This is a short impression of one day getting to know the beautiful New York neighborhood Redhook. The reason was that during the New York Energy Week the Governors Office announced "a kind of X-prize" to make neighborhoods more resilient and the Dutch delegation is contemplating to participate with a plan for Redhook.
Text of One day in in the beautiful New York neighborhood Redhook
I loved Redhook. It was spacious, never really crappy, people
where friendly, the vistas over the water often breathtaking. This
is a neighbourhood where I can imagine living very happily and it
is oozing with potential.
A big problem that is mentioned by most residents and visitors
is public transportation to and from Redhook. The bike program does
not extend this far south and there is only one bus coming here I
was told. I think this hampers residents, property values and
tourism. But every problem is a treasure because it tells you what
you can improve. And I see sustainable transportation as something
that could be part of the integral plan for the neighbourhood. I
brought my city bike and found that Redhook is perfect for
Some potential: a lot of prime locations near the water with
property that is looking almost forsaken.
Streets with a lot of underutilized potential.
A bicycle highway.
Parking lots like this seem underutilized by Dutch
Social housing like this dominates the center of the
Neighbourhood. We where told that there is almost 70% youth
unemployment. Still there are long waiting lines to be able to rent
here. Life must be pretty hard for many people here. But it also
means that offering these people jobs is a great motivator for them
and us. The prize money is meant to promote resilience and we have
to respect that, but we can spend it in such a way that it creates
eductation, jobs and social cohesion in Redhook itself. What is
required is a good integral plan that can create win-win. And we
could dream even bigger. We can use that integral plan to redirect
part of the 250 million to 2 billion dollar that is apparently
still hanging in the balance as insurance money and Sandy
rebuilding funds. That way we can make Redhook into a little
sustainable wirtschaftswunder. Actually, foreign players like us
are perfectly positioned to do that. We have extensive experience
with such plans but even more importantly: we are independent. We
do not have the political affiliations that often create gridlock
in the USA. We do not have ties to local employers, unions and
policy makers that limit our options or give us a bias. We can be
like Feynman in the Rogers Commision Report on the Challenger
disaster. The difference being that our job is more fun because we
can come up with a solution for a bright future instead of an
explanation of past disaster.
Everywhere the walkways are roofed like this and the area
around the buildings is closed with gates. Often it became like
this right after Sandy, almost two years ago. Residents tell me it
feels like living in a prison. Some hypothesise they stay in place
as an easy way to protect equipment.
I guess they where probably put up because of ligitation risks
or because someone was working with potentially loose material on
the roof at one time or another. But it seems pretty careless to
keep them in place for so long and its hard for me to imagine
structures like this staying in place for two years in a rich
neighbourhood. I am curious what the truth is behind these
Still a lot of these external units for I presume heating,
cooling and maybe emergency power. For me these signify hope.
Apparently the money for the final solution is not spent yet and we
can use that money as part of our integral sustainability,
resilience and job plan.
This park comes with an interesting story. Everybody I spoke to
loves the park and told me it has an important place in the
neighbourhood. Everybody likes that it is being redone (although
most think it could have been done cheaper). But then everybody is
just as unanimous in their rejection of the fact that it has to be
completely closed off for so long.
First we tried to have only the parts closed off where people
where actually doing stuff. Then we said: why dont you first close
and do one half and than the other? But they would not listen. So
now the park is closed for the forseeable future, with sometimes no
activity for weeks on end and no one understands what is so
dangerous anyway. Says one resident: The only danger I know comes
from the refusal of the contractor to turn on the lights next to
the walkway outside the park because it costs money. People have
already been mugged because of that. Maybe just one side of the
story but it intrigues me.
This lady is Brooklyn's first professional dog-walker. She has
lived in Redhook since 2001. The dog was happy to rest for a short
while. In the background we see a closed off park. Carol and I
talked about a wide range of topics. She explained how things have
become much nicer in Redhook, especially in the last 5 years. She
also liked the move from Ikea to the neighbourhood, bringing in
jobs and people visiting the neighbourhood. However this also means
that Redhook is becoming very expensive. Her rent has gone up
spectacularly in the last few years (she now pays $3500 a month