Abandoned Trolleys in Red Hook
Before IKEA moved in and claimed Red Hook as a Swedish meatball landmark, Red Hook was an abandoned warehouse area much like most of the East River front walk from LIC, Greenpoint and down towards Brooklyn Navy Yard. When I first moved to the city, I never visited the area much but in the past five+ years, many of these abandoned waterfront were renovated with beautiful parks, walkways, warehouses converted into condominiums and/or art houses, and random restaurants popped up. It used to be an inconvenient place to travel to without a car but with increase population, the city added ferries and water taxis. Of course, with IKEA across the river, Manhattanites swarmed to IKEA in the droves.
To get to IKEA, there are plenty of options. If you go the right time of the month, you can catch a special ferry from 34th St. Otherwise, the best location is Pier 11, just a few blocks south of South Street Seaport. It’s a lovely walk below the FDR drive (currently painted with pastel purple beams).
Pier 11 deck
From Pier 11, there’s an option to go to Governor’s Island (to be frank, it’s nicer to take the the ferry from the Battery Maritime Building on 10 South St…it’s more charming), and even to Sandy Hook, NJ for a day out on the sunny beach. It’s preferable to arrive before 12 noon to avoid the weekend crowd. During the week, there’s a $5 fee for the water taxi from Slip A whereas on the weekend, it’s free.
IKEA/Red hook schedule
The short ride from Wall St to Red Hook offered a beautiful view of lower Manhattan’s sky scraper, Governor’s Island, and even a view of the Statue of Liberty. On a beautiful weekend, go to the top deck or even stand on the back bottom deck to view and enjoy the wind whipping through your hair. Light splashes of water will cool you down tremendously as it did on the muggy day we encountered.
Lower Manhattan skyscrapers with the Freedom Tower still being built
Finally, arriving at Red hook, we are greeted by the screaming blue and yellow color of IKEA at the Erie Basin Park, themed in all manners of maritime objects. Hooks, ropes, pulleys, cranes, large infrastructure and even maps pointing miles to locations around the world. It is actually a nice relaxing park with large wooden benches lined throughout the location. The waiting area is small but there’s an awning for rainy days. I doubt I’d ever go there on cold winter days.
Erie Basin Park: IKEA
Our first destination in Red Hook was to find the famous Steve’s Key Lime Pie.
Sign to tell us we’re close!
I had no clue about this famous pie! We walked west (away from IKEA and the park so you would turn left when you are on Beard St), turned on first right and first left, landing you on Van Dyck. You stay on this road until you see a painted sign on an old cement building. You won’t miss the PERCHED sign that tells you to turn into an old warehouse. And at the corner of the warehouse is Steve’s famous Key Lime Pie store with horrendous hours. They might not be there so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t see them.
We were lucky to arrive and ordered a Swingle. This is a must have! It’s the 4″ pie dipped in chocolate and frozen. No need to get the pie itself! Yum, yum yum! It’s a guilty pleasure worth wandering the abandoned streets of Red Hook to get.
Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie: Swingle
Right beside the store, there are random art shops and even Red Hook Winery. Beyond that is the wharf where, at the time we were there, appeared to be preparing for a wedding.
Red Hook Winery
Orchid near Red Hook Winery
Don’t walk back on the street! Veering to the right, you’ll find the Waterfront Garden, lined with lavenders and reading benches under shady trees, facing the rocky water front. Places like this take me away from the city life to a forgotten peaceful place where time is slower, time is enjoyed from moments spent lost in reveries, basking under the steamy sun and whispering winds, as if gossiping about human’s folly. It is a place forgotten by city folks and maintained by historical lovers.
Rusty nut used to anchor the gate
Keep on track along the water, you’ll find an entrance to another abandoned building (right behind the awesomely expensive Fairway) and you’ll find historical trolleys! You won’t notice upon entering Pier 45 the trolley tracks that are situated alongside benches facing the water. In what seems an odd location is a restaurant, right behind the trolley underneath what looks like a post apocalyptic building. If anyone has ever seen History’s Life After People, these abandoned trolleys surely looked like it came from the series’s set! Rust, graffiti, overgrown weeds, broken glasses. It’s a sad state for these historical landmarks but adds a creepy mystery to it. I would love to see what it looks and feels like at night. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to head on to visit the Clearwater ship, a replicate of 18th/19th century ship.
Red Hook Trolley tracks
Red Hook Trolley
Red Hook Trolley
We ended the exploration at Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, which boasts several young and new artists. Some of the works are amazing. The downfall with this is that it’s a melee of work, somewhat unorganized and unthemed. But still, plenty of amazing works to be seen.
Jill Ziccardi’s Chick (2012)
John Sample’s Roll ‘Em (in collaboration with Davide White)
Matt Nahoum’s Water Falls
Red Hook is much like a small community of thriving art, gardens, waterfronts, and seaside escape. It’s a strange place caught in time, slowly decaying under the thriving city life across the river. Would it boom once more? It’s hard to know. But it’s an interesting place to visit and explore. Just remember to bring sunblock and bug spray, since you’ll pass various patches of dead water and barb wired fences.
And what a better way to end the day of exploration but eat-ploration at a Genovase restaurant I Tre Merli (I’m prepping my taste palate for my trip to Italy). I found the Genovese-style foccacia too salty for my taste but it’s a healthy amount of bread. The O’ Sole drink, which is limoncello with white wine and fresh lemon juice was much too bitter for me. It tasted like they used a cheap bottle of white wine to infuse this specialty cocktail that was not worth the price. But their spaghetti with clams and white wine sauce was absolutely amazing. The spaghetti is made al dente (slightly firmer than I’m used to) but the sauce had a hint of broth to enhance the clam taste. I still crave for it today. Overall, I would go back just for the clams and maybe try a different appetizer and avoiding drinks, overall.
Spaghetti with Clams