Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Red Hook's 'Degentrification': Was It Ever Gentrified?

What the media giveth, the media taketh away. So it is with Red Hook's moment of gentrification, which ran for nearly two years in the press. Now, in the same way the pendulum swung too far in the direction of declaring Red Hook the Next Big Thing, there are jokes about Dead Hook and the interesting phrase 'degentrification,' which we think may be a decade or two before its time. (Way ahead of the curve of the next great urban death swoon of the '20s or '30s or '40s that will be this century's equivalent of that of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. We don't hope this is the case, but understand that urban history runs in great cycles.)

The fact is: Red Hook was never gentrified in the way that the press made it out to be and it is not degentrified now.

In fact, the big New York Magazine story about the failure of gentrification in Red Hook, while interesting reading, misses the target by a mile: The immediate issue isn't gentrification or degentrification, per se, it's the fact that part of the neighborhood's historic waterfront has been literally reduced to rubble in the last 18 months and that an onslaught of Ikea shoppers and others drawn to big box retail outlets will turn the neighborhood into an on/off ramp. The waterfront plans are for upscale housing and suburban-style retailing.

We said it last year multiple times when the issue came up and we'll say it again: Red Hook gentrification, as defined in the media has always been about a few blocks on Van Brunt Street. A few places have closed. A few have opened and a lot of spaces are still being renovated. The rest of Red Hook is a place where 2/3 of the people live in public housing, where there still isn't a bank branch of a pharmacy of any scale (in the heart of the neighborhood), that has functioned as a Brooklyn dumping ground for unwanted things like trash transfer stations for generations. The neighborhood's industrial character--and there's still plenty of it--is ignored

What has happened in the meantime is that the Todd Shipyard is gone. The Revere Sugar site has been flattened. Ikea is coming. And, Bed, Bath & Beyond will probably go up next to it. The borough president boasts that no one will be able to recognize Red Hook ten years from now. The ultimate issue isn't gentrification or degentrification--gentrification will continue to the extent in can happen in a fairly remote neighborhood cut off from public transportation. The real issue is a planning vision that will make the neighborhood more like Elizabeth, New Jersey than a corner of Brooklyn. It's more about the dehookification or the debrooklynization of Red Hook than anything else.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous J$ said...

there doesn't seem to be enough non-projects housing stock to support all the new businesses that came in.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous red hook said...

This is really a silly article.

Its entire premise is that other people wrote that Red Hook was becoming fill in the blank and when that didn't happen, the same journalists are asking what happened to Red Hook?

Shouldn't they be asking, what happened to what we wrote?

12:21 PM  
Anonymous lisanne said...

I am commenting without reading the "New York" mag article...i always thought it a joke that mags like "TimeOutNY" and the "NY Times" Real Estate section would continuously run articles about how "happening" Red Hook is. Yeah, Red Hook is happening for people who appreciate it's "ungentrified" vibe. Sonny's Bar, the amazing views of the harbor, the old warehouses, it had a nautical vibe...yeah a few restaurants opened up and a few bars, (one thing that DOES do a booming business in the hood is the methodone clinic on van dyke street) most which have failed WHICH is due to the fact that the majority of the residents don't go or can't afford those types of places AND the lack of public transportation to get people to go to these new establishments on any type of regular basis...

I live sort of near by and it is even an extra 20 buck car fare for me to go there (at night), daytime I can ride my bike...it's really sad how much of it's charm has been ruined for people with cars, what about the wear and tear on those old cobblestones? I guess they will or have be ripped up too....another aspect of the suburbanization of NYC..i can't believe I used like Marty Markowitz! WHAT was I thinking?!

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gentrification begins with private investment by individuals--usually in housing but sometimes in small businesses. Only after that happens will larger scale investment come in development retail and services.

By this measure, I would say that Red Hook is still gentrifying--the housing stock is still being turned over and receiving investment.

Only to the extent that ALL housing investment across the borough has slowed (due to the credit crisis) has development in Red Hook slowed also.

I agree that a planning vision is separate from gentrification. The neighborhood can gentrify into whatever vision someone has for it. But, nonetheless, it is being gentrified...

11:02 AM  

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