Red Hook continues to be a beacon of value in the Downtown Brooklyn area. The neighborhood is surrounded by water on three sides and by the Gowanus Parkway as well as the Battery Tunnel on the fourth. Nearby neighborhoods include Columbia Street Waterfront District, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus and Sunset Park. Some compare it to Battery Park or even Hudson Yards.
A little bit of history on Red Hook helps frame the current economic and developmental landscape. By the 1920s, Red Hook had become one of the busiest and most important shipping ports in New York. At that point, it had taken form as a ”sailortown, an urban waterfront zone that catered to the transient population of sailors coming and going in between voyages”; to this day, it is a huge part of the neighborhood’s identity. When containerization shipping replaced traditional bulk shipping in the 1960s, many businesses at the Red Hook ports moved to New Jersey, along with the jobs. Unemployment increased quickly as industries abandoned Red Hook,and the neighborhood’s economy underwent a rapid decline. By the 1970s and ‘80s, it became known as being a crime-ridden, desolate neighborhood, severed from the rest of Brooklyn. Currently, Red Hook has a population of 37,845, an unemployment rate that hovers around 20%, and poverty rates that remain high.
That said, Red Hook sits on a goldmine of waterfront property waiting to be rescued by increased public transit and subsequent rezoning of the area to allow for commercial and residential development. The major impediment to Red Hook fully expanding and developing into a burgeoning part of the borough is the lack of public transportation.
In 2018 Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed Red Hook in his State of the State speech...”Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood is full of untapped potential, and with this proposal, I am calling on the Port Authority to accelerate consideration of relocating its Red Hook maritime activities to free up this waterfront for more productive community use,” Governor Cuomo said. ”I am also calling on the MTA to take steps to improve transportation options to Red Hook, including studying the potential of a new subway line to connect Red Hook to Manhattan.” The speech would lend one to believe that a dramatic makeover of Red Hook is on the way.
The foremost idea would be to extend the subway from Lower Manhattan to the neighborhood, using a tunnel underneath the East River. The container terminal along the shoreline would be relocated to Sunset Park, potentially clearing the way for the redevelopment of more than 130 acres of publicly owned waterfront. With a new subway stop with direct access to Manhattan, Red Hook could draw thousands of low-income, working-class and middleclass residents to affordable apartments that would be part of the development, a priority of both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio.
To give some scale for the potential growth, the redevelopment area is larger than Battery Park City, and about six times as big as the largest private real estate development in the United States: the $25 billion Hudson Yards complex now taking shape on the Far West Side of Manhattan.
Two years ago, Chris Ward, a former executive director of the Port Authority and now a senior vice president of AECOM, an international engineering firm, discussed a $3.5 billion plan to extend the No. 1 train to Red Hook from Lower Manhattan and to develop 45,000 apartments along the waterfront. Additionally, Related Companies, one of the city’s biggest developers has circulated a similar draft plan called “New York’s Next Big Thing.” Their plan calls for a one-mile extension of the R subway line from Lower Manhattan to Red Hook. The estimated $2.9 billion cost of the subway extension could be paid through the sale of land and the development of 45,000 apartments, one-third of which would be subsidized for low- and moderate-income tenants, under Related’s plan.
As far as current commuting trends, travel by Water Taxi is another growing source of transportation for commuters to Manhattan. Red Hook currently boasts three different Water Taxi terminals, all leaving twice an hour and providing commuters with a 20-minute trip to Manhattan. The Water Taxi provides commuters with optionality from Red Hook, with stops at Downtown New York, Midtown West and, DUMBO, making things more accessible.
As things currently stand, manufacturing leads the way in real estate deal-making in the Red Hook area. UPS recently purchased $300 million dollars of M-Zoned real estate. Much of Red Hook is currently in a manufacturing zone. However, should a subway stop, or express buses be added to a commuter’s options, the repurposing of the land to allow for more residential and commercial use would be an initiative.
Even with commuting times being extended in many instances, there is still a market for residential properties. One example is 160 Imlay Street where one-bedrooms start at $1.295 million, and a twobedroom is listed for $1.675 million. At an average sales price of $1,031 per square foot, the building comes in below the Brooklyn average condo price of $1,158 per square foot.
As soon as word spreads of possible rezoning, and the addition of new transportation we will see a dramatic rise in demand. With many leaders in agreement on issues related to Red Hook, the advent of new commercial and residential development seems to be likely.