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Light-Rail System Could Ease Transportation Trouble in Red Hook, Locals Say

By Nikhita Venugopal | September 18, 2013 2:34pm
 A light rail system, dedicated bus service and changes in the truck route were among the top solutions that locals had for Red Hook's transportation problems at a meeting, Sept. 17.
Community Brainstorm for Transportation in Red Hook
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RED HOOK — A dedicated light-rail system through Red Hook would ease the neighborhood’s transportation hassles, locals said at a community meeting Tuesday night.

About 30 residents, business owners and people who work in Red Hook discussed ways to improve the neighborhood’s network and bolster its resiliency to future storms, at a community meeting organized by the Department of City Planning.

Split into groups of five, people studied large-scale maps of the neighborhood, marking suggested bus routes, potential Citi Bike terminals and spots vulnerable to flooding.

A streetcar system, which advocates have been fighting for since 1989, would give locals an easier way to travel through Red Hook and avoid the B61 bus, they said.

Streetcars are “efficient,” “cleaner” and “would increase business in Red Hook,” said Bill Appel, director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation.

The light-rail line, which would run down Van Brunt Street, should accommodate the corridor’s two-lane car traffic and have a travel time of about eight minutes, locals said.

But the Department of Transportation derailed plans for a Red Hook trolley system in 2011 after determining that the project's expense would outweigh its return.

In a report titled "Brooklyn Streetcar Feasibility Study," the DOT found that the 6.8-mile loop that would connect Borough Hall and Red Hook was estimated to cost $176 million with an additional $6.2 to $7.2 million in annual operating costs.

Only 1,822 new riders would be added to the city's transit system, according to the report. 

The Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jean Austin, who also works for the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corp., echoed a familiar gripe among Red Hook locals — their "awful" bus system and lack of a subway stop.

“You can’t really ride a bike all year long,” she said.

City Planning officials spoke to residents about steps toward giving Red Hook more access to, from and within the neighborhood.

Based on the community’s ideas, officials hope to generate plans and issue a report by early spring of next year, a city spokesman said at the meeting.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority declined to comment.

Here are other transportation suggestions from the community meeting:

Bus and Truck Routes

Red Hook’s bus network is “inadequate,” said Jerry Armer, a member of Community Board 6.

Armer suggested returning the B71 to Red Hook, a line that ran along Union Street from the Columbia Street Waterfront District through Cobble Hill, Park Slope and eventually Crown Heights before it was cut in 2010 because of low ridership.

The MTA has no scheduled plans to bring back the bus route.

Armer also recommended adding a local bus line that would travel from Red Hook into Manhattan through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Red Hook’s truck route currently runs along Van Brunt Street, but Phaedra Thomas, a property owner in the neighborhood, wanted to shift the route to Richards Street to ease traffic on Van Brunt, she said.

Bike Routes and Citi Bike

Biking is a common form of transportation in Red Hook, but some wanted a safer route for bikers through improved pathways and better signage.

While Citi Bike has not yet extended into neighborhoods south of Atlantic Avenue, locals called for bike share stations at important intersections.

As one of the quickest ways to get to Red Hook, many weekend riders take Citi Bike to the neighborhood but without bike terminals, they have no parking facilities, said Armer.

Community Board 6, which includes Red Hook, was slated for phase two of the Citi Bike roll-out but an official date for the expansion has not yet been set.

Red Hook vs. DUMBO

“People in Red Hook are as important as people in DUMBO… DUMBO is getting better bus service and their cobbles redone,” a community member wrote on a Post-it note that was stuck to the map.

Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation approved a plan to reconstruct the cobblestone streets of DUMBO and Vinegar Hill that would make them more accessible while preserving their historic feel.

While DUMBO’s cobblestone streets were being refinished, locals groused that Red Hook’s own characteristic paths remain unkempt.

“It’s a part of Red Hook,” said Armer, who hoped to preserve the streets while reconstructing them.


Dangerous pedestrians paths across Hamilton Avenue, including the Richard Street, intersection should be made safer and more accessible, locals agreed. 

Ferry Service

The participants also asked for additional ferry stops at the Atlantic Basin and Governors Island for Red Hook’s ferry, which currently runs from Brooklyn’s Ikea pier to Pier 11 in Manhattan.