Plans for Red Hook nursing home shot down by City Council committee

A City Council committee shot down plans for a Red Hook nursing home, nixing what would have been the first new home approved by the city in a decade. Now the nursing home’s operator say their current facility may have to shut down because it’s not up to code, displacing 200 seniors and just as many workers. The rejection was driven by staunch opposition from local Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who says the plan would endanger residents by housing them in a flood zone, and the land should be used for manufacturing. The Council land use committee voted 12-0 to reject the plan Thursday, following the body’s usual practice of following the local member’s lead. But it’s rare for the Council to outright reject a land use proposal, instead of making a deal with the developer or seeing the application withdrawn. Oxford Nursing Home is currently located in Fort Greene, but has been working on the move to Red Hook for more than a decade. “I can’t rationalize the continued objection to this project,” said Oxford’s attorney Howard Weiss, who said the company has provided extensive evidence their new building would be resilient to floods. “The residents and employees here at this site will be absolutely safe.” He believes the state will force the old building, which isn’t up to code but has received temporary waivers to stay open while the relocation plan moves forward, to shut down. “The city of New York is going to lose 200 nursing home beds, not to be replaced, and more than 200 workers...are going to be out of work,” he said. Menchaca said no amount of resiliency protection can spare the site from a storm surge and loss of electric power like what happened during Hurricane Sandy. “I do not feel comfortable placing our most vulnerable population in an incredibly dangerous place like a flood zone in Red Hook,” the Brooklyn Continue Reading

Two years after being inundated by Hurricane Sandy, Brooklyn’s Red Hook community is rebounding and moving forward

Two years ago this month, Hurricane Sandy brought widespread destruction to the Northeast. It also showed us that a community’s connectedness is as important as any seawall or evacuation plan in dealing with disasters. The waterfront community of Red Hook, Brooklyn, offers a powerful example. Red Hook experienced flooding that closed businesses and rendered many homes uninhabitable. Among the worst hit were residents of the Red Hook Houses, the second largest New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complex in the city. After the storm, more than 6,000 Red Hook Houses tenants lived without water, heat, and electricity for more than two weeks. The silver lining, if there was one, was the way that people came together to help each other. At the Red Hook Initiative, a local community organization in Red Hook, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers, and awed by the strength of Red Hook residents who came out every day to cook food, donate clothing and offer housing to help their neighbors, even during one of the most difficult times in their own lives. The same determined spirit and genuine concern for neighbors that we saw in Red Hook in the days after Sandy are still visible as well, and growing stronger. This summer, a group of 70 NYCHA residents, calling themselves Local Leaders, came together at the Red Hook Initiative to learn how to take care of their community during a crisis. They learned CPR, First Aid, and disaster preparedness. They engaged in an emergency planning exercise called Ready Red Hook, which was organized by a group of Red Hook organizations — the Red Hook Coalition. This year, on the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Red Hook’s Local Leaders are organizing a job fair. Rather than reliving the trauma of the storm, lighting candles or recounting their fears, they are taking action to build a better neighborhood. These Local Leaders are clear about what they need. In order to better Continue Reading

Matthew ‘Medical Matt’ Kraushar comes to the rescue of stranded Red Hook residents after Hurricane Sandy paralyzes Brooklyn neighborhood

Matthew Kraushar is a guy you can count on in a crisis. While Red Hook was drowning, and thousands of public housing tenants and other residents had no heat or hot water, no electricity and no help, the self-effacing medical student came to his adopted neighborhood’s rescue. Kraushar, 26, organized an army of 60 volunteers who went door-to-door, checking every household in the isolated Brooklyn neighborhood. They climbed NYCHA’s dark, urine-stench-filled stairwells, rescued an 80-year-old man having a heart attack and rushed a full oxygen tank to a woman who couldn’t last the week without it. While NYCHA officials were nowhere to be seen for two weeks after the storm, Kraushar created medical “charts” his soldiers brought along, documenting the medications and immediate needs of 300 tenants along with contact information for followup. “Medical Matt” — as the community nicknamed him — and his troops made sure the stranded and the frail had batteries for their asthma nebulizers, the diabetics had their sugar checked and ice delivered to keep their insulin fresh, and that everyone had enough medicine to get through. In the end, every person in distress in Red Hook was visited at least twice. “He took the mantle of responsibility for the well-being of Red Hook’s residents, especially the ones who were homebound, as his own,” said Dr. Rebecca Rosenberg, an NYU pediatrician who volunteered in Kraushar’s instant army. “He had this compelling urge to save everyone.” Kraushar, an avid mountain climber with a Lincolnesque beard, moved to Red Hook in June, drawn to its salt-of-the earth people, the budding artist scene and the area’s proximity to the water. When Hurricane Sandy hit on Oct. 29 and flooded his four-story walkup on Van Brunt St., he dug in instead of fleeing to the comfort of his parents’ home in North Jersey. He and his buddy Continue Reading

Save our soccer tacos! Red Hook pleads

For more than three decades, immigrant vendors have served up steaming homemade tacos, corn-husk tamales and other spicy fare next to a soccer field in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood. The big green oval field resounds with the jubilant voices of the players, and the vendor area fills up every weekend with crowds who flock here from all over the Northeast to watch the games and get a homey, good-tasting meal for a couple bucks. But the vendors now fear that they could lose their space as the result of a change in city food permit policy. In their feisty fashion, New Yorkers have organized a fierce campaign to keep a tiny piece of their big city as is - a colorful hangout at risk of going the way of gentrification in cities across America. "The awesomeness that is Red Hook soccer tacos is now in peril," screams the top of a protest blog. "Fight the power! Save the Soccer Tacos!" a foodie Web site proclaims. At issue is the permit system that governs New York City's food vendors. The vendors in Red Hook have been operating from May to October under temporary permits that for years were renewed every four weeks. Earlier this month, New York's Department of Parks decided the vendors will have to start following the concession regulations in place in other areas. That means they will have to submit formal bids for permanent licenses - as do vendors in other public areas like Central Park, where hot dog stand licenses can cost as much as $300,000. The Red Hook vendors will be able to keep their permits until Labor Day, the Parks Department said. But after that, the department said, the vendors will have to bid for a permanent license. The department did not say what prompted the change, but the vendors hope that ongoing talks between the two sides will resolve the impasse. "This tiny piece of land means a lot to people," said Cesar Fuentes, executive director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park. Immigrants have kicked soccer balls and taken Continue Reading


A SUNSET Park woman who was struck on Van Brunt St. in Red Hook last week by a driver coming home from a new supermarket has died of her injuries. The death sparked outrage among local leaders who have been demanding more stop signs, lights and crosswalks along Van Brunt. The once-sleepy neighborhood has seen a jump in traffic with the opening of a Fairway store and the Brooklyn cruise terminal. "This is a tragedy that could have been avoided," said John McGettrick, co-chairman of the Red Hook Civic Association. Despite the woman's death, city Transportation Department officials have no plans to expedite a traffic study of the neighborhood planned for the fall. The 16-block stretch of Van Brunt in Red Hook has just one light, installed at Bowne St. when the cruise terminal opened in April. Janett Ramos, 45, of 54th St. in Sunset Park, was struck by a van about 10 p.m. July 6 at the intersection of Van Brunt and Wolcott Sts. The driver, Daddo Bogich, 33, was cited for driving without a license. Ramos was taken to Long Island College Hospital, where she was in a coma until she died Saturday, family members said. "She was a beautiful person. She had a very good heart," said her sister, Elena Rodriguez, 48. "If she would buy ice cream for one kid on the block, she would buy for them all," added Rodriguez, who said Ramos had two children, Cristina, 16, and Jason, 20. There was no light or crosswalk where Ramos was hit. Yesterday, workers repainted several faded school crossing signs on Van Brunt near Wolcott and at least six crosswalks on side streets nearby. "There aren't many traffic lights," said Arne Hiis, 67, who lived with Ramos. "If there had been traffic lights, I guess it might not have happened." Transportation Department officials have said that under federal guidelines, intersections must meet certain traffic levels to warrant a light. They last studied the area this past winter, and plan to count again this fall because traffic Continue Reading

FAIRWAY TO HEAVEN. Giant supermarket opens in Red Hook – and Brooklyn can’t wait

Think Trader Joe's is the supermarket story of the year? Fuhgeddaboudit: The big news is the 52,000-square-foot Fairway opening today on Brooklyn's lonely Red Hook waterfront. Part of an old Civil War-era warehouse - a five-story, 230,000-square-foot brick and cast-iron beauty at 480-500 Van Brunt St. - the specialty grocery will soon be topped by 45 luxury apartments, a restaurant and free offices for a few lucky local nonprofits. "One of the reasons we came here," says Howard Glickberg, whose grandfather opened the original upper West Side grocery in 1940, "is because we can't do this anywhere else." "This" also includes more than 300 parking spaces, Fairway's own power plant, an outdoor café and a public park and backyard boardwalk with knockout views of Lady Liberty. (The last two were stipulated by the city when Fairway bought the property nearly three years ago; they also recruited 170 of 300 new employees from the nabe.) A partnership between Fairway and Brooklyn developer Greg O'Connell, the $25 million project is the fourth and largest market for Fairway and the first development of its kind in this gentrifying but still low-income, low-density community. It's also the first specialty market of its size in Brooklyn - although a Whole Foods is in the works - and it's snazzy enough to thrill any serious foodie. Built around the old brick, arched windows and wood beams of the former coffee warehouse, the market has been a labor of love for Glickberg, who's running the show with his 22-year-old son, Dan, a recent college grad and Fairway's newest junior partner. Like the 74th St., Harlem and Long Island stores -which draw shoppers from miles away - this Fairway will be a showplace for yards of produce and goodies like cheeses, olive oils, house-made granolas, dried fruits, exotic grains and fancy jams, many hand-picked by Fairway's expert food buyer Steven Jenkins, author of "The Cheese Primer." In addition to paper products Continue Reading

Deal ends port standoff. $20M worth of cocoa can unload in Red Hook

BROOKLYN chocoholics, rest easy. Workers are slated to unload $20 million of cocoa today from a ship that has been stranded off the Brooklyn waterfront for more than a week. The truce brings to an end a bitter standoff between the Port Authority and Brooklyn's last working port - which Brooklyn officials said could have cost about 75 union jobs. "We're really happy. It was gloomy before, but now we have some hope," said Crown Heights warehouse worker Ian Forde, who has four kids, including a 6-month-old. "People were jumping when they found out. They were smiling." American Stevedoring, which runs the Red Hook Container Terminal, charged last week the Port Authority refused to find warehouse space at the port for the ship's 250,000 sacks of Ivory Coast cocoa. American charged the move was part of a plan to squeeze the port off the borough's valuable waterfront. In recent years, the Port Authority has cut the port by 25% and won't renew its lease when it is up next year. The city wants to turn the piers into a tourist destination, complete with a marina, shops and a brew pub. Port Authority officials accused American of "mismanagement," saying the company should not have allowed the boat to arrive if they didn't have room in its warehouses for the cocoa. But yesterday, the Port Authority agreed to rent Pier 6 directly to the shipping company - which has been losing $30,000 a day from the delays - through the end of May. There are six other cocoa boats on their way. "We're not working with American on this issue," said Port Authority spokesman John McCarthy. "We have proffered the offer directly to the shipping company." American officials were glad a short-term solution was reached but said the port's future is still up in the air - and its total of 623 jobs. "The broader question still exists," said Matt Yates of American. "What will happen with those 623 jobs at the port if the Port Authority's current policy is maintained?" Rep. Jerrold Continue Reading


IT WAS BECAUSE of Geophrey the iguana that Red Hook resident Matt LaDuca came upon what's likely one of Brooklyn's few remaining links to the Revolutionary War. LaDuca discovered what historians believe to be a 230-year-old cannon shot while digging a grave for the pet in the backyard of his Coffey St. apartment. "I know you can go to Gettysburg and dig up musketballs, because over there they're a dime a dozen," said LaDuca, 35. "But in Red Hook? I don't know." Local historian John Burkard believes the cannon shot was likely used to fend off British troops during the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776. The battle was the first major engagement after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And because of Red Hook's proximity to the Buttermilk Channel, soldiers built Fort Defiance not far from where LaDuca found the three-pound ball. "That cannon shot is the only connection between Fort Defiance and today," said Burkard, the neighbor LaDuca consulted first about the artifact. "We don't have any artifacts like this in Red Hook still in existence. That's why it's so valuable, so much of a prize." Although LaDuca found the ball in August, it was only last month that Fort Hamilton Harbor Defense Museum director Paul Morando inspected the antique artillery. He determined it was similar in size, shape and weight to other cannon shots made at the time. "In all likelihood, it's probably a cannon shot or shell from the Revolutionary War," confirmed Morando. The ball would be a boon for Morando's collection - and Brooklyn in general. Burkard suggested that artifacts such as the cannon shot could be taken to local schools to show the students the direct connection between their communities and the Revolutionary War. "If they did teach this stuff, it would give some of the kids here something to be proud of," said Burkard, who said as a child he never learned about the Battle of Brooklyn. "They could proudly say: 'I'm from Red Hook.' " Continue Reading

Federal agents find $12 million worth of cocaine inside shrimp at Red Hook Terminal

Federal agents have discovered a new delicacy from Guyana — shrimp coketail. A drug-sniffing dog noticed something fishy about a shipping container that arrived at the Red Hook Terminal from Guyana last week and hunted down 268 kilos of cocaine stuffed inside frozen shrimp, according to a complaint unsealed Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court. The whale of a catch has an estimated street value of more than $12 million. The agents secretly removed the coke-filled crustaceans and tailed the container after it cleared customs on June 15, according to U.S. Homeland Security special agent Ryan Varrone. The container was delivered to an unidentified warehouse in Brooklyn on Monday where agents spotted Heeralall Sukdeo “together with others … organizing and supervising the unloading” of the shipment, the complaint states. Sukdeo, 59, the owner of Sukdeo Sons Fishing, a shipping company based in Queens, was arrested, but said he was innocent of any wrongdoing. “Sukdeo stated that he was present only in the vicinity of the truck containing the target shipment because he was curious about its contents,” Varrone stated in the complaint. The shipment had originated in Guyana and was addressed to “Randolph Fraser” which is apparently Sukdeo’s alias, an employee told the feds. Sukdeo was ordered held without bail. Defense lawyer Andre Travieso said Sukdeo has never been arrested before. “I’m pretty confident that when all the facts come out, this was just a huge mistake,” Travieso told the Daily News, insisting that his client did not order the drug-crusted shrimp. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: Peek inside a Red Hook shipping repair factory reborn as hip office space

A Red Hook building long used as a factory for repairing and manufacturing parts for ships is the latest in a string of Brooklyn industrial facilities to be repurposed as create office space. The Golten Marine building, at 160 Van Brunt St., still has an industrial look, with exposed structural beams and vast open space, but the ship-building equipment has been replaced with sleek office furniture - and the building's been outfitted with the latest in modern technology in a bid to attract tenants in technology or other creative industries. "More and more, we're seeing tenants in the innovation sector drawn to spaces that can inspire them and motivate their team," said Aaron Lemma of PWR, the developer of the building. "They're drawn to spaces with character that get them into the creative mindset." The 98,650-square-foot building is now available for lease, Lemma said. He declined to specify the asking rent, but rents for top notch spaces typically rent for around $30 to $40 a foot in the neighborhood, a significant discount to similar space in Manhattan, sources said. Golten Marine operated out of the space for nearly three-quarters of a century, reconstructing the engines of stranded ships and tankers. The facility officially closed its doors last year, citing a slowdown in the New York shipping industry. PWR quickly swooped in, buying the building for a cool $21.5 million. "You would almost think you're in a hanger, the space is so vast," Lemma said. PWR is making a habit of reinventing Brooklyn industrial facilities as chic office space. The company recently signed a couple of hip creative tenants, including shared work space provider and online annotation company Genius Media, to a formerly abandoned building it repurposed at 92 Third St. in Gowanus. Continue Reading