History, Pop Culture

The Brooklyn Nobody Knows

The title of this blog entry, The Brooklyn Nobody Knows, has a double meaning.  It is not only the title of a book by author William Helmreich, but it is also the subject of a documentary called A Hole in a Fence, IKEA, Graffiti, Urban Farming and the Gentrification of Red Hook, Brooklyn.  This movie is available on Kanopy,  our Library’s on-demand movie streaming service, available to Lindenhurst Memorial Library district cardholders to view on their computers, or by downloading the app to view on their smartphones or tablets.

The book, The Brooklyn Nobody Knows: An Urban Walking Guide, is a one-of-a-kind walking guide of Brooklyn … from a man who walked every block of New York City.  It’s a tour of the many diverse neighborhoods of Brooklyn from Red Hook to Coney Island. The book contains  an overview and history of each of the forty-four distinct neighborhoods of the borough … along with the results of interviews that the author had with local residents.  It’s an interesting kaleidoscopic view of the most populous county of New York State and provides a colorful portrait of the most interesting, unusual, and unknown people, places and things to be found there.  Brooklyn is home to so many well-known attractions such as the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Prospect Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Green-wood Cemetery.  But, as we can see in the following documentary, there are also many hidden areas in Brooklyn that are not so well-known to the public.    https://livebrary.overdrive.com/media/2683905

A Hole in a Fence, IKEA, Graffiti, Urban Farming and the Gentrification of Red Hook, Brooklyn, (First Run Features, 2008) is a study of change, in microcosm,  of one neighborhood in Brooklyn … Red Hook.  Red Hook, once a laid-back village, was one of the earliest areas to be settled in Brooklyn.  It was named for its red clay soil and the hook shape of its peninsular area that juts into New York Harbor.  It is in that specific area that this documentary is set.  The video chronicles the changing fortunes of Red Hook, where a young architect explores the coming gentrification and commercial development  of a unique, abandoned lot in this waterfront area.  By building a shelter there and moving into it, he examines life in this lot … that was home to squatters, graffiti tags and trash … and now is slated to become an IKEA.

At the end of A Hole in A Fence, the abandoned lot’s future, as well as that of the neighborhood, is unclear.  The movie finishes by showing the continued, doomed struggle  to save this rare part of the neighborhood … and we can surmise that similar struggles continue to this day in so many other areas in New York City.

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