I remember my first visit to Red Hook, it was sometime in the early 2000’s and it seemed like an utterly remote industrial section of Brooklyn. It was at night and the endless walk from the subway made the journey that much more disorienting. The giant dock cranes were unloading cargo from a ship producing a mechanical soundtrack from the whirl of motors. Red Hook’s lack of connectedness via the subway has kept it somewhat immune to the gentrifications that hit other former industrial hotspots like Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City. It’s still a corner of Brooklyn where you can find desolated streets, distressed buildings and a lot of raw edges. It’s also a gem of a place for photography. There’s almost always a quirky array of vehicles parked on the neighborhood streets and a steady supply of interesting art exhibitions and installations. Before the harshness of winter sets in, it was time to do one last comfortable weather walk around the area and go on a photo hunt.
1956 Chrysler New Yorker
One of Red Hook’s main north south streets, Van Brunt is home to a service station relic where three analog petrol pumps still stand. Coincidentally a 1956 Chrysler New Yorker happened to be parked in front. I’ve seen this car lurking around the area pretty often. The ’56 model is easy to spot from the full width front grille and single headlights per side (they became double in ’57)
Brooklyn Motor Works
Meandering through the streets to the south piers, eventually you’ll find the motorcycle graveyard of Brooklyn Motor Works. Housed in an old brick building the shop has a real vintage character. Being a bit lucky, a pristine Morgan three wheeler was parked out front this particular day.
Perfect Bodies – Bosco Sodi
Staged the parking lot of the former Perfect Bodies Auto Collision shop, artist Bosco Sodi’s installation is made of dozens of large and small hand shaped fired clay spheres. The outdoor exhibition is part of Red Hook gallery Pioneer Works fall 2020 program. One of Sodi’s studio is located in the neighborhood. Another in Oaxaca, Mexico is where the pieces were created. Common to both locations is the red hued clay which is where Red Hook’s name originally came from. Given the context to the neighborhood, the spheres look part relic of the past or possible seeds of the future. There’s also an interesting dialog between the function of the former body shop which strived for turning damage into perfection and Sodi’s pieces which are imperfect representations of a perfect sphere.
Fantastic Voyage – 202 Conover St
The building on the corner of Conover and Dikeman is hard to miss. Not yet completely finished, the new event space hosted a group exhibition and sale called Fantastic Voyage produced by Peter Piper Pictures. This was the first time the two story building was open to the public and it offered a chance to take in the airy interior architecture. The side panels of the building appear almost sail-like and allow sunlight from the east to shine in.
1966 Ford Econoline Van
There’s a lot to like about the 60’s Ford vans. This particular model is an extended version and has a distinctive slanted silhouette. The two tone paint and blacked out moon hubcaps really emphasize the simplicity of the shapes. This one’s owned by the fabrication shop The New Motor.
1988 Honda ACTY
Maybe the last vehicle you’d expect to see in Red Hook is a JDM Kei car, but here you go. This Honda ACTY isn’t far off from a styling descendant of the Ford from above. So simple and tons of character. I won’t lie and say this would be a seriously useful truck to own in Brooklyn. It’d fit in a lot of otherwise passed over small parking spaces on the street. The flip down bed sides are useful feature we rarely see in the US.
1972 Mercedes-Benz 250 C
What better way to end a walk of Red Hook than spotting this classic 250 C. There’s an air of elegance and stateliness to this now almost 50 year old C-class. You’ll notice some really nice subtle design gestures on this car. The boxiness is softened by the slight forward roll of the front fender. There’s trim that runs from the top of the windshield across the roof to the back window to highlight the silhouette. The wrap around body trim is classic Mercedes and accentuates the length of this two door coupe.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter