Node by Node: Red Hook’s mesh network survived Hurricane Sandy. Today, it’s in limbo.
Tevina Willis rode out Superstorm Sandy inside her Red Hook, Brooklyn, home. “I had been through hurricanes in the projects when I was a child,” she says. “I knew just to be calm and sit away from the windows, away from glass.” Outside her apartment, hurricane winds pushed a wall of water into the city. The storm surge swept boats from the harbor onto streets turned into rivers.
Noise, pollution, danger: how Amazon warehouses upended a sleepy New York neighborhood
In the last decade, Red Hook – a Brooklyn neighborhood whose waterfront faces the upper New York harbor – has undergone cataclysmic flooding from Hurricane Sandy as well as years of construction in the neighborhood’s large public housing complex, the Red Hook Houses. Now, residents face a sudden buildup of last-mile warehouse facilities.
How Massive Amazon Warehouses Are Straining a Vulnerable Brooklyn Neighborhood
Neighborhood advocates and legal experts say New York’s environmental and zoning laws haven’t kept up with the e-commerce boom, which has only accelerated since the start of the pandemic. In Red Hook, residents worry that as warehouses continue to open, they threaten the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, and the health of their neighbors. But until now, a lack of data has made it harder for people in Red Hook and similar communities around the country to advocate for more local control over the spread of new distribution centers. That’s because federal, state, and local governments don’t regularly collect information on air quality or traffic when e-commerce facilities open, the way they often monitor other industrial sites like power plants or factories.
Red Hook residents accuse NYPD, federal agents of aggressive policing
Neighborhood groups are sounding the alarm over what they call aggressive policing at a housing development. Federal agents and the NYPD arrested several people in Red Hook. CBS2’s Hannah Kliger spoke to people who say the operation left them traumatized.
Brooklyn advocates respond to raid that led to arrest of 5 teenage boys
Community advocates and residents spoke at a news conference in Red Hook Wednesday about a raid that took place last week, ending in the arrest of five teenage boys. “I am here to support young people who are being harassed by the police in the 76 precinct and now the DEA and the ATF,” said Betty Bernhart, outreach worker and community advocate in Red Hook. “I want to say I understand cops are doing what they have to do but there are other ways of doing it.”
‘As prepared as possible’: Red Hook Initiative teens navigate rights, police interactions in new ‘Know Your Rights’ trainings
The Red Hook Initiative and the Legal Aid Society have partnered for the first-ever “Know Your Rights Ambassador Training Series,” which teaches teens how to navigate interactions with police and — most importantly — how to share that knowledge with their peers.
New York City Comptroller
NYC Comptroller and Urban Ocean Lab Center Community Efforts in New Report about Superstorm Sandy Recovery and Resilience
The report details efforts in the immediate aftermath of the storm and new programs, infrastructure, and organizations that emerged in the years since. In Red Hook, Brooklyn — where residents of the Red Hook Houses went without power for three weeks, heat for 17 days, and running water for 11 days — the Red Hook Initiative opened its doors to over 1,200 residents to get a hot meal, charge cell phones, receive medical attention, consult legal support, and obtain supplies. In Staten Island, a new coalition of Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) formed with dedicated staff to coordinate emergency preparedness efforts across the borough, creating the capacity for community resiliency that became essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local initiatives including The Flossy and Fresh Creek Civic Association installed community gardens and native plantings in their neighborhood to increase water capture during flooding.
Red Hook Initiative Celebrates 20 Years of Community Development
The annual benefit has grown from a backyard fundraiser into a highly anticipated event attracting a variety of award-winning Brooklyn restaurants, small businesses and the community at large. “What I really appreciate about RHI is it’s not just an organization; it really feels like a home and a family,” Cierra Craig, an RHI Young Adult Fellow, said.
OP-ED: Erase The Gang Database
On Wednesday, myself and other young adults from the Public Safety Team at Red Hook Initiative (RHI) took a stand against the NYPD’s gang database by joining the rally at Brooklyn Hall against this system of criminalization. We were joined at the rally by elected officials, members of organizations from across the City–like Freedom Agenda, VOCAL-NY, the Legal Aid Society–as well as directly affected New Yorkers.
OP-ED: I Don’t Trust The Police
As a young black woman living in New York, I have witnessed and experienced the problems within the police justice system first hand. One day when I was in middle school, I gave someone I knew a hug. Two seconds later, a male officer proceeded to check my coat and my hoodie to see if the boy had put something in my pockets. I felt violated in many ways; a male police officer shouldn’t check a girl or woman; I was only a young girl. He never asked to check me—he knew that he was going to be able to do what he wanted at that moment, which is what made the moment traumatizing for me.
OP-ED: The Criminal Injustice System
I grew up in East New York, Brooklyn. In the early 2000s, safety from street violence and police violence seemed too much to ask for. As the most dangerous place to live in Brooklyn, some members of my community opted to join gangs for protection. This included protection from the largest gang in America, the NYPD.
Regional Plan Association
Alfresco NYC Announces 2022 One-Time Grant Winners
Serving residents of Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn’s largest public housing development, RHI provides services, hosts community events, and serves food to the community weekly. At West 9th Street between Henry Street and Hicks Street, RHI will continue to support Open Streets and train residents to install and care for trees and public seating.
RED HOOK AND GOWANUS YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS TO RECEIVE $1 MILLION FROM FEDERAL BUDGET
Eleven youth and educational organizations based in Red Hook and Gowanus are receiving $1 million in federal funding to boost their programming, Rep. Nydia Velázquez announced on Tuesday.
Frontiers In Sustainable Cities
Greening the Virtual Smart City: Accelerating Peer-to-Peer Learning in Urban Agriculture With Virtual Reality Environments
We have built a prototype platform using the Unity programming environment1 to realize this vision of remote access to on-farm demonstration and training through Virtual Reality. Several users (we have tested up to 20) are able to simultaneously log on to the platform and experience a tour of Red Hook Farm in Brooklyn, NY.
The New York farm helping young people into work
The world’s biggest economy is bouncing back from the impact of the coronavirus lockdowns, but the US still has 8.4 million fewer jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.
Urban farms work to get healthy foods to their communities
These days, hunger is hitting black and brown communities especially hard. In urban “food deserts” where access to healthy foods is hard to come by, some are turning to age-old solutions. Craig Melvin visits an urban farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn, as TODAY’s Inequality in America series continues.
Mayors Office of ThriveNYC
Celebrating mental health heroes: Social work in the park: Florie St. Aime
When COVID-19 first hit Brooklyn’s Red Hook community in March, Florie St. Aime found new ways to reach her neighbors with help and support. Every Wednesday Florie, a Clinical Social Work Manager at the Red Hook Initiative (RHI), brought a table to Coffey Park.
The New York Times
They’re Young, Unemployed and Facing Bleak Prospects
The Red Hook Initiative, a nonprofit community organization in Brooklyn, places young adults in paid internships with small businesses and social justice groups. But with few places taking new people, it is now paying many of them $15 an hour to work in the community, including giving out free food from its urban farm and handing out face masks and hand sanitizers.
Enterprise Community Partners
Community Organizer Fellowship Spotlight: Red Hook Initiative
An Interview With Kiyana Slade at the Red Hook Initiative In 2019, Enterprise launched the Community Organizer Fellowship, a program funding three community-based organizations across New York State to further their community organizing priorities. The fellowship seeks to empower these organizations to address pressing issues including displacement and increasing the supply of affordable housing.
I Believe Good Food Is a Right. So I’m Teaching Kids to Farm.
Today, with the help of my team of youth farmers, we packed up 216 bunches of red Russian kale and scallions for families in need. That’s nothing compared to what a larger-scale farm can do, but I’d argue that the work we’re doing is more important.
Red Hook Houses residents demand NYCHA slow down construction project
There are calls from a community to stop a construction project at a housing development in Brooklyn that has already closed off access to ball fields, playgrounds and benches in the middle of a pandemic. But residents of the Red Hook Houses living in the middle of a construction site, surrounded by 39 acres of metal fencing and mountains of soil with courtyards turned into mazes, say it is also raising other serious health concerns.
Community groups, residents rally for city construction at Red Hook Houses to stop during pandemic
Red Hook Houses residents called Tuesday for a stop to all construction. City officials said there is a good reason for the construction. It’s all part of the Sandy Resiliency and Renewal Program, designed to lessen the community’s vulnerability to natural disasters. The project is funded with $550 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Kings County Politics
Let Red Hook Breathe Says NYCHA Residents
Screaming to ‘Let Red Hook Breathe,’ residents and public housing advocates demanded more playgrounds, clean air and water, the replanting of the neighborhood’s trees, more lighting, air and soil testing because of the neighborhood’s industrial history with toxic land use, and a better emergency response and fire safety plan for the community.
Red Hook farms helping feed families during pandemic
The Red Hook Farm is three acres, tucked in the middle of an industrial corner of Red Hook on Columbia Street. The farm is run by a non-profit organization called the Red Hook Initiative. Every week, the group is busy putting fresh food in boxes for families in need. Since COVID-19 began to spread, the group went from feeding 100 families a week, to now almost 500 families a week.
Here Are 7 Brooklyn Organizations Raising Funds and Doing Good Across the Borough
While New York slowly emerges from stay-at-home orders, there are still plenty of Brooklynites in need. Here’s a roundup of just some of the organizations that are raising funds to make a difference, whether it’s feeding those in need, supporting frontline workers or trying to keep small businesses afloat.
Rising sea levels leave public housing residents struggling with mold
When splotches of mold surfaced on Brandy Cabrera’s shower wall in September 2019, the 37-year-old bus attendant began to worry about her teenage son, who is autistic. “He has got to breathe in all that mold while he is taking a bath,” Cabrera says, referring to his longstanding morning routine. To fix the leak causing the mold, Cabrera followed protocol, contacting the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which owns the Red Hook Houses, the public housing complex in Brooklyn where she has lived for the past 13 years. But Cabrera says that workers just plastered over her wall. The next month, she contacted them again to stop the spreading mold, but no one came.
The New York Times
The Complicated Calculus of Helping Neighbors During a Pandemic
Javier López, the chief strategy officer with the Red Hook Initiative, a youth development organization, said the ways of helping that developed after Hurricane Sandy hit the neighborhood in 2012 have had to be “tweaked.” Staffers from the initiative have been working through a list of 2,000 phone numbers for residents of the Red Hook Houses, one of the largest public housing projects in the city, to create a map for who might need help.
NYC 2020 Census
NYC Complete Count Fund
Red Hook Initiative is pleased to announce it has received a $125,000 award from NYC Complete Count Fund. A partnership between CUNY, Mayor Bill De Blasio and the New York City Council. The NYC Complete Count Fund is a first-of-its-kind census-related community organizing program that will support and resource community-based organizations to help NYC reach a full and accurate count in the 2020 Census. These funds will support the 2020 Census outreach and education in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
NBC 4 New York
A Farm Grows in Brooklyn
NBC 4 New York joined us on the Columbia Street Farm bright & early to interview our farm staff and youth apprentices. Dontae McCoy, on his stewardship as a young farmer, reflected: “Coming from the community, I know that there’s not a lot of fresh foods, and a lot people aren’t used to having a farm next to their community, so it’s pretty cool to give back.” Dontae and his fellow youth farmers harvested over 20,000 pounds of sustainably grown produce this year.
NEWS 12 BROOKLYN
Annual Red Hook Farms festival raises awareness of local organic food
The annual Red Hook Farms Harvest Festival celebrated the fall season with food, horse rides and some healthy competition, and also recognized one of Brooklyn’s largest youth-led urban farms. Red Hook Farms operates two urban farm sites – one on Columbia Street, and another on Wolcott Street. The farm prioritizes teen farm apprenticeship and their school workshop, all while bringing healthy produce to urban areas. Organizer Melina Valle said the festival helps get people in the community familiar with “sustainable, organic food at a cheaper price” that is within walking distance from their homes. Red Hook Farms has a weekly farm stand with fresh produce at its Columbia Street location.
NEWS 12 BROOKLYN
Can you handle the heat? Chile Pepper Festival celebrates all things spicy
News 12 Brooklyn joined us at the Botanical Garden for the 27th annual Chile Pepper Festival. In partnership with Haiti Culture Exchange, the festival featured more than three dozen food artisans and vendors with products made using peppers, including hot sauces, honey, sorbet and chocolates.
Taste of Red Hook Returns for 13th Year of Sampling Local Food and Drink
The 13th annual Taste of Red Hook event brings a culinary fest celebrating the food, drink and people that define the neighborhood. The fundraising event will offer tastings from more than 50 restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries from Red Hook’s ever-growing culinary community. Participants this year will include Baked, Defonte’s Sandwich Shop, Fort Defiance, La Slowteria, Six Point Brewery and Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. In addition to the food and libation, there will be a silent auction with craft, wellness, travel and culinary items up for bidding. All proceeds from the event will benefit event host the Red Hook Initiative (RHI), a community center in Red Hook which serves over 5,000 residents annually.
Chronicle of Philanthropy
Community Group Uses Employment to Help People Climb Out of Poverty
About 10,000 people live in public housing in Red Hook, a tiny waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. The housing projects are surrounded by townhomes that sell for millions of dollars. It’s a tightly packed example of Brooklyn’s vast wealth disparities. 17 year-old Red Hook Initiative helps young people in Red Hook graduate from high school and get jobs or go to college. It advocates for transportation and public safety. It even has a community farm. But its most innovative effort is remarkably simple: hiring. The organization hires more than 125 young people from the neighborhood, and some of them go on to join the organization’s permanent staff of 50, also largely hired from residents who live in public housing there.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After months without gas, Red Hook NYCHA residents demand reimbursement
When roughly 60 families in the Red Hook Houses had their gas turned off on Feb. 13, many believed it would be a temporary issue — nothing more than a minor inconvenience. But soon days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months. Though the families had their gas restored late last month, they’re now demanding NYCHA reimburse them for money laid out on meals. “This issue is that the residents are not centered in really being provided with all of the information that they need to understand the totality of the problem,” said Javier Lopez, chief strategy officer of the Red Hook Initiative, a nonprofit community center. “They’re given a lot of false starts, and they’re not told from soup to nuts what the infrastructural problems are and what is needed to really correct them.”
Curbed New York
New York City’s best urban farms
When most people think of urban farming in New York City, they picture a bearded Brooklynite picking kale from atop a warehouse while drinking a home-brewed beer. And while that person does exist, there are a lot of other farms in this city that don’t fit the stereotype. Formerly known as Added Value, this community farm in Red Hook is one of New York City’s older urban farms. It started in 2001, and every year, the 2.5-acre plot produces enough vegetables for a neighborhood CSA.
Is New York City’s Public Housing Ready for the Next Storm?
In the meeting room at Red Hook Initiative (RHI)—a Brooklyn community-development nonprofit dedicated to youth empowerment, social justice, and sustainability—a large painting hangs high up on the wall, bordered by the words “rebound and rebuild.” It shows the neighborhood of Red Hook in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, with waves crashing on a row of sandbags, as cans of food, light bulbs, and batteries lie strewn about haphazardly. Last summer, a group of residents of Red Hook’s public-housing developments, just across the street from RHI, gathered here for the orientation meeting of RHI’s 10-week emergency-preparedness training, called “Local Leaders.”
New York State Senate
Senator Montgomery congratulates Red Hook Initiative for winning $100,000 Grand Prize in NBCUniversal Foundation’s “Project Innovation” competition
NBC New York and Telemundo 47 present a $100K check to Red Hook Initiative as the Grand Prize Winner of the NBC Universal Foundation’s “Project Innovation” grant competition. RHI’s Digital Stewards program was recognized for preparing low-income young adults for tech careers by training them to install/maintain Red Hook WIFI, a community effort to close the digital divide, create economic opportunity and improve quality of life in Red Hook.
PBS Peril & Promise
When disaster strikes, how do we communicate?
When Superstorm Sandy hit, residents of the Red Hook Houses, the largest public housing development in Brooklyn with over 7,000 residents, struggled without power and clean water for almost a month. Instead of waiting for help, residents and civic groups transformed themselves from storm victims to storm responders. Meet the local leaders who are stepping up to the plate and taking emergency preparedness into their own hands including installing and expanding a free, solar-powered Wi-Fi network to make sure that communication is always possible when disaster strikes. With climate change, sea level rise, and another superstorm always threats, they’re making sure that Red Hook is hooked up.
Brooklyn Community Foundation
Announcing the Winners of Our $100,000 Spark Prize!
Today we are thrilled to announce the five Brooklyn nonprofit organizations selected to receive our annual Spark Prize! The winners are Cave Canem Foundation, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, Exalt Youth (exalt), GRIOT Circle, and Red Hook Initiative. The Spark Prize recognizes outstanding pioneering nonprofit organizations rooted in the borough that have demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing racial and social justice. Each of the five Spark Prize recipients will be awarded $100,000 in general operating support. The organizations were selected from a competitive pool of over 130 applicants by a distinguished committee of 30 members representing Brooklyn’s civic, business, and philanthropic communities.