Page 5 - Images of Red Hook, Brooklyn

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Red Hook, Brooklyn.
more accessible parts of NYC have for the
most part changed neighborhoods in ways
that have homogenized and sanitized them—
and now they are no longer the distinctive
neighborhoods that attracted people to them
in the first place.
Red Hook benefits from its
inaccessibility and is hurt by it.
Red Hook is salty, rugged
and close-knit yet divided in
many ways, but this is usually
equalized by being a member
of the neighborhood when
outside threats are at our walls.
—Gregory O’Connell Jr.
Red Hook’s isolation is largely why it has re-
tained its character. After reviewing my photos,
all of which were taken over the past ten years,
I was struck not by how much has changed, but
by how much has stayed the same, especially
when compared to Manhattan and other water-
front communities in Brooklyn.
  But there have been changes. In the book
are images of a good number of structures
that no longer exist, such as the Todd Shipyard
buildings and especially the Revere Sugar
Refinery which was a hulking ruin for many
decades — and yet its disappearance in 2006
still elicits a surprising amount of nostalgia.
  I have photographed many parts of NYC
and the rest of the world for years, but recently
I realized that many of my most favored photos
were taken in Red Hook. One thing I look for
everywhere I photograph is evidence of nature’s
struggle with man, and vice versa. Abandoned
industrial sites are some of the best places to
observe nature reclaiming its turf, and I find
the resulting contrasts appealing.
Tom Rupolo’s Red Hook depicts a
neighborhood’s uneasy transition from
semi-forgotten industrial wasteland to
vibrant residential neighborhood. In
focusing on the places and things in the
streets of his Brooklyn, Rupolo succeeds
in bringing a sense of humanness to the
enterprise—buildings and artifacts lie in
lonesome repose, offering blunt and
occasionally vulgar metaphors for the
human condition while resisting a rote
storyline of deliquescence. He covers the
waterfront, uncovering lost histories
and offering glimpses into new ones
being written. I am always struck by
Rupolo’s knack for making photographs
whose surface might speak to industrial-
strength aloofness, but whose
underlying subtext finds an artist
fully engaged in his community,
his craft and his fire hydrants.
—Tom Gogola, writer/editor and
former Brooklyn resident
There have been, and still are many Red Hooks:
a desolate industrial wasteland, a crime-
ridden and scary neighborhood, a raucous
port town and pirate playland, a gentrifying
artist’s enclave, a trendy shopping and eating
destination, and a real estate developer’s
This is mine.
This book presents Red Hook through my eyes,
my lens and my voice, heard here and in
the captions. But I want this book to provide
more than my solitary viewpoint. I want it
to reflect the neighborhood as well. I inter-
viewed dozens of people in the course of
working on the book, and their words provide
perspectives I couldn’t even begin to imagine.
A wide variety of people live and work in Red
Hook, but it is still a small village at heart.
If you ask an outsider what makes
Red Hook special, they’ll talk about
the parks and open space, the
waterfront views, the cobblestone
streets, the great businesses,
churches and agencies that create
the fabric of the community. If you
ask someone from Red Hook,
they’ll tell you the secret: It’s the
people who live here.
—Jill Eisenhard, founder of
The Red Hook Initiative
Many people living in New York City will say
that living in their neighborhood is similar to
residing in a small town, but as big box and chain
stores exert their presence, this is becoming
less and less true. Red Hook is not immune
to this, and yet it has still retained much of
its separatist character. Many lament the lack
of good reliable transportation; I have been
one of them. However, recent development in
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