1. According to Piotr, Google spends a lot of time on developing and testing user experience (UX). Why do you think that
Vinegar Hill is a quirky little town the lays between the East Riverbank and the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway. It’s comprised of mostly public housing projects, residential buildings, small businesses and Con Edison power plants, which easily allows the tiny town to be tucked away and hidden from most New Yorker’s knowledge. With a population of only 2,322 people (“Vinegar Hill Neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York (NY), 11251, 11201 Detailed Profile.”), it’s hard to find anyone walking along these quiet streets. This hidden gem located in Brooklyn is a historic landmark, as the area has preserved century old features from the train tracks and cobblestone road to some of the buildings’ original wood architecture.
Hudson Avenue was the most intriguing street of the neighborhood. This was the only area not packed with new projects and commercial buildings. Instead, it was lined with shops. There was a café with a royal blue exterior, an art gallery with a sweet old lady prodding visitors to check out her collection, and an architectural firm with the only large glass window display on the block. There were other companies as well, such as a Pilates studio up the stairs from behind a jade green door. However, the stores were seemingly closed with their windows plastered with flyers that blacked out any lights from within the buildings. But, if you place your ear close to the panes of glass, faint sounds of laughing, chattering, and music can be heard from within.
Although the area was desolate, the people that had crossed my path were pretty open to talking about their knowledge about the sleepy town. Most were passer byers, visiting friends, or workers in the area. Only two had actually resided in the community. One man was actually a former history professor also studying the area and began telling me how Vinegar Hill had gotten its name. He described an Irish battle that was named Vinegar Hill in 1798, where the Irish were fighting for independence and were ultimately defeated. The man who founded the shipyard, John Jackson, wanted workers, so he named the section of land he bought Vinegar Hill in order to attract the Irish to work for him. Even though the Irish lost the battle, the name remained a source of pride (Albetelli).
Vinegar Hill has changed a lot over the centuries. The first settlers of the area had originally been the Canarsee Indians. They were members of the Algonquin linguistic group and created the settlement’s original name, Rinnegokonck. Later on, in the 18th century, John Jackson and Comfort and Joshua Sands purchased land in the area. Jackson had been a widely recognized shipbuilder who had opened a shipyard where Hudson Ave ends today. Jackson then sold 40 acres of his land to the government to built what is now the Brooklyn Navy Yard towards the beginning of the 19th century, which then lead to it becoming widely a more residential and industrial neighborhood. During the 1830’s to 1840’s, Jackson’s heirs sold what remained of the estate’s lots, which were either developed individually or in groups. Vinegar Hill’s residential and commercial activity hit is peak during the 1980’s (Presa, “Vinegar Hill Historic District Designation Report”).
The 20th century brought another sudden shift for the area with a new social change. There were suddenly many newcomers looking to flee poverty and prosecution. The 70’s also brought a new wave of residents. Many artists became attracted to the area because of Vinegar Hill’s proximity and the dock’s overlooking view of the East River and metropolis. At the time the neighborhood was relatively cheap for these accommodations (Presa, “Vinegar Hill Historic District Designation Report”).
While walking around the neighborhood, the group of people I was with tried our best to identify problems and issues that stood out within modern day Vinegar Hill. There were so many to tackle between lack of transportation, poor health care, and the poorly maintained sidewalks. However, the one that stood out the most is a lack of community. Two anonymous interviewees informed us that most of the residential buildings belonged to an older demographic. This caused the area to become so quiet.
One of the biggest necessities of Vinegar Hill is affordable housing, but at the moment the government sees no need to improve this need. Instead, those who have lived there for years will remain paying the same amount of rent they have always paid and new housing developments force prices to increase their values and force the younger demographic out of the area or spend about $3000 on a 600 ft2 studio apartment (“Vinegar Hill Apartments For Rent.”). Because of this, only an older generation can afford this style of living.
Another problem arose back in May of 2015 when Brooklyn Navy Yard announced that a Wegmans (NY supermarket Chain store) would be built on Admiral Row. Many local activists and residents were relieved as there has been a ten-year long fight to keep the historical site running on Flushing Avenue. However, some people are still hesitant because once the Wegman’s, the neighborhood will change even more significantly because it will become very busy and industrious are. New real estate projects are scattered throughout the Wallabout and Vinegar Hill and residents are already resisting this sort of change (Bortolot, “Why Vinegar Hill Is Brooklyn’s Edgiest Enclave.”).
Instead of creating a populated grocery store, Vinegar Hill can focus on creating services for more locally grown produce. One idea would be to create some sort of farmer’s market. This would help drive the community along the quiet streets. Another would be to use what’s left of the vacant lots to create some sort of community garden. However, if the residents are still resistant to this form of change, at least planning some sort of delivery service like a Fresh Direct to this area would be convenient as there are no local grocers at this time near Vinegar Hill. So, people are forced to transport their food from afar in order to get a good home cooked meal.
Another idea was to create some sort of phone app that allows people only within this community to share events that are happening around Vinegar. Since it is hard to get residences out of their homes, the important thing is to find a common ground that will draw them out. Since most are either middle-aged or older, the events can be centered around bringing their children together, sharing food, or art displays happening around the neighborhood.
This community of elders is also resistant to a lot of change. They like their quiet town and are not looking to fill their small enclave with the commercial traffic that surrounds the rest of New York. However, with so many young kids also residing in the area, the community should be pushed to thrive at least with its own residents if they don’t want to attract outsiders. There are many other solutions than just creating more stores within Vinegar Hill to keep the charm of this historic district while also imposing some sort of change.
Albetelli, Dan. Personal Interview. 14 Dec 2015.
Bortolot, Lana. “Why Vinegar Hill Is Brooklyn’s Edgiest Enclave.” N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
Leimbach, Dulcie. “If You’re Thinking of Living In/Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn; On Cobblestone Streets, History Lingers.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Aug. 2003. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
Presa, Donald G. “HISTORICAL DISTRICTS.” Real Property Probate and Trust Journal.Vol. 1, No. 3 (1966): 204-11. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
Vandam, Jeff. “The Little Town That Prices (Almost) Forgot.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Mar. 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
“Vinegar Hill Apartments For Rent.” Vinegar Hill Apartments for Rent. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
“Vinegar Hill Neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York (NY), 11251, 11201 Detailed Profile.” Vinegar Hill Neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York (NY), 11251, 11201 Subdivision Profile. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Location: Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn
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Con Ed Plant
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