At the southeastern corner of Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood — the cape that put the Hoek in the area’s original Dutch name, Roode Hoek — almost nothing is used according to its original purpose. A rail barge has been repurposed as a waterfront museum, a warehouse has become a massive Fairway supermarket, some streetcar tracks have become a waterfront promenade, and a solitary rowhouse has been refitted as a shrine to nauticalia that would not look out of place in a New England fishing village. Recently, one of its old docks was even restored to working condition — as Brooklyn’s first cruise terminal.
Creative reuse is almost the rule here — with one exception. A pair of mid-20th century streetcars sits, rusting and abandoned, between the repurposed warehouses and the reclaimed promenade, seeming like a fossilizing fragment of a network that once covered the entire borough.
In fact, the streetcars, too, were the subject of an overambitious recycling project — they are former Boston streetcars imported to the Brooklyn waterfront for a brief experiment in trolley restoration that ran from 2003 to 2005. Painted in Brooklyn colors, their bodies have faded and oxidized only since then, an emblem for both the dereliction of the Brooklyn streetcar network, and of dreams it could one day come back to life.
As much as Red Hook, where streets running both west and south trail off into patches of rarely-tread cobblestone, feels like a physical terminus, an urban land’s end, it is also the end of the line for the lives of these old vehicles, which long ago made their last stop.
Tags: Abandonment, Adaptive Reuse, Brooklyn, Exploring the City, New York, Tramway, Waterfronts