Ikea comes to Red Hook
January 5, 2005 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Red Hook is New York's perennial next-year neighborhood, perenially held back by huge housing projects and bad transportation, despite some ambitious proposals. Ikea's proposed store has been the subject of a long battle between "it'll bring jobs" and "it'll destroy the neighborhood". It's finally going to happen, and soon these buildings will be a parking lot.
posted by Armitage Shanks (20 comments total)
There are two neighborhoods that are more often touted as the "next-year" neighborhood: Long Island City and Inwood.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:30 AM on January 5, 2005

This reminds me of something interesting. I've remarked numerous times that living on the west coast of the US affords one very few historic buildings to see on a daily basis, and the ones we have aren't nearly as old as what's on the east coast (and naturally, what's there doesn't compare to Europe, the Mideast, etc). Now I've heard east-coasters talk shit about west-coasters plenty, but I've never heard someone say that "they're just not reminded of other times. Their time isn't in perspective. Their labor isn't in perspective."

posted by scarabic at 9:40 AM on January 5, 2005

responding to XQUZYPHYR
I've actually been really freaked out by just that phenomenon lately. Some of the burbs around DC have sort of downtownish areas with nice strollable sidewalks and cozy storefronts. But increasingly, those storefronts are being converted to global mega stores. "Ahh. What a quaint bed bath and beyond." I'm left wandering what spaces will be left for independent shop owners (and their new, non-hegemonized ideas)

In a nutshell: giant blue ikea store, giant red ikea store. I'm not sure I see a big difference.
posted by zibzanna at 9:59 AM on January 5, 2005

The other Red Hook is New York's perennial last-year neighborhood, held back by bucolic scenery and convenient access for outbound commuters, long reinforced by some ambitious proposals. The Taconic State Parkway's planned improvements have been the subject of a long battle between "it'll create more tourism" and "hey you kids, get off my lawn". It was bound to happen, and soon these buildings will become even more of a bidder's frenzy.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:21 AM on January 5, 2005

posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:41 AM on January 5, 2005

Red Hook is completely cut off from the rest of Brooklyn by the BQE (thanks Mr. Moses) "Artists" have been going there as an alternative to Soho and now Williamsburg for almost a decade now. The gentrification that occurred in those 2 hoods won't happen in RH unless they empty and level the projects (in progress now that any arrest = loss of lease, and a drug arrest = perma ban from NYCHA buildings for the entire household) and either add a few bus lines or a subway stop or a ferry to wall st.
posted by clubfoote at 10:45 AM on January 5, 2005

a ferry to wall st

There is one, but it's not exactly rapid transit.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2005

fortunately, the condominium development that was happening at 160 Imlay st. has been postponed, at least for the time being. the development, which was taking place in the two "huge white buildings" discussed in the gothamgazette.com link were to be "luxury" properties, with asking prices (from what i heard) starting around $350,000, prompting a friend and i to discuss the viability of putting a clear dome around the condos, so that new tenants wouldn't have to deal with us, nor us with them.
posted by jivadravya at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2005

Doh, missed that one. Edit: an expanded and streamlined ferry to wall st.
posted by clubfoote at 11:04 AM on January 5, 2005

I always thought Astoria, Queens was supposed to be the next "it" thing, which bothered me living here. I've asked around the neighborhood and discovered a couple of factors that have shifted the it to Long Island City.

In Astoria a lot of families own the buildings here and they stay. They don't sell out to anyone and keep the neighborhoods quite the same. Change happens over several decades and never has a great inflation like Williamsburg did.

An old-timer next-door says they get an influx of college grads and the like every few years, but it never amounts to anything and most move on. Those that stay end up staying.

There's also this idea that Queens is "so far away." Traveling here makes most people think that they're 19th century British pith-helmet wearers out to find Deepest Darkest Africa. Minus the fact that it takes less or the same time to get here from Manhattan than it does to get to trendnik neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

It makes me wonder about Red Hook, but I'm thinking more about Bay Ridge and the already-invaded Bed-Sty. Is gentrification even something to feel ashamed of? I know I've avoided being part of it through circumstance and take some childish pride in that, but when I sit down to examine it, is gentrification something to feel guilt over?
posted by Captaintripps at 11:24 AM on January 5, 2005

There's a difference between gentrification and the kind of 'redevelopment' created by inserting a big box store in the middle of a historic neighborhood. Even with its transportation problems, Red Hook has been slowly bringing in more artists and working people to live and start businesses, but this kind of retail isn't going to do anything for the neighborhood & its residents. I would also be very surprised if the jobs promised end up going to locals anyway.

I love Red Hook and used to spend a lot of time at Sunny's (an old speakeasy) wayyy back in the day... it's a beautiful area, desolate or not, and it's a bummer to hear about this Ikea thing. I believe there used to be talk about putting an Ikea in Sunset Park (my old neighborhood) but I had heard it was defeated & hoped that was the end of it.
posted by miss tea at 12:18 PM on January 5, 2005

Minus the fact that it takes less or the same time to get here from Manhattan than it does to get to trendnik neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

That is just so not true. Or at least not to the parts of Manhattan most youngsters frequent. I can get to Union Square on the L in 25 mins. and First Ave. in 20. The N just doesn't go that fast.


Is gentrification even something to feel ashamed of? I know I've avoided being part of it through circumstance and take some childish pride in that, but when I sit down to examine it, is gentrification something to feel guilt over?

I think these are really difficult questions, and I've wrestled with them to some extent. It seems the biggest problem is that the people most often blamed for gentrification are those who are much less responsible than other contributors: the kids who are the wedge.

Of course I'm sensitive to it because I'm one of them, but it's like this: The first gentrifyers move to neighborhood X because they too are poor. It's not the same poverty, I know, but at the same time, you can't pay rent with fancy degrees and a middle-class background. Many of these kids are poor because they would rather do something they love than something lucrative. This can make them seem cool. Then people with money who think living in a boho neighborhood is tops move in and turn everything to expense and development opportunities, pushing the original kids out further, where they get blamed again. But like a book I read on San Francisco gentrification put it, "You don't blame teenage girls when dirty old men follow them around."

This trend seems to have accelerated as New York becomes more "family friendly" and people who would have moved to the suburbs stay, with their increasing income pushing up prices. I think it's really sad that the result is turning two classes of people with little against each other. I think of course the best option would be a thorough affordable housing policy and crackdown on development scum, so that neighborhoods could remain diverse places where people with different goals in life could share a small place in an awesome city. Then again, I would like it if money grew on fire escapes.

This Ikea thing falls into all these other problems and I think that's why it's so complicated. There isn't a good answer because the problem is structural, not specific.
posted by dame at 1:03 PM on January 5, 2005

RE the N train: It so is true. The N or W will get me to Union Square in about a half hour, easily matching your 25 minutes. I can get to Canal St. in little more. Using the V I can get to the Lower East Side in 40 (admittedly on a good day) and using the E I can get to the West Village in about the same time. Unfortunately in recent times a lot of work has been done on the tunnels and this does slow commuting at night and on weekends when the work is being done.

Anyway, subway arguments are very New York and not quite what this thread is about.

I like what you have to say about gentrification. I agree with it. People shouldn't feel guilty because they want to or have to live somewhere, no matter their background and the factors surrounding it are complicated. Home ownership is non-existence in a lot of these neighborhoods (as far as I recall), which would help keep those neighborhoods more mixed.

What is a thorough affordable housing policy and what are "development scum" (I've never heard the latter term)?
posted by Captaintripps at 1:15 PM on January 5, 2005

Oh, now you want specifics instead of potification, huh? Always asking for the hard stuff.

Please bear in mind I don't know nearly enough about development and housing policy for this to be anything but a starting point; however, given the way things seem to be going in Brooklyn, I don't think any new idea could be worse. Disclaimers aside, some good affordable housing ideas:

1. More Koch houses and funds for people to make existing structures into Koch houses. I don't know if they have them in Astoria, but all over nothern Brooklyn are these little three-story buildings, which were placed on empty lots. The top two floors are an owner's home and the bottom is a rental unit. A third of the buildings in any given neighborhood go to cops and firefighters and the rest are sold to people who match the neighborhood's composition at the time of construction. In Williamsburg's Southside, this was about 2/3 Hispanic and 1/3, I believe. They are inexpensive and the rental unit means the owner's have some help with the mortgage. I don't know if this is stipulated or not, but I would make it illegal to rent the owner's unit, so that there are many small landlords instead of large, absentee ones. Rental units should not cost more than X percent of mortgage costs.

For neighborhoods without empty lots, the city would purchase buildings for a similar set-up.

2. City-guaranteed mortgage loans. In California, this is how my mother was able to afford our house. The city put up part of the mortgage and it doesn't have to be paid back until the house is sold.

3. A strict limit on the number of "luxury condos" that can be built in any neighborhood. Developers like to build high-end because they make more money (and because they are the children of Satan, like their siblings, the brokers). Making all new housing in a place expensive doesn't do much for the neighborhood.

4. An expanded Section 8–like program for the lower middle class. Vouchers that all city landlords are required to accept.

Where would the money come from? That's a tough question, but since this is all fantasy anyway, I would begin with a tax on stocks traded at the NYSE. A half-cent per share tax would raise good funds. Other stock exchanges (I can't recall off the top of my head which) have implemented such taxes without the exchange relocating. I would also reinstate the commuter tax, either directly or by increasing the amount of commuter train costs that come from riders' fares (the fare box, it is called)—riders pay a much larger share of costs for New York City Transit (buses & subways) than for LIRR or Metro-North. I would also stop making deals with devopers wherin the city provides tax breaks & part of the construction costs.

Of course this will never happen. Brooklyn is corrupt as sin itself (see Christopher Ketcham's article in the December Harper's) and the governor has to approve the commuter tax. But I can dream that my adopted home will save itself.

Oh, and development scum are the big developers, who make their money schmoozing the top and shitting on the people who make this city the greatest place ever. See: Ratner.
posted by dame at 2:15 PM on January 5, 2005

It makes me wonder about Red Hook, but I'm thinking more about Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge is great if you don't like black people. Good food, too.
posted by swift at 4:55 PM on January 5, 2005

here's a list of places you can get to in less time from west 4th street than it takes to get to red hook:

- staten island
- bear mtn.
- city island
- mars
posted by wbm$tr at 5:13 PM on January 5, 2005

Last year some friends and I made a pilgrimage to that newish little French restaurant in Red Hook that everyone talks about, the name of which escapes me. It was a little eerie to see the Soho faces and couture transported wholesale into the middle of that brokendown block... but the main point is, the food was that crappy amateurish generic cuisine bourgeoise that makes Parisians turn up their noses -- coq au vin and whatnot -- prepared carelessly, and served up on plastic plates, and everyone was going wild about how this place was the new place. Whatever. It was one of those moments when I was glad to live in San Francisco, after several years of wishing I lived in New York City.
posted by digaman at 5:47 PM on January 5, 2005

Red Hook is down the hill (from Park Slope), more or less, and I go there when I want to feel like I'm in an industrial zone (or at least imagine that I am--I think a Snapple Distributor is one of the major industries there)(or, perhaps I want to pretend I'm in the urban, waterside industrial zone I imagined from watching Batman as a little kid on tv?). It's a very cool place, and I hope Ikea and/or Fairway doesn't ruin it.

Come to think of it, what's the point of Fairway moving there? I mean are there that many Brooklynites who will trek to Fairway? Or, perhaps Fairway is hatching revenge against Fresh Direct?

Oh this wine is good! Lets have a Brooklyn Mefi meetup! In Red Hook at that restaruant mediocre!

Separately, in terms of lost neighborhoods with promise, when I have a little extra time and need to get to the Supreme Court in Queens, I take the J Train. It crosses this swath of Queens that reminds me of, well, I suppose, Chicago, or some fictional urban locale. Lots of low apartment buildings--I think it has promise. For something.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:02 PM on January 5, 2005

Come to think of it, what's the point of Fairway moving there?

Well, I would gather it's the same point as Home Depot and IKEA moving there. When I lived in Carroll Gardens, I loved going down to Red Hook (that's where my post office was) and thought seriously about moving down there (instead, I moved to Atlanta - your piteous cries of "evil development" seem quaint to me... you basically haven't seen anything til you see what they do here). The idea of Red Hook's isolation seemed sort of cool (at times), but there was definitely an apprehension to living in a neighborhood that made Canarsie look like West Village (all of the crime, none of the convenience!).

Oh yeah, back to the point... There's a whole bunch of neighborhoods over there that have no access to the "conveniences" of Park Slope... Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook and the Columbia Waterfront District really have no "grocery stores" (the Key Foods on Court St. had all the charm of the DMV) and since a lot of residents over there own cars, heading to a nice new grocery in Red Hook really isn't a problem.
posted by Human Stain at 8:18 AM on January 7, 2005

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