Filled with quaint charm and picturesque views, Red Hook is a haven for those seeking a laid-back vibe. The community has weathered many storms both figurative and literal since its settlement in 1836 by Dutch colonists. From being one of the most bustling freight ports in the world in the 1920s to being named one of the worst neighborhoods in America for its crack epidemic in the 1990s, Red Hook has gone through many evolutions to become the dynamic neighborhood it is today.
Rich with creativity, the area is home to many artists specializing in an array of crafts, ranging from furniture design to glassblowing to woodworking. With many art galleries and moderately priced studios and lofts, the neighborhood is teeming with talent attracted by the energy and live/work space concept.
The overall sense of being among a close-knit community is further spurred on by annual events such as the Red Hook Waterfront Arts Festival, as well as a reading series co-hosted by BookCourt once a month at neighborhood staple Sunny’s Bar. The changing shape and infrastructure of Red Hook was thrown for a loop in 2012, with the damaging effects of Hurricane Sandy that left many buildings and businesses in need of repair during resulting closures.
Since its post-Sandy revitalization, the neighborhood has continued to attract many visitors to its unique and eclectic ambience, with ferries from Pier 11 in Manhattan to IKEA that operate daily.
Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier . With its waterfront lawn, Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier is the place to observe the spectacular vantage point Red Hook has of the Statue of Liberty--especially if you’ve just come from Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies right next door and want to enjoy your dessert while you take in the view.
Pioneer Works. A testament to the strong artistic community, Pioneer Works is both a museum and non-profit cultural center where locals and visitors alike can take in exhibitions, classes or live performances.
The Waterfront Museum is an important connection to the past as it examines the neighborhood's relationship with the maritime industry.
Governors Island. A stone’s throw by ferry, Governors Island is another great spot to go on a leisurely day trip.
IKEA. Since its opening in 2008, a trip to Red Hook has almost always been synonymous with spending time in IKEA. The regular service of the ferry from Manhattan to the neighborhood is largely due to the store’s construction.
Baked. For those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth with cakes, cookies or pastries, Baked is a must-visit.
Sunny’s Bar, may or may not last forever, but it feels like it has been sitting on cobblestoned Coover Street just across from Pier 44 since the dawn of time. The Red Hook dive bar, which has existed in one for or another since the 1890s, is a surefire way to absorb some local color.
Brooklyn Crab. As a neighborhood that is a seafood lover’s paradise, the multi-story Brooklyn Crab can’t be passed up. And no matter what the menu pick, it’s made all the more enjoyable by the waterfront view.
Red Hook Ball Fields. Located at the Red Hook Ball Fields, Red Hook Food Vendors, specializing in Latin American cuisine, have been setting up shop to make the area a destination spot for foodies since 1974. It’s also where NYC’s beloved Vendy Awards take place.
Van Brunt Street is the main drag in Red Hook where the bulk of shops, boutiques and restaurants are located, including The Good Fork, Erie Basin and Fort Defiance (named as a nod to the Battle of Brooklyn).
What You Might See
Waterfront views and an ideal photo op for the Statue of Liberty. With its perfectly situated vantage point, Red Hook is actually the only neighborhood that offers a complete frontal view of France’s gift to the U.S. for its centennial.
Industrial tableaus. Though Red Hook has developed immensely over the past few decades, it maintains a factoryesque aesthetic that speaks to its history of being a neighborhood of industry.
People struggling with oversized IKEA bags. It’s just bound to happen.
What’s In The Future
Red Hook has always been an out-of-the-way destination for those faint of heart, but that could very well change.
Mirroring the former artists’ cachet that SoHo and Williamsburg once had, Red Hook’s affordability is likely to alter as more development increases in the area. Plans for increased change have left the passionate residents somewhat at odds with developers and politicians alike as they seek to preserve the integrity of what they love about their neighborhood.
Construction and engineering firm AECOM’s proposal to redevelop 130 acres of land would mean a huge shift in demographics and affordability as well. Paired with plans for streetcar service from Queens to Red Hook, and increasing the 1 subway service from Manhattan, more accessibility means more people unearthing what a gem this little hoek of Brooklyn is.
What You Might Not Know
Settled by the Dutch, Red Hook was geographically instrumental to the the Battle of Brooklyn (also called the Battle of Long Island), Red Hook was named for the construction of Fort Defiance on a hoek, the Dutch word for corner.
Rapelye Street, is named in honor of the first European girl to be born in the Dutch settlement of the New World, Sarah Rapelje.
NRK, one of Norway’s government-owned channels, produced a documentary in 2015 called Ørkenen Sur (The Bitter Desert) about the population of Norwegian sailors that created shantytowns from the 1920s to mid-1930s in what is now the Red Hook Ball Fields.
From the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, the ports of Red Hook drew in many Irish and Italian dock workers. It was because of the large number of dock workers in the community that the Red Hook Houses were built in 1938 to provide lodging for them and their families.
What We Love
The smalltown feel of the neighborhood. While other parts of Brooklyn can seem vast and overwhelming, Red Hook is a gem not just for its kitsch, but for its manageable navigability.