Place in History

The Red Hook Working Waterfront Project

Year: 2001

The Working Waterfront Project used Red Hook, Brooklyn as a case study for exploring the evolving definition of waterfront labor in 21st Century New York City. The project involved research into the lives of people who made and make their living on the waterfront, explored how industrial sites and waterfront labor have changed during the last 100 years, and engaged Red Hook residents in discussions about the future of waterfront labor and land use.

The project culminated in a viewing box installation at the Beard Street Pier in Red Hook during the spring, summer and fall of 2001. The project also included an audio component that justaposed noises of the modern waterfront with sounds taken from Leo Hurwitz and Charles Pratt’s obscure 1963 recording Here at the Water’s Edge.

Artists: Coleen Cahill, John Chodes, Farrel Duncan, Paul Parkhill, Rosten Woo.


“The projects has always been, sort of, the focal point of the bad side of Red Hook, and the Back area, the commercial side always been sort of a different part of Red Hook. Now that’s changed because you’ve got a few companies out there in the neighborhood who are trying to close that racial gap and giving the people in the community a chance. Because that goes a long way with your business. People know that you’re dealing with people in the community, giving them work, people have a different look toward you.”

--Ray Hall, Red Hook Houses Resident, circa 1950 – 1980

“On December 7, 1941, when I was two-and-a-half years old, I was playing in the sand pile on Lorraine Street in front of Red Hook Houses with my companions. Suddenly we heard the wail of air raid sirens – we had a sense that something was coming – all the mothers came running screaming from the buildings, grabbing their children hysterically and carrying them indoors, believing that the Japanese were going to make the Red Hook Navy Base their next target. The memory of that panic still resonates through me today.

--John Chodes, Red Hook Houses Resident, circa 1940 - 1952


Viewing Boxes

Project Credits:
Coleen Cahill
John Chodes
Farrel Duncan
Paul Parkhill
Rosten Woo

The Independence Community Foundation

Thanks To:
Red Bolo, Martha Bowers, Ray Hall, Greg O’Connell, David Sharps, Dorothy Shields, Phaedra Thomas,


Sounds of the Working Waterfront

The audio component of this project juxtaposes noises of the current waterfront with sounds taken from Leo Hurwitz’ and Charles Pratt’s obscure 1963 recording Here At The Water’s Edge, an out-of-print sound montage recorded along New York City’s industrial shores. The excerpts used from this recording include only sounds you can no longer hear, primarily those of longshoring-related activities.

Here At The Water’s Edge courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

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