Monday, September 14, 2009

Red Hook Welcomes the Dutch Flat Bottomed Boats ... and the Opportunity to Access the Waterfront.

Yesterday, in an event organized in collaboration with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and PortSide New York, the community of Red Hook welcomed a fleet of twenty historic Dutch "flat bottomed" boats as they entered the historic Atlantic Basin and moored at their temporary home in Brooklyn. This was part of the larger NY400 Celebration commemorating the Quadra-centennial of Henry Hudson’s voyage into New York Harbor.

It was a great opportunity for New Yorkers from Red Hook and beyond to see the beautiful 19th Century boats, welcome the Dutch crews and to have the chance to access the waterfront that is right at their doorstep. As you can imagine, the residents of our neighborhoods welcomed this opportunity with great enthusiasm and turned out in large numbers to attend the event and to experience the waterfront in this exciting way. For me, a Red Hook resident who has lived mere footsteps from the Atlantic Basin for nearly 8 years, it was the first time to have the opportunity to walk through the gate and view the Atlantic Basin and the visual delights offered within and beyond with my own eyes.

It was quite a sight.

With the lower Manhattan skyline as a looming backdrop, framed by the cranes of the Container Terminal, through which you could see up the East River to the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State and Chrysler buildings glistening in the sun beyond, the flat bottomed boats entered the protected harbor of the Atlantic Basin one by one through the entrance to the Buttermilk Channel - the narrow passage between Red Hook and Governor's Island, seemingly a stone's throw away. As the fabulous "Hungry March Band" played their baritone sax driven funk, the boats and their crews were greeted by the many onlookers - waving, taking photos and cheering them as the boats hoisted their colors and sailed into their temporary safe harbor. Pier 12, home of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, sat between the moored boats and the channel outside, with the Statue of Liberty peering over the top of the fence on the Southern side of the basin. The Dutch visitors mingled with locals and local community representatives who were there from the Red Hook Civic Association, Red Hook Houses and others, as well as representatives from the EDC, Port Authority and other dignitaries.

People walked along the basin's edge, beside the Pier 11 shed (recently leased to Phoenix Beverages for beer storage), a part of which is planned to be the new home of Portside's operations, and took in the amazing sights and views of the city. In front of the shed there were locally supplied snacks and more musical entertainment provided by local resident, J.E. McKnight - in all a very festive occasion. Some speakers were slated to say a few words about the event, however, my family and I (with some of my neighbors) had left our block party to attend, so after an hour or so we walked the few minutes back to the block and our more modest affair, missing the speeches.

As I said, a great event and congratulations to the EDC, Port Authority, Carolina Salguero from PortSide, the Dutch Government and all the others who made this happen - I'm sure it wasn't easy to get all the pieces into place to allow for this event to go forward. As I watched the people reveling in this opportunity to visit their waterfront, and chatted to some of the Dutch crews and others, I thought of another Dutch gentleman I had recently heard interviewed by Brian Lehrer on WNYC. (Thanks to "The Word On Columbia Street" blog for posting the story and link to this interview a few days ago - hear it here)

Lehrer spoke to experts on waterfront development, one being Bert Hooijer, professor of applied science at Rotterdam University in the Netherlands, who is in New York as part of the "H209 conference, a Trans-National Look at Modern Urban Water Challenges" - another part of this larger Henry Hudson NY400 celebration. Professor Hooijer spoke of developing the waterfront in the "right way", with "multiple functions". He said the goal was to "get people to it" and to "combine several disciplines" to "develop the waterfront in a new way."

Professor Hooijer went on to say, "the most beautiful thing to do is to bring the people to the water ... bring the local people to the water ... give people activities to do on the waterfront side" and "on the water" and to "use the quality of the people which (sic) are living next to the waterfront."

I was thinking about these remarks when I was down at the Atlantic Basin. I think this event, as evidence of what the Dutch professor what talking about, showed what will happen if our neighborhoods are presented with, as with events such as these, the opportunity to access and interact with their waterfront. They'll come, they'll embrace it and their presence and input will add to the richness and liveliness of whatever is happening.

In that way, with this event, the EDC, Port Authority and PortSide succeeded.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sunday, Sept. 13th, 5 - 7pm - Celebrate Historic Dutch Vessels in Red Hook

And where is the Atlantic Basin?, I hear you ask. This historic harbor, once the home of thriving waterfront activity, is on Red Hook's waterfront and is (recently ... they finally unlocked the gate!) accessible by foot through a gate right at the end of Pioneer Street and also by car via the entrance to the Cruise Ship terminal at Bowne Street. The use of this protected body of water has been debated recently with the plans proposed and now being implemented by the New York City Economic Development Corporation to relocate Phoenix Beverages to most of Pier 11 which fronts the Atlantic Basin - this even though Phoenix weren't to use the actual harbor - their ships are too large and will be docking outside of the Atlantic Basin at Pier 10 on the Buttermilk Channel. The EDC didn't figure much waterfront access nor open space into their plans, despite strong sentiment in the community, including from Community Board 6 as outlined in their list of guidelines for the use of the piers, who were advocating for those elements. But, thankfully, they did give a small portion of Pier 11 and a corner of the Atlantic Basin to PortSide New York who will be mooring their ship, the Mary Whalen, in the basin and will be conducting their cultural and other activities around the ship and their new home within Pier 11.

This event is the brainchild of Portside's Carolina Salguero. A great opportunity to view these boats, have a locally supplied snack with neighbors and invited dignitaries and to have a glimpse of this historic harbor nestled within our neighborhood.

Here's a map of the site - the X marks the spot to view the Dutch boats.

View Finding the Mary Whalen (Home of PortSide NewYork) in a larger map

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Come Out and Say "No" to a Cement Plant in This Red Hook Location - Sat. Sept. 12th, 12:30pm

I mentioned in a previous post a contentious plan to establish a cement plant on a block neighboring Red Hook's organic Added Value Farm, IKEA, the Erie Basin Park, bike tracks and the proposed Brooklyn Greenway route, the Red Hook Ballfields and other recreational fields close to the Red Hook Pool.

A group of residents and community groups, including Red Hook Civic Association, the Red Hook Tenant's Associations, Added Value, Red Hook Initiative, Red Hook Latin Association and local businesses are organizing a protest to show their opposition to this development - particularly because of it's proximity to these seemingly incompatible and already established activities (anyone want cement dust with their organic greens?), and also because of the impact 25 - 30 more trucks per day will have on pollution and congestion in our neighborhood, and the resultant adverse health impacts all of these activities may have, especially considering Red Hook's already high asthma rates.

Please click on the image of the flier, above, to see the details and location of the protest. Also, please click on the map below to get a clear idea of where this plant is being proposed (in red) and it's neighboring sites. The protest will be held on the corner of Halleck and Columbia Streets (see map's red marker) - this Saturday, September 12th at 12:30pm.

People are also being encouraged to call Council Member Sara Gonzalez (Ph: 718 858-6782) to urge her to support this protest.

View Proposed Cement Plant in a larger map

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Ceremony Honoring Historic Dutch Vessels in the Atlantic Basin - Red Hook, Brooklyn.

(photo courtesy of

I just received the news of this event at the Atlantic Basin, September 13th, 5 - 7pm, via Councilwoman Sara M. González and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). This event is being held in collaboration with PortSide New York, who, along with their ship the Mary Whalen and their accompanying cultural activities and community programs, have been named as future occupants of a small portion of the Atlantic Basin and Pier 11 on the Red Hook waterfront. This is a part of the EDC's recent plans for that location (which in great part is based around the relocation of Phoenix Beverages from Long Island City and the expansion of the operations of the Container Terminal).

This cool event is open to the public and should be not only an opportunity to have a look at these interesting boats and have a locally supplied snack with the boats' crews and attending dignitaries, but also an opportunity to take a rare glimpse of the hidden jewel of a historic harbor that lies within our neighborhood but is, along with the Cruise Terminal, secreted away and mostly inaccessible behind razor wire. The Atlantic Basin.

Here are the details -

Project Summary:
As part of the NY400 Celebration commemorating the Quadra-centennial of Henry Hudson’s voyage into New York Harbor, the Dutch government is sponsoring a visit by a flotilla of 20 historic Dutch “flat bottom” boats. These traditional Dutch sailing vessels are similar to the sloops that cruised New York’s waters throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The flat bottom boats will homeport while in New York at Atlantic Basin in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Many of the crew members -- about 120 or so -- will live on board the boats during a two week period providing them an opportunity to interact with local residents and enjoy local restaurants, stores, and sites.

Date: September 13, 2009
Location: Atlantic Basin, Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, south side of Pier 11 (see map).
Access: Enter by foot on Pioneer Street or by car via Bowne Street
Time: 5:00 PM - 7:00PM

The flat bottoms will return to Atlantic Basin after a day in the Harbor. The public will be able to watch these historic boats enter Atlantic Basin and tie-up and hoist their ceremonial colors. Crew members will disembark the boat and be greeted by NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky and invited guests, including Councilmember Sara Gonzalez , Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Borough President Marty Markowitz, along with other community leaders and groups. After welcoming remarks the public will be invited to mingle with the crew and enjoy a light repast from local Red Hook eateries.

More information about the boats can be found at

View Atlantic Basin Event - Sept. 13, 5 - 7pm in a larger map

UPDATE: The boats will be on their way to Long Island Sound tomorrow (Friday) but will be back in the Atlantic Basin again from September 8th. Andrew Genn from the EDC (who also supplied the photo, below) has said that you can wander down and take a look, have a chat, etc. by entering the area via a gate at the bottom of Pioneer Street or via Bowne Street (I believe) after that date, as is also the case on the 13th - the day of the event. This interesting event was suggested by Carolina Salguero, PortSide New York's founder and director. Thanks Carolina.

UPDATE 2 - Extra info from Carolina Salguero at PortSide: PortSide NewYork is producing a special Visitor Guide to Red Hook and the Flat Bottom Fleet. will go live on Wed 9/9 (there will be a placeholder document there momentarily). The project is a collaboration between PortSide NewYork and Will Van Dorp a blogger who specializes in the waterfront with two noted blogsTugster and Henry's Obsession and PortSide is creating a guide to Red Hook retail and services and a short history of the neighborhood along a waterfront theme; and Will Van Dorp will contribute the guide to the Flat Bottoms and some history of the Dutch in Red Hook.