Red Hook Island - a resiliency proposal by Alex Washburn

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Resiliency? The answer is more Brooklyn

If the question is how to make Red Hook, Brooklyn more resilient, Alex Washburn says "the answer is more Brooklyn."  His is an answer we much admire for growing what is successful (Brooklyn), what is needed (mixed-income and mixed-use neighborhoods), expanding maritime space, and adding natural habitat and parks - quite different from the AECOM vision for a skyscraper Red Hook.

Washburn is talking about more of the spirit, scale and zoning of Brooklyn, AND he's talking about literally making more Brooklyn by creating a barrier island in the harbor (that would be developed) and would shield Red Hook and Sunset Park. This literally builds on legislation passed in 1923. 

According to Washburn, landfilling for the island began and was never finished. It's footprint is also known as the "Red Hook Flats," a long, triangular shallows right off the man-made barrier of the hook that makes Erie Basin in Red Hook.

  • See a short PDF summary of Washburn's "Red Hook Island" plan here. 
  • Hear Washburn explain it in a 15 minute TEDxUNC video here Up to 6:25, he establishes some of his experience and a value system for terms he uses later.  At 6:25, he starts with Red Hook's Sandy story and the concepts of the plan itself.  Below is a slide show of screengrab excerpts from the video:

Towards the end of the video he says, "Lets finish the job that we we started in 1923 and finish this island, but lets do it in a way that expresses civic virtue, lets build it in a way that builds social resilience in addition to physical resilience, that grows character as well as community.  Discovering this island is a gift. New York City will grow by a million people in the next 30 years."

PortSide showed an example of the proposed 1920s breakwater island in a blogpost of 2013, now in a Resiliency section of our e-museum and community guide Red Hook WaterStories.

More about Alex Washburn

He was Senator Daniel P. Moynihan’s public works adviser and, later, the president of the Pennsylvania Station Redevelopment Corporation.  He credits Moynihan for teaching him about understanding the nexus of "politics, finance and design" in order to get things done in American cities.  He was NYC's Chief Urban Designer during the Bloomberg administration.  After leaving that post, Washburn went on to become the founding director of CRUX (Center for Resiliency and Urban Excellence) at Stevens Institute in Hoboken.  In 2017, he left Stevens and is now the principal of DRAW Brooklyn LLC.  He became a resident of Red Hook in 2007 and stayed in his home when hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012 to study the effect of the storm. 

His recent book "The Nature of Urban Design" 

January-February 2018 issue of Architectural Design article "Global Responses to Local Conditions Sustainability and Resilience are Nowhere the Same"

2007 New York Sun profile

2012 New York Times profile