Most New Yorkers wouldn’t even consider a neighborhood without easy access to the subway, but that’s part of the appeal for Red Hook, Brooklyn residents. The area’s remote location means inhabitants can keep the expansive waterfront, spectacular skyline, and quiet, cobblestone streets all to themselves. But the news of the area’s appeal continues to spread. In fact, Red Hook is one of the top neighborhoods to watch in 2022.

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This interest is reflected in the rental and sales figures for the neighborhood. According to the StreetEasy Data Dashboard, the median rent in Red Hook was $3,100 as of October 2021, which is more than Brooklyn’s median rent overall of $2,600 and not significantly less than Manhattan’s median rent of $3,300. The median asking price in the area for the same period was $2.5 million, well above the borough’s median asking price of $948,000, and even Manhattan’s $1.5 million.

Here are some of the reasons why the waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook is so appealing.

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Where Is Red Hook, Brooklyn?

It is practically an island, surrounded by water on three sides: the Buttermilk Channel to the north; the Upper New York Bay to the west; the Gowanus Canal on the south; and the Gowanus Expressway along the eastern border.

Because the expressway essentially cuts off Red Hook from the rest of Brooklyn, it heightens the cozy sense of the area — being an island unto itself. “It’s really like its own village in a big city,” says Victoria Alexander, principal broker of Realty Collective, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 20 years. “Because of the low population density, you pretty much get to know everyone. It’s kind of like Cheers, where you can walk in anywhere, and everybody knows your name.”

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What Is the History of Red Hook?

Settled by the Dutch in the 1600s, “Roode Hoek” was named for its red clay soil and the way the land juts out from the rest of the borough (hoek means “point” in Dutch). This formation made it a natural center for maritime industry, and the area had many bustling ports along its canals and basins. By the 1920s, its waterfront was one of the country’s busiest.

It was also one of the most notorious. Al Capone got his start there, and supposedly, that’s where he got wounded and nicknamed “Scarface.” The rough-and-tumble nature of the Red Hook waterfront has appeared in classic books, films, and plays, including Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge.

Today, most of that raucous maritime industry is gone, replaced by cruise ship terminals and large shopping destinations like IKEA and the Food Bazaar supermarket.

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What Are the Housing Options?

You’ll find a lot of rugged charm among the converted Civil War-era warehouses, Italianate row houses, and mixed-use buildings, the last of which house retail on the ground floor and apartments above. Red Hook’s remaining cobblestone streets add to the quaint village vibe.

“The low buildings allow for a wide-open sky,” says Alexander, and this contributes to the feeling of a human-scale town in the midst of a skyscraper capital. “It’s not like the crazy hustle and bustle of other parts of the city. Life is just slower here, and you get to enjoy a high-quality lifestyle.”

The housing market is primarily rentals, with apartments located in two-to-four-story buildings, many with retail on the ground floor. Sales of apartments are few and far between, though developers are starting to build new housing and convert warehouses. Alexander notes that among the rentals, “There are mostly one and two-bedrooms. There aren’t a lot of larger units, like three bedrooms.”

What’s the Commute Like?

Red Hook’s main drag of Van Brunt Street is a mile from the F/G subway stop at Smith-9th Street; from there, it’s another 25 minutes into downtown Manhattan. Another option is to pick up the F/G at Carroll Street in Carroll Gardens at a stop a little more than a mile away. Two bus lines run through the neighborhood, stopping at the subway: the B57 and B61, which connect to Downtown Brooklyn and Park Slope.

The South Brooklyn ferry line is your best bet if you work in downtown Manhattan. The ride costs $2.75 one way and takes about 20 minutes to the Wall Street stop at Pier 11, and 30 minutes to the Corlears Hook stop on the Lower East Side. IKEA, which operates a superstore in the area, runs a free ferry to and from Manhattan on the weekends.

Are There Any Parks or Green Spaces?

Red Hook doesn’t have green spaces so much as “blue spaces” — waterfront parks that allow you to gaze out at the waves of New York Bay. One such spot is the Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier, which offers fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.

Another is the Erie Basin Park, located behind IKEA. Set on a six-acre section of waterfront property that was previously off-limits to the public, the award-winning space is dotted with artifacts from ships, docks, and cranes in a nod to the area’s maritime past. There are abundant benches and tables here, where you can rest and take in the view.

The popular ball fields in Red Hook (hosts to baseball, soccer, football games, and other sports) are currently closed as part of an ongoing revitalization of the larger Red Hook Recreation Area. But the rec center is normally a favorite destination for its pool, ball fields, and diverse food trucks that line the block.

What To See and Do in Red Hook

The neighborhood is known for its robust arts community and its artisanal scene, an aspect that grew out of the fact it is zoned for manufacturing. As a result, “it’s a real makers’ town,” says Alexander, with distilleries and chocolate factories sitting alongside shops, restaurants, and apartments.

Van Brunt Street is considered the main commercial avenue of Red Hook, and that’s where you’ll find plenty to fill every whim and craving.

At the south end of the street, where the ferry makes intermittent stops, sits the historic 1870s Red Hook Stores building, created by Red Hook’s main developer William Beard. It currently houses the newly opened Food Bazaar, which replaced Fairway Market after the grocery chain went bankrupt in 2020. As mentioned earlier, there’s also IKEA, which significantly elevated the neighborhood’s profile.

For those looking for locally made goods, there’s the Widow Jane Distillery. That’s right — there’s a whiskey distillery right in Red Hook. It uses limestone water sourced from upstate Rosendale, New York, at the Widow Jane mines, which inspired the distillery’s name. But the locally made goodness doesn’t end there. Red Hook Winery and Raaka Chocolate are just a few of many more makers offering tours and goods for sale.

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