The gentrification of Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood was supposed to be inevitable, yet recently, the area has lost its sheen. Has New York's gentrification wave found its highpoint?
"Red Hook certainly has all the familiar ingredients of a neighborhood on the verge: quirky local favorites such as Sunny's (the waterfront bar with bluegrass bands, open three nights a week or at the owner's whim) and LeNell's (the bourbon-mecca liquor store with the hand-painted sign reading wine + likker) as well as charming start-ups like 360 (a beloved French bistro) and the Good Fork (a beloved Korean-influenced restaurant). The neighborhood, a former refuge for artists in exile, had started drawing the typical next-wavers: the self-employed, the underemployed, the fresh young couples with tricked-out strollers, walking along the refurbished Valentino Pier or hanging out at the bakery Baked. In some ways, Red Hook was a Realtor's dream, boasting Manhattan views, a salty maritime history (working piers! Brawling sailors!), and a brochure-ready name, all of which would play perfectly on some theoretical condo prospectus. Seeking waterfront living with a dusting of urban grit? Then drop your anchor in Red Hook!
More crucially, Red Hook was simply next. Because if we've learned anything in the last twenty years of gentrification in New York, it's that there will always be a next. Gentrification is a wave that's flooding the city, transforming block after block. And Red Hook was directly in its path.
Ivy Pochoda remembers it clearly. "That moment was there. It was definitely there. Everyone felt it at the same time. And then," she says, "it just went away."
For the last two years, people in Red Hook have been waiting-some hopefully, some fearfully-for that wave to crash, the hordes to come, the towers to sprout. Weirdly, though, none of that has happened. In fact, for all the heraldic attention, the neighborhood now seems to be going in reverse. The Pioneer bar has shut down. So has the bistro 360 and, just recently, the live-music venue the Hook. Buildings put on the market for $2.5 million have stayed empty and unsold. Landlords hoping to get $2,500 a month for a Van Brunt storefront-the rent that Barbara Corcoran was asking-have found no takers. In fact, Corcoran's spot sat unrented for over two years, until a local business took the space at the cut rate of $1,800 a month. The perception of the neighborhood got bad enough that in August the Post ran a story headlined "Call It ‘Dead' Hook." Somehow the neighborhood went from "undiscovered paradise" to Dead Hook in just over a year.
So what the hell is happening in Red Hook?"