RED HOOK — Red Hook brings back bad memories for Nicholas Acevedo.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Acevedo would frequent the neighborhood with his mother, who was addicted to drugs and would shuttle him and his siblings to a crack house near the Gowanus Expressway. She died when he was 10 years old.
But after almost two decades, Acevedo, now 28, is returning to Red Hook with CityReach Network, a religious nonprofit that runs more than a dozen churches in Ohio, Maine, New York state and Pennsylvania, where it is based.
Red Hook will be one of CityReach’s first locations in New York City.
The church will open on Sept. 21 as a place that “exists to reach THE ONE who is far from God and help them become a passionate follower of Jesus,” according to its website. CityReach plans to expand to all five boroughs and Long Island.
Acevedo, who will serve as the new church’s lead pastor, said his personal history is what brought him back to Red Hook to “fulfill what God has called us to do.”
After his mother died, Acevedo moved to Pennsylvania but continued to struggle with his turbulent childhood and attempted to commit suicide at 14. It was only when he attended Valley Forge Christian College that he got “saved” by religion, he said.
Through CityReach, Acevedo is hoping to connect with local organizations working with youth and adults in the neighborhood to strengthen their services and offer a path to prayer and worship.
“There’s more Nicholases out there,” said Acevedo, who now lives in Bay Ridge.
While the nonprofit is still searching for space in the neighborhood to host its Sunday services, CityReach hopes to announce its location, possibly within an existing Red Hook church, before its official Sept. 21 launch.
The church’s first free community event called “Day of Hope” is scheduled for Sept. 20 at Summit Academy Charter School, located at 27 Huntington St. CityReach and partnering groups will provide lunch, medical screenings and about 1,500 bags of non-perishable groceries, said Bill Carson, an associate pastor.
“It just made sense to go to the most influential city in America,” Carson said.
While Red Hook has significantly changed since it was once dubbed "the crack capital of America” by Life magazine in the 1990s, Acevedo believes there are many residents who still need support and guidance, he said.
One of his goals is to bridge the gap between tenants of the neighborhood’s public housing complex and wealthier newcomers to the area so “they can come together and serve under one purpose,” he said.
“We want to be an outgoing church. A life-giving church,” he said.