the Red Hook Criterium.  It's an unsanctioned bike race at night.  Sounds cool and dangerous, but for an old guy like me who prefers safety it's not cool enough to explore on the day of the event.  Or the night of the event rather.  "Unsanctioned" to me sounds like midway through the event the police would come in with riot gears and kick everyone out.  Just now I learn that the site is really out of the way, that even though I was not far from it I would have to make proper turns here and there to get to it.  Another place to visit in a group.

Old rusting streetcar with the back of Fairway Supermarket on the right.
Old streetcar behind Fairway.  On the far left is Fairway's food court.
The Statue of Liberty in the distance.
View from the end of a finger pier - from left to right, Statue of Liberty, Goldman Sachs tower in Jersey City, Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan, Fairway and the streetcars.

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