Red Hook was among those Brooklyn neighborhoods whose increasingly coveted waterfront views and sea breezes transformed, in a day, into flooded streets, homes and businesses after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.
But even with businesses such as The Good Fork and Fairway Market damaged by the storm, the love of the community is still there from long-time and newly arrived residents alike.
Visitors to Red Hook often leave enthused by the small town experience in the midst of bustling Brooklyn. They talk about how Upper Harbor air is fresh and clear, the real estate is old and low-rise, and the waterfront view of ships at anchor is an expansive harbor panorama.
And the praise is more than just the enthusiasm that comes with gentrification. Williamsburg was aided by access to public transportation, while Red Hook’s relative isolation makes them one of Brooklyn’s slowest-growing neighborhoods. Unless transportation access changes – and I don’t see how it would any time soon – then Red Hook will grow more organically than the rapidly changing neighborhoods next door in Carroll Gardens and Gowanus.
Residential real estate in Red Hook is picking up like crazy, with good houses – always in short supply – breaking price records. Commercial real estate is moving at a slower pace, although two large and significant transactions have taken place recently: the purchase of a large space at 159 Pioneer Street to house The Intercourse, a large exhibit space for a nonprofit community-based art and multimedia center, and the European purchase of a huge property on Coffey Street.
Commercial leasing has picked up quite a bit in recent months, though, with the largest landlord in the area – The O’Connell Organization – filling almost all of their vacant space this year. There is also a small inventory of responsibly-managed loft spaces outside of the waterfront.
Retail store activity is generally centered along Van Brunt Street, the local equivalent of a High or Main Street, and includes regular closings, openings, renovations and new creative concepts. The veteran Baked NYC storefront is popular, restaurants like Good Fork and Fort Defiance are quite special, and Dry Dock is one of the best boutique wine and spirits stores in town.
On Pier 41, there is the tasty Steve’s Key Lime Pie and the just-arrived retail outlet for the mega-hit Mile End Delicatessen. Brooklyn Crab faces south to the harbor and sits on stilts for both flood safety and the view, and had big crowds this summer. Hometown, a new BBQ place, is also set to open in the spring.
Store pricing is good in Red Hook and the big family owner in the area makes creative deals for cool tenants that fit the area. After you’ve sampled your way down Van Brunt, head over to Coffey Street for bars ranging from the elegant Botanica to one of our borough’s most classic dives – Sunny’s.
My personal favorite dining location in all of New York City is not a restaurant, but rather the outdoor deck facing south over the water at Fairway. Don’t miss it; there is nothing else like it. I love being there; and Fairway supermarket rules! It will take a few months for them to clean up and reopen post-Sandy, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.
Many businesses were destroyed, yet they are rebuilding and are determined to come back stronger than ever. A lot of elbow grease and support from loyal customers and residents are going into the recovery effort. When they re-open, please support them by visiting, spending, and spreading the good word. Further, if you can, support Red Hook rebuilding by contributing time, money and ideas to the Red Hook Initiative, at www.redhookinitiative.org.
Whether you drive or are patient with the buses, Red Hook is a great place to work, live and play. Huge things are happening in the area and there is so much demand to keep the vibrant local business community intact, thanks to insurance and strong willpower!
A licensed broker and Director of Commercial Property with APTSANDLOFTS.com, responsible for developing the company’s retail presence and entry into the Brooklyn office space market. Chriswhavens@gmail.com