Posts Tagged 'Red Hook'

Recap: OHNY Hidden Harbor Tour – Aug 16th, 2011

OHNY Volunteer Council member, Bob Moore, joined our volunteer crew last month for the Hidden Harbor Tour that was organized in partnership with the Working Harbor Committee. He recaps the evening and gives details about the harbor, landscapes and vistas that were seen during the two hour tour.

Despite the fact that the day dawned overcast and rainy, the clouds rolled back as the afternoon wore on an we were more than happy to see the sun begin to shine just in time for the OHNY/Hidden Harbor Boat Tour that took place on August 16th.  OHNY staff and passengers assembled at the Pier 16 dock at the South Street Seaport, all keenly waiting to board the Zephyr, a large three-deck tour boat.  We made it smoothly on board; all of us, that is, with the exception of one passenger who was seen making a mad dash down the pier and crossing the gangway just as it was about to be withdrawn!

passengers aboard the Zephyr

The ship backed out of the pier and proceeded a short distance up the East River and under the Brooklyn Bridge.  Our “hosts” for the evening were Captain Doswell of the Working Harbor Committee and Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association.  Both provided us with a continuously fascinating commentary on each site we passed in addition to a number of nautical and maritime facts.

Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association

The Zephyr then set course southwards towards Buttermilk Channel, a narrow stretch of water bordered by Governor’s Island to the west and Red Hook to the east.  Apparently Buttermilk Channel received it’s name in the early 19th century, when farmers were able to drive their cattle across when the channel dried out at low tide.

a full ship

We sailed onwards past the Brooklyn Passenger Terminal to the end of the Red Hook peninsula, where a Fairway supermarket and some art studios are now housed in the old brick warehouses.  Zephyr then entered the Erie Basin ,which has been transformed by the advent of IKEA. The once thriving shipyard has now been closed and our captains called our attention to the remnants of the old graving dock.  The basin is occupied by a large fleet of barges which operate short distances up and down the coast carrying oil fuel, cement and other commodities. These are important links on the transport chain.

colorful tugboat

We then proceeded out into the Red Hook Channel, past the Gowanus waterfront and the immense Brooklyn Army Terminal, the site of Elvis Presley’s  (the anniversary of whose death this day was) departure for Germany to carry out his military service. The Terminal is an enormous building which provided a gateway for much military equipment to be transported overseas to the war efforts in Europe.

making our way into the Kill van Kull

Heading westward, Zephyr passed the Statue of Liberty on its starboard side and proceeded towards the entrance of the Kill van Kull, another narrow strip of water which separates Staten Island from New Jersey.  Zephyr then passed under the Bayonne Bridge, a very picturesque bridge redolent of the Sydney Harbor bridge in Australia.  It is listed a s a National Historic Monument.  However, the distinctive bridge, with its parabolic arch and lower road bed, is now unfortunately causing a botttleneck in the port.  The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has plans to raise the bridge by raising the height of the roadbed by 60 feet,  a very difficult job that  is not due to be completed for several years.  This could have a severe economic impact on the port.

passing under the Bayonne Bridge

After passing under the bridge, Zephyr rounded Bergen Point and swung up to the north-right to enter Newark Bay, home to the huge Port Elizabeth and Port Newark container ports.  We passed the large ‘Arthur Maersk’ container vessel, owned by the largest container shipping company in the world, AP Moller of Denmark.  Much has changed in the shipping industry over the last 30 years or so.  So many of the goods which we take for granted stocked in local stores come from overseas, and Ed Kelly pointed out that were an accident to occur in the Kill van Kull, blocking entry to the port, dramatic consequences would quickly impact the tri-State area.

the "Arthur Maersk" container vessel

As Zephyr turned and headed for home, the sun was setting over New Jersey, casting the Bayonne Bridge into a beautiful silhouette.  Swinging leftwards down the harbor, we passed Robbins Reef light house, in which legendary lighthouse keeper Kate Walker once lived (rowing her children to school everyday in a row boat to Staten Island).  We passed the Statue of Liberty just as the sun was making its final exit.  Once we made our way back to South Street Seaport the reaction from all who disembarked Zephyr was universally positive.

gorgeous sunset at the end of the tour

(Images courtesy of Mitch Waxman)


Field Trip Friday: Red Hook Carriage House

A few weeks ago OHNY staff went to visit Thomas Warnke’s renovated carriage house in Red Hook, also the home of his architecture studio space4a.

carriage house from the outside

Thomas showed us around the space, which took him three years to renovate. The exterior retains its original brick facade.

dining area

The interior has been re-done, with many furniture items found on Craigslist. Thomas utilized some original features, such as the ceiling beams, and re-purposed them as shelves.

showing us before photos

Thomas showed us before photos and images that documented the process.

living area

The fireplace is original, and he also put in floor to ceiling glass doors in the living area, the kind often used by restaurants to allow for open air dining, to create openness and a way to integrate the outdoors and indoors.


The stairs also use original wood as well, and lead up the the second floor office space and bedroom areas. He has recently created a roof garden for various fruits and vegetables, which he is experimenting with.

wood from trees on the property

The firewood in the entryway is from trees that were removed from the backyard when he put in the patio.

garden area

The back of the building has some original graffiti left. Thanks for letting us visit, Thomas!

Field Trip Friday: Pier Glass Studio

A recent adventure to Red Hook led OHNY to Pier Glass, an artisan glass studio and shop at the Beard Street Warehouse. Specializing in custom work and architectural glass design, Kevin Kutch and Mary Ellen Buxton run the full service studio that offers a diverse range of work. Some of their specialties include architectural glass design, lamp working, fusion and slumping, and metal work.

walking to Pier Glass

The husband and wife team, who are both originally from Colorado, met in college while studying art. Kutch later picked up glassblowing, which was an easy transition from his background in sculpture.  In 1991 the couple moved to Brooklyn when he became studio director of Urban Glass, a nonprofit studio.

In 1992, the Port Authority sold Red Hook’s deteriorated, Civil War era Beard Street Warehouse pier and after some repairs more than 40 businesses moved in, including Pier Glass.

studio window in Beard Street Pier

The warehouse is home to an exciting array of small businesses. Beard Street Pier has become an artist community, with glass blowing studios, woodworking shops, custom cabinetry makers, print makers, photographers, and artist’s workshops in the neighborhood.

The area has recently undergone new development, most notably the Brooklyn Ikea and it is now accessible via the water ferry from Pier 11 to Ikea’s dock in Red Hook.

inside the studio

In the studio, Kevin blows glass and Mary Ellen bends and fuses it. The couple also work on commissions for designers and architects, restoration and reproduction work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and art-glass display items for galleries across the country.

glass pieces

The beautiful, lustrous, and colorful pieces they create include beads, bowls, kiln-formed woven sculptures, holiday ornaments, perfume vials, and vases.

painted glass globes

Kevin also explained how the painted glass globes are created, above. After a glass sphere is created, the artist paints the outside with details, and then encases it in another layer of glass. She then paints that layer and keeps adding, until it forms a multi-layered image.

glass work

In addition to their own handiwork, the studio also offers classes like the “Glass Blowing Experience,” where participants are able to blow their own glass with guidance from the owners, which has gotten rave reviews.

The Pier Glass studio is not to be missed, with its awe-inspiring pieces and friendly owners!

Pier Glass
299 Van Brunt Street, Suite 2A
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Focus on Architecture: Story Behind the Photo

Today’s winning photo, one of many from the 2010 Focus on Architecture competition, was taken by Julia Mehoke at UrbanGlass glass working studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn and was selected as a winner in the People category. The judges enjoyed the way Julia captured the feeling of heat emanating from the furnace as well as the behind-the-scenes look, which is what OHNY Weekend is all about.

This was my first year attending Open House New York and I spent a lot of time researching the many participating sites and making a list of all the places I wanted to visit, to make sure I wouldn’t leave any out. I ended up going to three. The first was Urban Glass – I was impressed by how effortlessly they worked with such a fragile material and thought the bright furnaces in the industrial setting made for a great photo opportunity. Hopefully next year I’ll make it around to see a few other places.

Field Trip Friday: Red Hook

A few months ago, OHNY staffer Hae-In spent her Sunday morning exploring the Red Hook waterfront. Walking down Van Brunt there are various shops and restaurants, but there is also a sense of quiet and calm, as Red Hook is not as easily accessible by train compared to other neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Red Hook is named for the red clay soil and the point of land projecting into the East River and was originally named Roode Hoek (‘hoek’ means point or corner in Dutch).

Streetcars by Fairway

Down by the waterfront area and Fairway grocery store, there are old streetcars on display, courtesy of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA). Along with running the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tours, the BHRA is also dedicated to returning trolleys to the streets of Brooklyn. These streetcars are actually originally from the Boston Green Line; but the ironwork, paint color and type fonts were restored to reflect the way Brooklyn streetcars looked in the 1950’s. They have been sitting outside of Fairway since May of 2007.

Inside a trolley

Bob Diamond of the BHRA has been lobbying for the project since 1989 and with the development of the Red Hook waterfront and neighborhood, the trolley project has picked up interest again. We’ll see how it goes — it would certainly be fun to have a trolley line servicing areas of Brooklyn, especially those that are harder to reach.

Streetcar exterior

A day spent exploring Red Hook isn’t complete without a taco (and horchata) from the vendors at the Red Hook ballfields. They can also be found at Brooklyn Flea on weekends!

Red Hook ballfield vendors

Fairway & Red Hook waterfront
480 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY
Get subway directions via HopStop