Bars, Column, Editorials, Estate Four, Transportation, Trucks

That crazy world of politics, by George Fiala

Red light district

John McGettrick, co-president of the Red Hook Civic Association and longtime Red Hook leader, has been at the forefront of local traffic safety way before Vision Zero. When Fairway first opened, he led the fight for a stoplight on Van Brunt and Sullivan Street. That was achieved.

Because of the imminent arrival of the new Red Hook commuter ferry at the foot of Pioneer, as well as the success of Pioneer Works, McGettrick is mounting a new campaign – for a stoplight at Van Brunt and Pioneer.

“Over the past two years there have been 22 accidents on that corner,” he told us. “One of them was a collision between two police cars!”

Resident Michael Buscemi [SPELLING?] is on board. “My car has been hit multiple times on Pioneer. We need to slow traffic down.”

To join McGettrick, and also be informed of upcoming Civic Association meetings, email

You might think this is an Edward Hopper painting, but actually it is a photo of Rocky Sullivan’s taken just last week.

Local bars

Readers all over the country are hearing about Sunny’s fundraising campaign. The Balsamo clan is large, and the two family owned Conover Street buildings were bequeathed to the whole family. For quite a while, there was pressure within the family to sell the buildings and distribute the money, which might have meant the closing of the bar.

A court case ensued, and Sunny’s widow, Tone Johansen, who operates the bar, was given the opportunity to purchase the buildings for $2.6 million. A series of fundraising events, building upon the bar’s goodwill, is helping Ms. Johansen come up with the down payment, ensuring the continuity of the establishment that Sunny began back in the 1990’s.

A different legal situation concerning another beloved neighborhood bar has likewise a happy ending. Rocky Sullivan’s, the working class Irish bar that moved to Red Hook from Manhattan’s East Side back in 2007, has moved again, but this time just up the block.

Rocky’s made a home for itself in our neighborhood after rising rents on Lexington Avenue forced it to find a new location. They inherited the space left by the Liberty Heights Tap Room which included a beautiful rooftop drinking area. One day they came to work and found the entire rooftop dismantled.

A court case ensued, but the working class owners were not a match for the legal opposition, and they lost the case. Evidently, the court battle kept their lease in limbo. Upon losing the case, they also lost their lease and were forced to close last October.

Determined to stay in the neighborhood, popular bartender and co-owner George Kornienko started looking all over for a new location. Amazingly enough he found one just down the street, a former longshoreman’s bar that livened up Red Hook a decade ago when it was operated by Lillie Haus.

“I had no idea it was available,” George told me. He acted on a tip by a fellow merchant that it was, met with Greg O’Connell, and signed a ten year lease.

He hoped to have it ready by the end of last year, but a series of setbacks delayed the opening until April. The bar is gorgeous and bigger than the former Rocky’s. The renovations are still not complete – the kitchen is not expected to reopen for another few months – but in the meantime, Mark’s delivers!

Glamourous grit?

A few Sunday’s ago we were hit with some unexpected Red Hook news. The NY Times reported in an article about the changing face of retail the following:

“Today, some of the most sought-after real estate by retailers is not in SoHo, but five miles away in Red Hook, a gritty Brooklyn enclave with a shipbuilding past. E-commerce merchants are vying to lease part of a huge warehouse space, spanning 11 acres, that would allow them to deliver goods the same day they’re ordered online.”

That stayed in my mind although I was unsure where this huge warehouse space could be. Turns out that Estate Four, which a couple of years began buying a huge swath of Red Hook industrial properties and land in the hopes of developing a high-tech hub in our neighborhood, ran out of money and is in the process of selling off their purchases.

Ironic that Red Hook, once the warehousing capital of New York, is again transforming itself – back into the e-commerce warehouse capital of New York!

We want our parks back!

The Parks Department has been committed to cleaning up our ball fields ever since the EPA discovered we were sitting upon a ton of lead.

However, as anybody walking past the four fields near the Rec Center can attest, no evidence of any work has been done, except for the closed signs that have been placed on the fence.

A local group “The Village of Red Hook,” is looking to raise a stink about this loss of parkland and will hold a rally on Saturday, May 6. The rally, at Lorraine and Henry Streets, will start at noon. Co-chairman Wally Bazemore promises speeches and a barbecue, and welcomes support from fellow Hookers.

EDC’s Lydia Downing (right) is not buying what Red Hook wants.

It’s not just Washington that lies

The bending of the truth by our current president has been well documented, but I’ve seen examples of public lying myself on the local level.

Two that stand out in my reporting come from the NYC Economic Development Corporation, (EDC) and from wealthy transportation guru Sam Schwartz.

Schwartz, who has made a lucrative career appearing to advocate for the environment, was a featured speaker a few years ago pushing his Move NY agenda calling for tolling on the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges at an event at the Atlantic Avenue YWCA. It seemed that the main rationale for tolling these bridges was that trucks were taking advantage of one way tolling to come through NY using the Verrazano Bridge, and leaving via the Lincoln Tunnel, invading our neighborhoods on the trek.

After sitting through more than an hour of platitudes about cars and the environment, including an endorsement by then-new Assemblywoman JoAnn Simon, I had to raise my hand to ask “Gridlock” Sam a question.

“Why not just restore two way tolling on the Verrazano?” I asked, which seemed to me a common sense resolution to the problem. Mr. Gridlock looked at me with disdain and told me in no uncertain words that was impossible, as the initiative would have to come through the U.S. Congress, and they would never do it.

If he were telling the truth, he would have said “Yes, that’s a good idea, but then we couldn’t justify tolling the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, which is what I really want.”

In fact, the latest issue of the Courier reports that a whole host of politicos, starting with our local guy Craig Hammerman and including Staten Island Congressman Dan Donovan, is going ahead with just such a proposal and will probably succeed. Back in 1986, when Congress passed the one-way tolling, it was because the congestion at the tolls were causing pollution.

Well, guess what. It’s 2017, and technology is busy replacing all tollbooths.

Oh yeah – the second lie came at a Community Board meeting, when a smug representative of EDC told us that it was simply impossible to dock our new commuter ferry at the Atlantic Basin.

Well, guess where it is opening next month?


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