I went to Red Hook today, but not to visit the much-hyped new Ikea. I just wanted a bag of seed starter mix, so I stopped in at the Liberty Garden Center. Since my last visit, much has changed. It's still a verdant tangle of plants set incongruously in the midst of wharves and warehouses, down the cobblestone streets of this once-rough waterfront district. But they've now got a lush sidewalk garden spilling out onto Conover Street, with cleomes and huge potted exotics.
I headed down to their dock. This guy looked menacing from a distance, but up close was a sweetheart.
The garden center didn't have seed starter, so I settled for potting soil. This old girl (named Brooklyn) guards the check-out desk; she was found in a darkened cellar, malnourished and wary, but now rules the counter confidently and even demands that people share croissants with her.
Liberty also no longer had their stock clustered along the pier, but their adjacent field is still brushed by salty breezes and within earshot of chiming buoys in the harbor.
There are zany mini-gardens with found artifacts; one features a boat, another a row of some sort of pumps.
The area has a cluster of odd, artsy businesses--a glassworks, a framer, and a place selling very overpriced key lime pies. It is also home to a huge satellite dish and tower.
Even on the surrounding hardscrabble streets, more gardens flourished. I've never seen such wonderful hollyhocks growing at curbside.
It's no wonder that hipsters and preservationists fall in love with this strange neighborhood. The remnants of its dock-walloping past, mostly in ruins, make you feel wild and knowing just for walking around down there.
But ruins are tricky things to freeze in time, and they tend to be less beloved by natives than by visitors and newcomers. Speaking of which, I passed the hysteria-inducing Swedish meatball emporium on my way home; it seemed downright deserted, with many workers in reflective vests stationed around the perimeter to direct traffic that wasn't there yet.