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Free Wi-Fi Planned for Red Hook Houses in Nonprofit's Plan

 Red Hook Initiative is building a free community Internet network throughout the neighborhood.
Red Hook Initiative is building a free community Internet network throughout the neighborhood.
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Facebook/Red Hook Initiative

RED HOOK — A nonprofit is planning to expand its efforts to get Red Hook online by activating multiple hot spots throughout the neighborhood’s NYCHA housing development.  

Red Hook Initiative launched “Red Hook Wi-Fi” two years ago to create a free community wireless Internet network and to train young adults in computer development and technical skills.

Roughly 50 routers are slated for installation in public spots, including playgrounds, lobbies and areas where tenants might congregate in Red Hook East and West, creating several access points where residents can go online, said Anthony Schloss, RHI’s director of community initiatives.

The nonprofit is currently in contract negotiations with NYCHA to get access to the property, Schloss said.

In order to push the project forward, the group is also seeking $200,000 through City Councilman Carlos Menchaca’s participatory budgeting process to buy the necessary equipment.

However, even if they don’t receive those public dollars, Schloss anticipates they will find other sources of funding, he added. Their tentative goal is to install the routers this fall.   

A NYCHA spokesperson confirmed that the agency is in negotiations for the project, and said "[p]artnerships with organizations like Red Hook Initiatives [sic] are essential for helping NYCHA expand wireless capabilities to our residents and for building more digitally connected communities across the City.”

RHI offers services to support and educate Red Hook’s young people, and through Red Hook Wi-Fi, the organization launched the Digital Stewards program for 19- to 24-year-olds to help build the network and gain hands-on experience, leading them to jobs in and out of the tech industry.

The Stewards have assisted in activating 15 access points in businesses, parks and in community centers, and hope to connect about 75 percent of Red Hook Houses to the Internet, Schloss said.  

“Some people out here don’t have access to Wi-Fi,” said Naheem Morris, 19, a digital steward, who knows both adults and young people living in public housing and relying on computers in the library or community centers.

Red Hook Wi-Fi also gives locals a curated splash page and alert system with community events, meetings and ways to stay engaged in the neighborhood.

“If you had Wi-Fi in Red Hook [Houses]," Morris said, "it would get more people involved.”