Red Hook city-planning guru will answer all your stupid zoning questions — free!

Red Hook city-planning guru will answer all your stupid zoning questions — free!

Man with a plan: Land-use expert Alexandros Washburn is hosting open office hours at his Red Hook home to help demystify the city’s complicated zoning codes.
Brooklyn Paper
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Call it a comfort zone.

A Red Hook city-planning guru is teaching regular citizens how to decode New York’s byzantine land-use laws and baffling zoning jargon, opening the doors to his home office for two hours a week so residents can ask questions about their properties or learn how to shape the future of their rapidly changing neighborhood in a friendly environment.

“People have the chance to tell stories about what they hope for the future of the neighborhood and at the same time they can apply some really good expertise,” said Alexandros Washburn, who previously worked as the city’s chief urban designer and is now the director of the Center for Coastal Resilience at Stevens Institute of Technology. “It’s something that’s just more relaxed and people are able to get ideas out on the table in a setting that feels like home.”

The Van Brunt Street resident has been running his zoning happy hour from 2–4 pm every Wednesday since last month, using his special software, reference library, and his research assistant to educate the masses about urban planning, as first reported by the Red Hook Star Revue.

Since then, local residents, business owners, and even staff from developer Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities — which is planning a massive office complex at Beard and Richards streets — have dropped by to discuss their ideas and learn what the hell “R6 with a C2-5 overlay” means.

Once, a Norwegian couple popped in after spotting the discussion from the street, and offered tips on how to improve the neighborhood using their hometown as an example — evidence change is really afoot in the area, Washburn said.

“People love Red Hook so much that even Norwegian tourists will come and put in their two cents,” he said.

Yep, Red Hook is gentrifying fast, with pricey condo buildings popping up along the waterfront, the mayor’s streetcar poised to cut a path through its streets, and a celebrity rehab center on the horizon. Recently, an engineering firm’s proposal to reshape the neighborhood in the image of Battery Park City has also generated a lot of buzz.

People can’t stop the relentless march of progress, Washburn says, but they can have a say in how it plays out if they understand what’s going on.

“We know change is coming and we want that change to be on our terms,” he said. “How do we maintain the character of Red Hook as we grow?”

Learn about the wonders of zoning with Alexandros Washburn (373 Van Brunt St. at Coffey Street in Red Hook), 2–4 pm every Wednesday. Free.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jim from Cobble Hill says:
So remember, if you have a question about anything regarding the re-zoning, you're stupid. DUH!
Jan. 12, 2017, 7:33 am
not one Red Hook from Red Hook says:
Although there are borders of what's called "Red Hook", it isn't one place in the traditional sence of a community with distinct characteristis.

Rather it is three distinctly different communities within the same "defined" borders and refered to as Red Hook.

1) Red Hook Housing- one of NYC's largest public housing developments.
2) Mixed Use- housing, commercial and light industrial.
3) Heavy Industrial- working waterfront and border heavy industrial use.

Unfortunately, none of the three are compatable which lends itself to the constant conflicts of interest and turmoil.

Like bickering children, it's time each of these communities grows up and becomes it's own community, with its own name, to speak for itself, and not have others speak for them.

Zoning must take into acount these distinctions whether they get diffrent names or not, as the function of zoning rules are to protect the community, each on to itself.
Jan. 13, 2017, 8:10 am
TOM from Sunset Park says:
I saw two Red Hooks around Sandy: Underwater Flood Plain Red Hook and above-water original Red Hook.

Apparently I was the only one to note it.
Jan. 13, 2017, 4:32 pm
Alice Tapia from Red Hook says:
It's just one big takeover and the indigineous people to Red Hook are always made to believe as if they have a say so all the time. It never changes, Institutions come in and make a pleasant presentation ans lot's of promises and a year later everything changes, because change is good. Tenants in the Red Hook Houses continue to suffer and every once and a while they are thrown a carrot and they are expected to cheer about it. If we want change we have to do it ourselves.
Jan. 13, 2017, 5:52 pm

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