Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Red Hook: The Future Biking Capital of NYC?

This past November, the Forum for Urban Design hosted a competition in which urban designers and planners from around the world submitted plans for Red Hook with the theme "Reimagining Red Hook as the Most Bicycle Friendly Community in NYC."

After the $10,000 prize was given out and the plans were unveiled in November, 2008, many were left wondering - what happens next? Well today, Lisa Chamberlin, one of the masterminds behind the competition, wrote an article for Urban Omnibus explaining some of the future possibilities for the plans and making some very strong arguments as to why they can and should happen.

Some excerpts are below, but I highly recommend reading the entire article here.

At the very least, the Forum saw this design competition as a way to introduce the concept of the bicycle garage to New York City.....But rather than call it a “garage,” which is not terribly sexy, we called it a “loft,” to reflect not only the ideal New York apartment, but the garage’s proposed location: near the elevated Smith and 9th Street train stop

Because amenities such as bike lofts and bike paths are usually developed in wealthy neighborhoods first, which already tend to have multiple transportation options, we challenged designers to focus their attention on Red Hook. Sparsely populated and isolated from the rest of the city due to a lack of public transportation, most New Yorkers have never been to Red Hook and cab drivers can’t find it. The Smith and 9th stop on the F line is a mile from the heart of Red Hook and bus service is notoriously slow and frustrating. While this situation has contributed to the unique character of the community, it has resulted in sporadic economic development despite its close proximity to Lower Manhattan.

So, while the Forum is primarily concerned with urban design, the not-so-hidden agenda of this design competition is to propose a new economic development model. Red Hook has a genuine need for both transportation and sustainable development, and bicycling could very well be the key to both. .......

Back to the original question, however: Might any of these great ideas ever get built? It’s hard to say. But we do know that Brooklyn’s Community Board 6, led by district manager Craig Hammerman, supported the competition in hopes of seeing good street design ideas to propose to NYCDOT for lower Columbia and Van Brunt Streets, as they are slated to be torn up for sewer repairs. What’s more, as many of the submissions proposed, a bike loft with supportive retail and recreational activities is certainly a viable development program, particularly if land costs are minimal.

*Images above from the Forum for Urban Design and Urman Omnibus


Mike W. said...

As an avid biker and year-round bike commuter, I think this is a great idea!

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Red Hook and a frequent bike commuter, I feel that the situation is already very simple and convenient as it is. Also there is not a lot of traffic in the neighborhood so I don't have any problems. Not sure why/if this is necessary. I can get to lower Manhattan in 20 minutes. But good luck anyway.