Finally! A way to update your operating system while walking down Van Brunt Street!
One of Brooklyn’s most industrial-looking neighborhoods is getting a tech overhall later this year, when Red Hook is slated to become one big Wi-Fi hotspot. The subway–starved waterfront nabe is also a digital desert, according to fiber optic Johnny Appleseeds with the Red Hook Initiative.
“Not a lot of people have Internet access in the Red Hook Houses,” said Anthony Schloss, the Red Hook Initiative’s director of media programs.
Internet organizers launched the Wi-Fi project in the spring of 2012, but they kicked their efforts into high gear after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the peninsula last fall, leaving neighborhood businesses coated in harbor slime and public housing residents stranded in dark high rises.
“We’re trying to create a local infrastructure,” Schloss said. “So if something like [Sandy], God forbid, happens again, we will have the means to get our communication network back up ourselves.”
In the days following the storm, the Red Hook Initiative office building was one of the only to keep power and it became a hub for residents to check in with loved ones. They did a lot more than charge cellphones, though. The do-good developers came up with a self-sufficient “mesh network,” which makes a local Internet out of neighborhood computers and antennae, and software for Sandy-stricken people to text their needs and address to be automatically mapped for storm responders.
Even before Sandy’s wrath, the neighborhood was cut off from more than just the Internet. It is also barricaded from the rest of Brooklyn by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and it is home to the largest public housing project in Brooklyn.
It makes sense, then, that isolated Red Hookers are over the moon about the plug-free plan, which is running on city and grant funds.
“It’s the greatest thing ever,” said Henry Street resident Katiria Flores.
So far, about a third of the neighborhood’s public spaces are linked in, including half of Coffey Park and West Ninth Street’s Joseph Miccio Community Center. The team installing the wireless routers hopes to cover 80 percent of the neighborhood’s public spaces by the year’s end.
Red Hookers’ direct line to the cloud may be a losing proposition, though, because Sandy-spawned sinkholes look poised to take the ground out from under their feet.