Not Curbing My Enthusiasm

REBUILD BY DESIGN PLAN BY HR&A COOPERS ROBERTSON PUTS PARK SPACE ON TOP OF THEIR PROPOSED PROTECTIVE SEAWALL.

REBUILD BY DESIGN PLAN BY HR&A COOPERS ROBERTSON PUTS PARK SPACE ON TOP OF THEIR PROPOSED PROTECTIVE SEAWALL.

By Carolina Salguero

This blogpost is a response to Curbed’s 1/28/16 article about Red Hook which carried only parts of several long conversations with Nathan Kensinger.  Here is more of what I said so that my position, and PortSide NewYork’s, on changing Red Hook is better rendered.  

The Curbed article looks back; my waterfront work, from my photojournalism to founding the forward-looking non-profit PortSide, focuses on the growing maritime sector, making change and shaping the future. At PortSide, we use history to further Red Hook's development. All images, except the rendering above, are copyright Carolina Salguero.

How I would frame the future of Red Hook?

Red Hook has evolved from a place perceived by 1990’s national media as a hopeless crack den to a peninsula that in 2014 was the announced recipient of a "first in the nation" plan for urban flood protection..  Hello IFPS! That is our future, example to the nation.

Est4te Four

I understood Est4te Four to be the core of Nathan’s intended story. Thus, I said that, given that Red Hook was going to change, hugely change, it was better that we have Est4te Four, with a curated vision and their standards, than have the building boom of “luxury”’ housing such as occurred on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope/Gowanus. That left us with a hodgepodge of dreadful buildings like the yellow brick one looming over the historic Old Stone House.

We all fall in love with the Red Hook we first met

Yes, we talked nostalgia.  We talked a lot about Red Hook changes and my personal markers for the stages of evolution.  

This led me to remark that we all seem to fall in love with the Red Hook of our first contact, and the point of that remark was not to say that my first experience of 1997 (as a visitor, I moved here in 1999) was better or more valid than that of someone arriving in 2002 or the 1980s, but to convey how Red Hook triggers a deep love that is very nostalgia based.  

All newcomers to Red Hook love Red Hook, that’s why they come (you don’t come here for the great transportation), and their love starts in, and connects to, the era they arrive.

I said that was one of the great things about my being involved with Red Hook, it has an engaged community that cares about this place. 

IKEA

My view of Red Hook is so NOT nostalgia-driven that I had a lot positive to say about IKEA.  IKEA’s Sandy recovery work (done with Swedish modesty that did not tout what they did) was so significant that PortSide honored them for it.

I said the IKEA waterfront esplanade was very well designed, one of the best in the city. I said all that despite saying that closing the graving dock was a policy mistake by the city and a personal loss to me; it was my photographic muse for 5 years.  I had unfettered, permitted access to it and could come by land or sea, day or night; and I had the run of the old shipyard too. 

NYCHA, The Red Hook Houses and the new Red Hook

The Curbed piece concludes with the quote “"It's not going to be the same Red Hook for a lot of the people who live here now."”’  whereas I talked quite a bit about the people who are likely to stay in Red Hook, the overwhelming majority of Red Hook’s residents, eg the residents of the NYCHA development in the Red Hook Houses East and Red Hook Houses West.  I said that for all the problems faced by those folks, they had a large measure of residential stability.  

I said that one of my hopes for Red Hook was that, with all the change, wealth and resources coming to the Red Hook around the Houses, more resources would be focused on helping those NYCHA residents. Some of that was visible in the great number of homegrown non-profits on this small peninsula. I said that entrenched, urban poverty was a tough challenge, but that we should try. It is certainly part of PortSide’s mission.

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Same old, same old with new people

I said that even with all the new people moving in, much stayed the same:  Red Hook the close knit community where gossip and rumor are big.  Gary Baum, the friend of the pick-up truck sledding mentioned by Nathan, used to joke that if you sneezed, in 10 minutes people know that 7 blocks away.

All of which led me to remark that what I wish Red Hook would get better at research and negotiation since so many of our land use issues were characterized by “did you hear that?!!” shock that was not necessarily based on fact; and that, as a community, we had yet to negotiate benefits from any major real estate development.  Segue to NY Rising, a change in that dynamic.

NY Rising and the future of Red Hook

Once Nathan and I got off the nostalgia beat, I spent a lot of time talking about NY Rising, my voice starting to crack with emotion when I talked about how beautiful it was for me to see that the disaster of Sandy had germinated something that augured such good for Red Hook.

NY Rising is a NYS program, and its Red Hook committee members (including me) were appointed by the State to craft a resiliency plan for $3MM in funds the state would provide.  

It was a helluva lot of work over some 9 months, but we had the benefits of the region’s best consultants, paid by the state, to support the effort. I said it was a new model worth remembering:  government paid to give grassroots community members planning resources (as opposed to Community Boards in gentrifying areas that are overwhelmed by trying to respond to Land Use permits and variances and that are not funded in proportion to that workload. Hint, hint, NYC.)  

Official NYS webpage for NY Rising statewide
Official NYS webpage for NY Rising Red Hook committee
Blog of Red Hook’s NY Rising committee  
Final resiliency plan of NY Rising Red Hook committee, shorter executive summary and mini brochure version.

Red Hook's NY Rising committee has gone well beyond the State-appointed mission.  We proposed programs exceeding that budget. The committee has already sought and secured outside funding to further some projects, including the microgrid. The committee has continued to meet and is becoming a non-profit to further work in Red Hook.  It is also looking to expand members.  GET INVOLVED!  It sought the support of the Municipal Art Society to host the Red Hook Summit about resiliency projects in Red Hook.

COME TO THE RED HOOK SUMMIT! It is Saturday, 1/30/16, 10am – 1pm at Summit Academy, 27 Huntington Street. Full disclosure, I am presenting for PortSide there.

I talked to Nathan about my role on NY Rising where I tried to raise NYCHA issues (I proposed the solar-powered emergency lights in the final plan) and my big focus was activation of the waterfront (the waterways, really) and ensuring that the wisdom of NYC’s 2011 waterfront plan Vision 2020 (embrace and activate the waterways!) was not drowned by Sandy (water is destructive, let’s build walls!). 

As a result, I was very moved when at the IFPS (Integrated Flood Protection Study) meeting last week, community members very strongly supported the idea of waterfront access and maritime activation that were on the sheet of NY Rising “values” had the room discuss.  

Listening to the IFPS room, with the report-back from each break-out table echoing PortSide values for the waterfront, I felt that I, and PortSide staff and interns, had really made a difference preparing  advocacy papers, blogposts, webpages, walk-to-ferry-landings studies, etc  for NY  Rising, all of which is shared on our website.  Our NY Rising work and waterfront vision was embraced by the room without our having spoken up for it in that room.  Given that the IFPS is a “first in the nation” program, the eyes of the world are on us in Red Hook, so it was powerful for me to see PortSide’s harbor advocacy work picked up by the IFPS process.

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Changes in Red Hook – growth of maritime sector

The thrust of Nathan’s Curbed piece is displacement, new replacing the old, but I also talked about what NYC’s real estate driven press (Ahoy, Curbed!) does not cover very much: the growth of the maritime sector.  So I rattled off some Red Hook increases in maritime activity since I moved here in 1999: New York Water Taxi (a new company, and headquartered in Red Hook), Vane Brothers tug and barge company expanding two times beyond the footprint of the old Ira S. Bushey yard at the foot of Court Street (where the MARY A. WHALEN started work in 1938) to GBX and Port Authority piers, a new cruise terminal, and Red Hook Container Terminal expanded business (despite hiccups of lawsuits, Sandy and more), and the founding of PortSide NewYork, to create a maritime hub that would foster the community revitalization of Red Hook along a water and maritime theme, combine working waterfront, public access and community development and be a test lab and advocate for expand that model harborwide. 

PortSide NewYork services to a future Red Hook

I told Nathan that in September, 2015, PortSide asked the EDC for the space inside the Pier 11 warehouse next to the ship that had been promised to us in 2009, 2010, and 2011 – space that the EDC had also promised to the community as the home for PortSide.

I concluded by sending Nathan two renderings of what PortSide plans for Pier 11, a forward-looking vision for Red Hook. Here is what we are working towards!  #GetOnBoard and join us!



Bette Stoltz, in memoriam, a tribute

By Carolina Salguero

I write to thank and honor Bette Stoltz for decades of work bettering Brooklyn. Bette passed away the Thursday before Thanksgiving, leaving many of us stunned and bereft. Some tributes from others, including her daughter Erica Stoltz, are below mine.

Bette created festivals, business organizations, collaborations, job training programs, school programs, businesses, and she founded SBLDC, the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation.  Bette dealt with the macro via the micro. Her successful community development work demonstrated a granular knowledge of community players in their diverse and contentious glory.  She worked her magic on several shopping corridors which were once moribund:  Flatbush Avenue, Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue, Court Street in Carroll Gardens, and then her masterwork Smith Street which she dubbed “the little street that could.”   Like Bastille Day and petanque on Smith Street? Thank Bette.  

Video about Bette Stoltz by her daughter Erica Stoltz

It was so Bette to address a problem by creating an opportunity, so when school dismissal was causing a disruptive flood of youth on revitalizing Smith Street, she created after-school programs for the students.  Her next step was to recruit the chefs and business owners from the Smith Street restaurant row of her creation and get them involved in starting a culinary arts training program in a local school. Similarly, she created thrift shops to fill empty storefronts (Smith Street once had them aplenty) and simultaneously give retail training to women from NYCHA public housing developments.  She was often a champion of the unsung and disconnected.

She worked for Brooklyn before Brooklyn was hip, and helped make Brooklyn hip in how she midwifed Smith Street into the mecca and brand it is today -- while also being an early advocate for manufacturing and industrial businesses. She helped create  training programs for bus drivers such as Red Hook on the Road. She also helped start FROGG, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, which became a strong voice for getting the EPA to declare that canal a Superfund site.  Civic and development work like Bette’s is often not easy but; “she employed her will of steel to bend the bureaucratic machine,” as her daughter Erica Stoltz says in the documentary she produced about Bette.   I recommend the video as a great tribute to Bette and her style of community development.  It is also a quick refresher course in how much parts of brownstone Brooklyn changed over 30 some years.

If you haven’t heard of Bette, maybe that’s because she did her work without a #LookAtMe buzz machine, even after that became so Brooklyn.  She deftly deployed a know-your-neighbor, fact and relationship based ethos that fostered empathetic, site-specific, organic, evolution of place – and community.

I hope someone creates a Bette Stoltz award to honor and further the understanding of her work and to ensure that she continues to serve as an inspiration.  We would be better for it.

A message from Erica Stoltz, daughter of Bette Stoltz

Dear Friends,

Thank you all for your condolences and comforting words during this difficult time. Your love has been received and has helped us as we try and pick up the pieces and heal our broken hearts.  

Bette suffered a heart attack on Monday following ambulatory surgery and never recovered.  Being the person that she was, death could not even stop Bette from her work.  The first thing she did upon leaving us was give the gift of sight to another as an organ donor.

We have received an outpouring of calls and emails asking about plans and services to memorialize this amazing woman, mother, grandmother and community leader. In this regard, Bette chose to be cremated at a private ceremony with her immediate family. However, keeping with the Bette tradition, she also wants a memorial ceremony to be held in and around her beloved Smith Street where people who know Bette will have an opportunity to speak, and, which will be followed by drinking and a procession down Smith Street that she wants to be more like a parade than a funeral so that we may celebrate her life. We are in the process of finalizing dates and locations and will send that information along shortly.  If you chose to memorialize her as well let us know and we will spread the word, join you in raising our glasses and keep her alive in our hearts forever. 

In lieu of cards and flowers donations can be made to The Culinary Arts Program at the School for International Studies through SBLDC so that her work may continue. South Brooklyn LDC is a 501c3 Tax Exempt Corporation. Your donations are fully Tax Deductible. 100% of every donation made to support the Culinary Arts Program will go to buying food and equipment for this program. In addition we would like to support the cost of bus trips to nearby colleges that have culinary programs. Send your contribution payable to South Brooklyn LDC – 268 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 and just indicate that it is for the Culinary Program.

Thank you.

Michael, Erica, Patrick, Van and Shirley.

Tributes to Bette Stoltz

Craig Hammerman, CB6 District Manager in December 2015 CB6 monthly Newsletter

Katia Kelly of the blog " Pardon me for Asking" On The Passing Of Bette Stoltz, Who Helped Revitalize Smith Street, "The Little Street That Could"

Councilman Brad LanderRemembering Bette Stoltz a Champion of South Brooklyn

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez "On the passing of Bette Stoltz"

“I’m profoundly saddened by the passing of Bette Stoltz.  Our community has lost a dedicated activist, advocate and leader who will be deeply missed.

“Bette made so many contributions to South Brooklyn that one would be hard pressed to account for them all. She was instrumental to revitalizing Smith Street and helping it become a home to thriving businesses that add so much cultural life and vibrancy to our area. She organized the Smith Street Festivals in the fall and the Bastille Day Pétanque Tornament.  She never stopped working to ensure Smith Street remained a thriving community anchor.

“Her efforts went well beyond Smith Street. By starting the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation and the Red Hook Chamber of Commerce, she worked tirelessly to expand opportunity and commerce throughout Brooklyn.  She helped organize Friends of Greater Gowanus and served on the EPA Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group, working on multiple fronts to push to remediate and restore the Gowanus Canal in a green, sustainable manner. She helped to institute a Culinary Arts Curriculum at the High School for International Studies on Baltic Street. For years, Bette served as a member of Community Board 6.  

“The fact is, in so many ways, South Brooklyn would not be as vibrant, diverse and culturally rich without Bette’s many contributions. She leaves behind a proud legacy, one that we will honor by continuing to improve our community.  My thoughts and prayers are with her husband, Michael, her children and her beloved grandchildren.”

 

Monthly Red Hook Sandy Survivor gatherings

Red Hook Sandy Survivor Gathering

Sun 6/30 4-7pm 

351 Van Brunt

 Flyer

Another monthly Red Hook Sandy Survivor gathering will occur at "351" where PortSide had our Sandy aid station, a space donated by Realty Collective.  The plan is to continue these gatherings on the the last Sunday of every month so long as there is interest.  To offer help or RSVP sandy6mo@gmail.com

What this is about

A Sandy+6 months gathering in late April was organized by PortSide NewYork, Victoria Hagman of Realty Collective, Kerry Quade and Maria Pagano (president of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, a new PortSide friend). The idea was to get people talking and reconnected in the way the community was in the early days after the storm when so many of us were on the street or in public meetings.

How it went

Some 60 people came over 3 hours, and people really liked the event.  Many asked for us to do it monthly. The organizers agreed to do so and to do this the last Sunday of every month to provide a predictable date that would be easier for people to remember.

We dropped the ball last month and missed doing it!   PortSide will take the blame for that, there was a lot going on at PortSide what with last minute news which opened up the permit doors to getting the MARY WHALEN out of the port for the first time in almost 3 years; but hey, May's last Sunday was also Memorial Day weekend :-)

At the event, the organizers provided cake and coffee, Felicitas Oefelein donated wine, and Fairway donated cheese platters.  home/made lent the coffee urns, SBIDC helped get the food donated from Fairway, Realty Collective covered the cost of cakes etc.  Some people brought food.  There was very relaxed vibe, lots of talk, many people talking to people they didn’t know. No agenda, no speakers.  Attendees included home owners, renters, people from NYCHA.

Looking ahead

To make this happen regularly, we need some help.  Plus, the idea is that this is a community thing, not some organizers doing for you; so if you want these monthly gatherings, step up and make them happen!

Help would be:

  • designing a flyer
  • distributing flyers (to be most inclusive, info can't just be shared digitally)
  • small donations to support photocopying of flyers, cake and coffee. Very small, sheetcakes at Costco are wicked cheap.
  • driving to Costco to get said cakes…
  • setting up tables and food, breaking down the tables and collecting the garbage 
  • Several NYCHA residents said there should be better flyering in the houses; can anyone here help with this?
  • Some of the NYCHA residents also said it would be good to have a venue closer to the Houses, which sounds like a good idea.  Can someone work on that idea?  Would such a thing be possible at the Library?  351 Van Brunt is easy to use because Victoria Hagman of Realty Collective has the lease, and so there are no permit issues, no costs, etc.
  • other ideas you suggest… 

We’re going to keep it simple this time and offer less food (though we won’t stop you from bringing any!) since people seemed most interested in talking, and we want to make this easy enough to do.

Please forward this widely!  Best of luck with your recovery process!