Red Hook Transforms From Creepy To Cozy
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Tucked between Manhattan's harbor and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is the quiet cul-de-sac of Red Hook, with cobblestone streets, an organic community farm, and no subway stop.
"It's different. It's special," says Gino Vitale of Vitale Builders.
"I always say that it's like a sleepy fishing village," says Nicole Galluccio, a Prudential Douglass Elliman broker.
"I just felt like I'd found the end of the world," says artist and resident Nancy Sadler.
Those descriptions are a far cry from what you might have seen and heard 20 years ago, when the Brooklyn enclave was known more for its violence than its river views.
"You know a neighborhood has changed when people are running down the street because they want to, not because they have to," says Steve Tarpin, the owner of Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie Bakery. "Red Hook would definitely fall into that category."
The transformation began as artists and entrepreneurs arrived to take advantage of cheaper rents.
But things really started brewing with the arrival of grocery store Fairway and more recently the Ikea furniture outlet, which also brought water taxi service. Still, just because you can get to Red Hook does not there are places to stay.
"Next to no inventory, next to no inventory at all," says Galluccio. "I think right now we have three condos available in all of Red Hook."
To feed the demand, developer Gino Vitale is building about 200 units in Red Hook, including a row of million-dollar single family homes. Modeled after carriage houses, they are designed to fit in with the neighborhood's overall Old World feel.
"Nothing has evolved to new and modern and flashy and glass. Everything is still throwback somewhat," says Vitale.
While it might not have the allure or trendiness of Williamsburg, residents say Red Hook is a diamond in the rough, or as local put it, "a hot chick in overalls." What's more, they'd like it to stay that way.
"Keep it a secret, don't air this. Too many people come and it's going to be like Park Slope soon," says local Phil Veneziano.
So could the prices. A recently converted condo that is more than 1,200 square feet currently costs less than $700,000, but realtors say that is likely to soon change.
"People are discovering Red Hook now and they are going to continue to move here, so I do think the prices will continue to go up," says Corcoran Group broker Tom Le.
Even so, residents are determined to hold on to their small town aesthetic, despite the seeds of change that continue to blossom around them.
"Red Hook still holds onto that feeling of it being a neighborhood," says Renato Poliafito, the co-owner of Baked.
"I know everybody from the hipsters to the little old ladies who sit in their chairs in front of their house," says Sadler.
"You're not going to find another neighborhood like this," says Vitale.