This is Red Hook, Brooklyn, a neighborhood I’d call mine if real estate divides hadn’t designated us as the Columbia Waterfront. It’s a short walk towards the bend and bust of rusted fences cornered with overgrown grass. I look through metal bars at the cruise terminal and encounter the careful swirl of paint against aluminum and brick.
Red Hook is as deliberate as it is haphazard. Beyond the projects, the ball fields, the towel skirts and inner tubes spilling from the community pool, there are farm to table restaurants next to stores that sell high-end baby clothes. Printed onesies of a Kentile Floors sign silhouette. The old abandoned trollies sit at the foot of a warehouse turned artist’s collective and gallery. The chocolate factory pumps a whispered Wonka reminiscence, a place that also managed to carve out a barrelled whiskey distillery in a courtyard of trees.
There are buckets of key limes in a smoky shack where they make, only, key lime pies. I’ll see them carefully packaged and sold with labels at the local grocery store and it seems too Easter pastel and pristine for the goods of a place cranking out graham cracker crust and slippery green next to the glass-blowing artists at the pier.
At night, there’s the slight twang of blue grass from Sunny’s bar, a simple hum that spawned rabid kickstarter campaigns when the bar had to close its doors after Sandy blew through.
The streets of Red Hook are quiet, often deserted, but just beyond the brick and cobblestone, creativity pulses, the way the dock-workers there once drummed the New York harbor to life. I love this place and sometimes claim it when asked where I live. Near Red Hook, I’ll say. On the border of an accidental neighborhood.