Living in Red Hook
Red Hook is an area known as South Brooklyn, even though it is north and west of a good part of the borough. It is the Peninsula between the Gowanus Canal and the Gowanus Bay. From its piers, you can see the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Red Hook is a neighborhood influx - a newly built cruise ship terminal signals economic growth to come, but waterfront warehouses still make up much of the neighborhood.
Warehouse spaces, modest one- and two-bedroom apartments, and townhouses are plentiful and more affordable than many areas in Brooklyn. However, recently the area has seen its fare share of refurbished townhouses. One-bedroom rental prices are still relatively in keeping with Red Hook's surrounding neighborhoods, ranging in price from about $1300-$1800.
Red Hook has an eclectic mix of industrial businesses/people who work in them, artists, and twenty-somethings. The average household income in Red Hook is lower than in the areas that neighbor it in Brooklyn.
In the 1990s, LIFE Magazine named Red Hook one of the worst neighborhoods in New York City because of the prevalence of crack dealers. Red Hook also continues to house the largest housing project in Brooklyn, Red Hook Houses, which has over 5,000 residents. However, Red Hook is currently undergoing rapid gentrification and is significantly safer now than it was in the 1990s. In the evenings, it feels relatively safe, but some streets feel rather quiet and empty.
Parks and Recreation
The Red Hook Park, which contains the Red Hook Ball Fields, has in it soccer fields, baseball fields, a handball court, a paved path and benches, and a track which encloses a full sized football field. Adjacent to the park is the Sol Goldman Pool, which also has a game room and a fitness-cardio room. Both the park and the pool are run by the New York Park's Department. The nearest gyms are in Carroll Gardens, on Court Street (Body Elite and Curves).
Valentino Pier has arguably the best views in Red Hook and is surrounded by grass - perfect for picnicking! You can also rent a kayak there from Red Hook Boaters and take to the water.
Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment
There are a number of fun and funky bars in Red Hook that make it a nice neighborhood to go out in, despite its inconvenience. Sonny's, on Conover Street, is a onetime longshoreman's tavern that hosts bluegrass bands and readings. Liberty Heights Tap Room, on Van Dyke Street, is a homey neighborhood bar that serves local Sixpoint Craft Ales (located directly next door) and homemade brick-oven pizza made from seasonal ingredients. Bait and Tackle, a bar on Van Brunt Street decorated with 'found' objects (mounted harpoons from a basement in Long Island, and a bear from somewhere in Indiana), serves many local brews as well as your basic well and better-quality liquor.
Nearby the Valentino Pier is the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge, which provides educational programs for both kids and adults.
Shopping and Eating
In the blocks around the Red Hook Ball Fields are various food carts, selling delicious Mexican and South American street food. There you can find tasty fresh treats such as quesadillas, tacos, tostadas, pupusas, and tamales, as well as fresh ceviche and horchatas. Van Brunt Street has become Red Hook's unofficial restaurant row. The Good Fork, a dinner-only operation, has won a number of Time Out restaurant rewards. The menu changes monthly, based on what's fresh. Hope & Anchor is a neighborhood diner that also has drag karaoke nights. Pioneer BBQ has with $1 masa-crusted chicken wings, Frito-crusted salmon, and mixed Red Hook lettuces. DeFonte's on Columbia Street is an excellent neighborhood deli that makes their own roasted meat daily.
Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies, located on Van Dyke Street, makes absolutely delectable key lime pies - with a homemade crust and the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. Baked, located on Van Brunt Street, has excellent cupcakes and cakes. The Red Hook Community Farm, located in a lot on Columbia Street, is open all summer. Volunteers can work there harvesting lettuce, eggplant, peppers and all sorts of herbs. Many of the neighborhood's best restaurants get their produce directly from this farm.
Fairway is a wonderfully stocked, huge and affordable gourmet supermarket. Fairway also has a deli station, excellent prepared foods and a beautiful sitting area with sweeping views of the water and lower Manhattan. Locals flock there for the shopping and the views, especially in the summer. Red Hook also houses a large Ikea, which opened in July of 2008.
Residents of Red Hook often complain about the transportation options. Subway service in the area is basically non existent, the closest stop being the F/G station at Smith and 9th Street, which is perpetually under threat of closing. The B61 bus runs 24-hrs from Red Hook through Downtown Brooklyn and eventually into Long Island City, Queens. The B77 bus stops at Smith and 9th Street, a bit of a walk away, but runs through Williamsburg and Greenpoint into Forest Hills, Queens.
There is also a free ferry service, operated by New York Water Taxi, from Ikea to pier 11 in Manhattan.