In the project “In Oblivon” I aimed to describe accurately Red Hook (one of the oldest quarters of Brooklyn and New York City) and its inhabitants: an alternating sequence of portraits and landscapes highlights the contrast between a decayed exhausted and blackened environment (as consequence of the tough police intervention between 1993 and 2003 to repress the extremely high crime rate) and the young population who today have recolonized the area (because of the presence of low rent apartments and places), laying foundations for a second birth.
Red Hook is also the place where one of H.P. Lovecraft’s novels “The horror at Red Hook” (1925) is set, here the author recorded the process of decay that has since continued to the present day. […] Red Hook is a maze of hybrid squalor near the ancient waterfront opposite Governor’s Island, with dirty highways climbing the hill from the wharves to that higher ground where the decayed lengths of Clinton and Court Streets lead off toward the Borough Hall. Its houses are mostly of brick, dating from the first quarter to the middle of the nineteenth century, and some of the obscurer alleys and byways have that alluring antique flavour which conventional reading leads us to call “Dickensian”. The population is a hopeless tangle and enigma; Syrian, Spanish, Italian, and negro elements impinging upon one another, and fragments of Scandinavian and American belts lying not far distant. It is a babel of sound and filth, and sends out strange cries to answer the lapping of oily waves at its grimy piers and the monstrous organ litanies of the harbour whistles. […]
Red Hook is one of the oldest quarters of Brooklyn and New York City. According to the last 2010 census inhabitants were 11.319. The first settlement was in 1636, when some Dutch colonists founded the first village, Roode Hoeke, that has practically nothing to do with a “hook”, that is the Dutch for “red point” and it is referred to the clayey soil that used to be a good point of reference for the incoming ships at that time.
In Red Hook Al Capone took his first steps as a criminal. In 1990 LIFE defined Red Hook “The crack capital of America”.
In 1992 Patrick Daly, the Director of a school, while looking for a student, got killed in a street gunfire among drug dealers. The reaction to this fact involved a tough police intervention between 1993 and 2003: murders decreased of 100%, aggressions of 68%, robberies of 55%, rapes of 33%.
Today the quarter lives thanks to muffled background sounds and noises; sea waves breaking on the coast, seagulls flying silently , wind stroking buildings and desert factories, some small workshops arranged in old blackened buildings, an old abandoned machines mute echo pealing; clear traces of one of the oldest principal points of access of New York City.
Walking down the streets of this quarter, it is impossible not to perceive a nostalgic atmosphere, different from the luxurious and luminescent midtown’s one, where flows of people fight for a little space on a side walk and a chink on shop windows.
The quarter is represented by few hubs: the sport field overtopped by the old massive Grain Terminal’s skeleton, IKEA, the cosy Cathedral dedicated to Holy Mary’s Visitation, the school bus storage areas with a continual coming and going, cheap supermarkets, council houses and the portual area, where you can see the unreachable Statue of Liberty.
Lately, because of the presence of low rent apartments, many young people and artists live here, laying foundations for a second birth.