New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Windy Afternoon in Red Hook, Brooklyn

I just finished eating a slice of Key Lime Pie, and then another one, and they were delicious. The pie was so creamy it was almost silky in texture and it had the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. It was made with real Key Limes and even had an authentic handmade crust. It was fantastic. And it came from Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The pie was the ostensible reason for our day trip to Red Hook today (Sunday), but in general Jenn and I were both antsy and needed to get out of the house and have a new experience somewhere. At a few minutes after 1:00 p.m. we walked from our apartment to the bus stop at Manhattan Avenue and Driggs Avenue.

Here's a picture of the sign at the bus stop, with the blue sky in the background. The weather in New York today was brisk and very windy, with a bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.

The bus stop is located across from Enid's, a hipster bar and brunch place. We've been to Enid's a couple of times. I like it.

The bus arrived at 1:35 p.m. and we got on.

Like most New Yorkers, we take the subway far more frequently than the bus, so the bus is a nice change every now and then. You get to travel above ground and see where you are going. In this case we were going pretty much due south from Greenpoint, through Williamsburg and past the Brooklyn Navy Yard area, through Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, and Cobble Hill on our way to Red Hook.

Here's a view from the back of the bus.

Red Hook is a very interesting New York neighborhood and one I like a lot. It has a long history as a very working-class dock and shipping area. It used to be humming all the time with laborers loading and unloading ships and brawling outside wharfside bars. This was back in the era when cargo was loaded and unloaded from ships using big rope nets full of cargo, guided by cranes or just rope-and-pulley systems.

Now the global shipping industry uses a standard "container" system, and Elizabeth, New Jersey was first to build deep-water ports and the infrastructure to handle containerized shipping, so that's where most of the cargo for the New York area comes in now.

The result of this shift is that the neighborhood that once set the scene for the classic 1954 Brando film "On the Waterfront," and, on a more sinister note, where gangster Al Capone first cut his teeth, fell into very tough times and became a ghetto. In the past decade or so, however, Red Hook has undergone a renaissance.

Now it's considered an art community, and the area by the water is dotted with workspaces and gallery spaces for artists, and every spring there is a big art festival there. New restaurants, shops, and bars are opening up in the area as well. It's nice to see this revival, because Red Hook is unspoiled in so many respects. Walking on certain cobblestoned streets you can really get the feeling of being back in time, to the era of rough and tumble Brooklyn longshoremen.

I like this silhouette of a derelict building and a big hanging hook.

Here's a farm.

As you can probably guess, this wasn't much of a farm. There were a few rows of crops growing, but I couldn't tell what they were. I'm not sure how much farming actually gets done within the five boroughs but I imagine it's not too much. I like the idea of it, though. The country in the city. Maybe it will catch on some day. I read a story in The Times recently about a winery in Manhattan.

As we walked down Beard Street we noticed this funky graffiti.

Here's Jenn standing in front of some street art.

And here's me doing same.

There was a photo crew shooting a male model leaning against a fire hydrant or something. I didn't pay it too much attention. However I liked the look of this (non-model) guy on the left.

We walked down the street toward the piers and this was our first decent view of the water. The pier on the right is where many of the artists have studio space.

I wanted to walk along the water for a while, so we walked to the end of the pier. It was so windy that at times it was difficult to walk without getting pushed around.

Red Hook has amazing views, not only of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, but all across New York Harbor to New Jersey, Staten Island, and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Here's lower Manhattan.

Here's Lady Liberty in the distance.

And here's a look back at Red Hook.

We hung out at the end of the pier for a few minutes and then, with pie on the brain, we headed back. I shot this photo of a sunken boat along the way. I read somewhere that police divers train on this wreck.

And here are more abandoned industrial structures from the former Revere Sugar Factory.

And here's a quick look at Sunny's Wonderful Bar, also known as Balzano's. It's so great that it deserves its own entry. For the time being I'll leave you with these two excellent links.

We had to walk through a new waterfront park. It's still a work in progress, but there are benches and flowers and there's a pier leading to a barge that will one day house a waterfront museum. Jenn took this excellent seagull photo.

Here's everything you need to know about the park. Click to enlarge.

From there we had one goal in mind:

First we bought a small pie and ate it while enjoying the view from the pie shop. To "polarize" this photo I held the right lens of my sunglasses over the camera lens.

There are a couple of Jack Russell terriers that belong to the shop and they were playing and sometimes fighting with each other. Here's one culprit.

Okay, about the Key Lime Pie shop. It's called Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies, and we enjoyed our first pie so much we bought a large pie (ten inches) to take home. Jenn and I are both fans of Key Lime Pies, and we agreed that this was the best damn Key Lime Pie in recent memory, possibly ever.

Steve owns this pie truck. It is a 1953 Flathead Ford.

Jenn and I sat on a bench facing the harbor and enjoyed the sunshine for a few minutes. The sound of the waves lapping on the beach to our left was very soothing.

I zoomed in on this "Fast Ferry" kicking up a bunch of spray into the wind. That's Staten Island (Shaolin) in the background.

We took our pie and started walking back to the bus stop. On the way I spotted this amphibious bus parked in the lot by the pier.

It was cool to see it because I just recently read a story in The Times about a company that wants to start an amphibious bus tour in New York City. This bus belongs to that tour company, Big Apple Ducks.

We made it to the (non-amphibious) bus stop and waited for about fifteen minutes.

When the bus finally arrived (about ten minutes after its scheduled time) the driver wouldn't take any money or allow anybody to dip their Metrocards into the reader. I surmised that since he was late, and we were the very first stop on the Red Hook to Long Island City route, he didn't want a time stamp that showed how late he was. So to save his own ass, he deprived the MTA of about $20 in fares. Whatever. This "free ride" was meaningless to us, as we have unlimited ride Metrocards.

We had a mostly uneventful ride back to Williamsburg except for one sketchy bum who snuck on the bus from the back door and ate Popeye's Fried Chicken wings and then started hurling obscenities and racial epithets (he was black) at anyone in earshot. Fortunately, he got off after a few stops.

I shot this photo of a Satmar guy from the bus window.

We got out of the bus at Grand Street and walked up Metropolitan Avenue to go home. We were hungry and thinking about what to do for dinner. In a beautiful move, our landlady Blanche left us some excellent Italian food, solving that problem.

After dinner we had pie, and it was good. It was so good.


Anonymous carla said...

If you want to check out a more robust and functioning farm in the area, check out Queens County farm

And read more about it at

Pie looks real yummy...mmm.

2:05 AM  

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