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MAP: How Red Hook's White Population Surge Is Changing the Neighborhood

By Nikhita Venugopal | November 18, 2016 3:14pm | Updated on November 21, 2016 7:21am
 From left clockwise: Rendering of AECOM's plan for Red Hook; NYCHA's Red Hook Houses; the former New York Dock Building at 160 Imlay St.; Red Hook Initiative on Hicks Street.
From left clockwise: Rendering of AECOM's plan for Red Hook; NYCHA's Red Hook Houses; the former New York Dock Building at 160 Imlay St.; Red Hook Initiative on Hicks Street.
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AECOM; DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

RED HOOK — Red Hook Initiative, a non-profit that mentors mostly Black and Latino kids toward college careers, has been a part of the neighborhood for a decade — but a shift in Red Hook's demographics has affected them in one key way.

From 2000 to 2014, Red Hook's white population has soared an estimated 320 percent, according to a DNAinfo analysis of the most recently available U.S. Census Bureau data. At the same time, the neighborhood's overall income level rose so much that non-profits there lost the eligibility to apply for block grants for low-income communities two years ago, said Jill Eisenhard, executive director of RHI.

"I would think it's also safe to assume that the median family income is also increasing," she said. "Working class residents of public housing are not able to afford anything that's in their own neighborhood."

The map above is colored according to the largest racial group in each census tract in Red Hook. Areas colored yellow represent Latinos, areas in green represent whites, and areas in blue represent African-Americans. DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya. Source: US Census Bureau, Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System.

The same holds true for social justice nonprofit Fifth Avenue Committee, which reported a similar loss of eligibility as the entire Community Board 6 — including Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and Cobble Hill — grows richer.

“The mechanism doesn’t recognize that there can be pockets of poverty literally across the street from extreme wealth,” FAC executive director Michelle de la Uz said. 

The once-sleepy waterfront neighborhood appears more bustling in recent years as developers set their sites on building market-rate housing units. The last time affordable housing was constructed on Coffey Street and Walcott Street by FAC was in 2011, according to de la Uz.

Despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's push for affordable housing throughout the city, de la Uz said Red Hook has faired poorly.

That may be due to widespread zoning for manufacturing in the neighborhood as well as the unwillingness of landlords to sell properties at affordable prices. The landlords, she explained, are likely to wait for opportune moments to sell their properties.

Though Red Hook's total population has only increased by an estimated 2 percent, the white population now makes up 31 percent as opposed to 8 percent 16 years ago, according to U.S. Census estimates. The Latino population has dipped slightly but still forms the majority at 44 percent of the population.

The neighborhood's black population however has dropped. Black residents make up 35 percent of the population as opposed to 43 percent in 2000, data estimates show. Red Hook East and West Houses, the largest NYCHA development in Brooklyn, remains home to most of the neighborhood's total population.

"I've seen Red Hook for 20 years," said Nahisha McCoy, who is black and has lived in Red Hook's public housing buildings for two decades. "It's not better for those that live in the projects. It's better for those who live around the projects."

"To me it feels like it's tripled, the amount of Caucasian people," she said.

Eisenhard said that almost 100 percent of participants at RHI from Red Hook Houses are still Black and Latino.

Despite taking a beating four years ago in Hurricane Sandy, development on new buildings is already underway throughout the neighborhood, including a luxury condo conversion at a former New York Dock Building and a series of townhouses along King and Sullivan streets. Those and new businesses are making Red Hook a more livable area despite the lack of public transportation.

Global engineering firm AECOM recently eyed Red Hook for a transformational plan that involves waterfront high-rises and new subway stations. 

"Race and class trend together in our society. It's not surprising to me that the white population growth has been substantial," de la Uz said.

— With reporting by Nigel Chiwaya.