January 04, 2005
I was at work in Manhattan when I read that the old red brick buildings on Beard Street in Red Hook were being demolished to make way for an IKEA parking lot. As soon as I could get away, I headed to the desolate street, where I have gone so many times before to get a glimpse of the past.
I am not against development. I do not think it is possible to preserve every historical detail in a city that must change to reflect society's needs and changes. However I do think that in the name of progress there are times when significant segments of our common history are lost. Once certain structures are demolished that physically embody truths that may distort with memory or fade with generations, those stories are truly gone forever. I wonder if even documentation like photos or writings still can not hold a spirit like a building.
IKEA has not finished the city development/rezoning process to build their store on this property yet. I do not know why they cannot wait for official sanction. They said that the buildings are not safe. This is probably true, but they are not accessible, so what's the point?
Why do I care? They remind me of other times. They put my time in perspective. They put my labor in perspective. They remind me of the ship builders that came to Red Hook and gave it life. When they went dark, they have reminded me on cold nights how empty a street can be. Maybe IKEA thinks that its big blue and yellow box, not red brick, will bring new life to my neighborhood.
I hope these changes will challenge anti-development activists to reconsider their criticisms of developers like Greg O'Connell who while bringing new energy to Red Hook (Fairway for example) have tried to preserve the historical physical spaces.
When I got to Beard Street, I saw that only a segment of one of the buildings had been demolished. It happened to be the best one on the block with great brick arches. A swoon even graced its surface. There is plywood scaffolding covering the lower part, but I could see by looking through cracks that the demolition is limited to just the upper left side.
Now, there is a jagged brick edge and silhouettes of criss-crossed beams (metal or wood? I could not tell). My first reaction when I saw it was to remember the remnants of a bombed church I saw in Berlin. I don't know which is worst seeing the torn open side of the city's historical soul, or the empty lot to come that will pave over any memory.Posted by alexis at January 4, 2005 11:44 PM
Worse than I imagined. I love this street.
Posted by: Lock at January 5, 2005 10:04 AM
I have never been to this street, but you put in words the kinds of feelings history and old places evoke. It's bizarre how history and streetscapes become so important to us and the city. I can't imagine the grotesque blue and yellow bringing the same unique life to Red Hook that these historic buildings brought.
It's shameful what Ikea has done. This impacts the community and our sense of history. I don't think anyone or any company should be allowed to demolish a piece of *our* history just like that.
Posted by: p at January 5, 2005 10:14 AM
It's a shame...
For more from that part of Red Hook, see
Posted by: Kevin Walsh at January 5, 2005 11:18 AM
Typical of the poorest city planning possible. These building should have and could have been incorporated into any redevelopment plan. I'm not familiar with the local politics but I would say that the powers inside the redevelopment agency should be held accountable.
Posted by: JR at January 5, 2005 11:59 AM
Really is disgusting.
These Historical buildings have so much more life in them and they give character to the enviorment surrounding them.
When there gone, there gone forever and so goes the flavor of place.
Posted by: pgr at January 5, 2005 06:39 PM
There's nothing sadder than this. What I can't stand is that an issue I have been personally talking about for years is only coming up NOW when the destruction happens. There is simply no need to destroy a city's soul and history as an endeavor of progress. The same damned logic is being used with the Atlantic Yards Terminal Arena Project with Ratner.
Yes, some neighborhoods are run down. And need to be "renewed", but is there any real reason why people have to destroy so much to build up? What about building on what exists in a neighborhood and evolving, rather than this scorched earth policy.
Soon enough NYC will be so generic who would really want to live hear anymore?
Also, why is it that the Brooklyn Navy Yard a HUGE and very underused parcel of land that is right near the BQE and the Bridges is never mentioned as a source of development? Yeah, they're building movie studios there. But why not put the IKEA or another big box merchant there and move the studios to any area like Red Hook?
Geez, this doesn't seem like New York or Brooklyn anymore.
Posted by: Jack at January 9, 2005 03:13 AM
Diet pills and cialis! Yummy. Keep it Yellow....
Posted by: Yellowman at March 1, 2005 12:39 PM
I have been working on a photo project of Red Hook the last 2 years. These old buildings have such beautiful majesty and soul, such a uniquness that nowhere else in the city is similar too. I love this neighborhood, and it is absolutely horrible it will become as homogenized as times square, east village etc.
Posted by: Jade at August 18, 2005 02:54 PM