Op Ed

OP-ED: The Coming Williamsburgization of Red Hook, by George Fiala

Chris Ward and his plan for a new Red Hook.

There are two plans we know of that will shape the future of our waterfront.

The first is the status quo. Zoning laws in place ensure old fashioned neighborhood living – a diverse mixture of old-timers, public housing residents, young families and modern workers – living in a mixed-use community where one can see a warehouse next to a crab shack next to a clubhouse.

The second plan was created last year by AECOM, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies.

AECOM  hired a former director of the Port Authority, who has also served as the chief executive officer of the Red Hook Container Terminal to create that plan. That man is Chris Ward, and he is at the front of a campaign to change our neighborhoods forever.

If he has his way, high rise luxury towers will rise along our shoreline, from the Columbia Waterfront District all the way around to the foot of the Gowanus.

The NY Times called us a “sleepy neighborhood” a few years ago as they touted the now defunct plans of Estate 4. Sleepy or not, it won’t be for long as we’ll be ringed by luxury condos, Duane Reades, and a slew of Starbucks.

When AECOM issued their report, we called it both ridiculous and dangerous. It is no longer ridiculous, and unless things change, it will become the new status quo.

The Port Authority is on record now saying that their preference is to not renew the expiring lease of the Red Hook Container Terminal and to sell off that large expanse of waterfront property.

Thor Equities says they plan office buildings on their long vacant waterfront land next to IKEA. But in fact, they have not received any building permits. They are clearing the land – possibly in anticipation of a long desired zoning change which would allow tall luxury residential buildings instead of the current office/manufacturing restrictions.

The Port Authority has hired an global infrastructure consultant  with ties to AECOM  to draw up a Master Plan for the use of their waterfront properties

They told the Star-Revue that they would follow the Master Plan in deciding what to do with the container terminal – while at the same time publicly proclaiming they want out of Red Hook.

AECOM’s plan calls for 45,000 new apartments in our little town. They also propose extending subway routes to the Columbia Waterfront District and Red Hook.  AECOM has plenty of experience building subway infrastructure – most recently the Second Avenue subway.

As of now, AECOM’s is the only plan out there.

Local politicians have said all the right things about the importance of maintaining a working waterfront – and keeping neighborhoods in scale.

These are the same representatives who made a show of defending the Long Island College Hospital. One of them even became mayor, but greater powers sold off the hospital, and now huge, out-of-scale luxury condo towers are being forced upon the otherwise low-rise Cobble Hill neighborhood.

Cobble Hill as we’ve known it is gone.

The Columbia Waterfront District/Red Hook will be next.

Unless we tell our local representatives that’s not what we want.



  1. It is bound to happen sooner or later. More & more of the neighborhood will just be a memory, so take plenty of pictures to hold those memories that are dear to you so your grandchildren will know what a wonderful neighborhood it once was. So many wonderful families raised children here, the played together outside from morning till sundown on those hot summer nights. You could hear kids being called up stairs for dinner. There were no such things as cell phones but a strong voice calling from a window. Sweaty and smelling like the street your Mom tells you to wash up because dinner will be served. The kids of today will not experience any of the good times of running and playing in the streets of Red Hook..Goodbye our great neighborhood. The rich are moving in and pushing families out.

  2. We have more & more apartments and less services to take care of the area. We have no hospital, less firehouses, schools running out if space. This neighborhood is turning into an over crowded wasteland.