Red Hook is located in the southwest section of Brooklyn across the water from Governors Island and lower Manhattan. Beginning in the early-mid 1800s the neighborhood enjoyed significant commercial, industrial, and residential growth spurred by its bustling working waterfront. However, during the 1950’s the Red Hook ship yards converted to containerization thus greatly reducing the need for local labor. As the demand for longshoremen vanished, so did the need for the businesses and the homes they supported. Red Hook’s decline continued as the peninsular neighborhood was physically separated from the rest of Brooklyn by the building of the Gowanus and Brooklyn-Queens Expressways during the 1970’s and 80’s.
Interest and investment in the community stagnated for decades. Then during the late 1990s development of its vacant storefronts and empty lots began as a trickle. In recent years both commercial and residential interests have become robust. Incrementally, the neighborhood is overcoming its tough reputation and attracting a more diverse population. Today a significant number of new businesses are owned by area residents, signifying a growing personal and stable investment by the local population.
While the environment has become more favorable for long-time, new, and aspiring entrepreneurs alike, a tough economy continues to take its toll on small storefront businesses. However, in order to further advance individual business development, RHED recognizes that stakeholders must work together to form a shared vision for a sustainable future. And that essential to any economic solution is the strategic alignment of the community’s needs and desires and the local market’s capacity to understand and address those wants.
Red Hook’s increasing achievements represent exciting opportunities to enhance its identity, strengthen existing businesses, identify economic prospects for new or growing enterprises, and gain greater notariety in a crowded market of popular NYC neighborhoods. RHED shall continue to cultivate a grassroots team of active participants intent on creating and owning their future.