Oral history: Wally Bazemore & Ron Shiffman talk to Pratt Institute graduate level class in Participatory Planning about Red Hook, 2024

During Spring semester 2024, PortSide is working with a Pratt Institute graduate student class on "participatory plannning" taught by Beth Bingham. We recommended Wally Bazemore as a resource for the class, and he came to speak during a session about collecting oral history as a means to understand a community.

Wally, now 73 years old, is a Red Hook community leader who has been impactful since the 1980s until retiring to North Carolina in 2018. He's back in Red Hook in 2024, a benefit to us all.

During this conversation at Pratt, Wally Bazemore was joined by Ron Shiffman, a professor and urban planner who has been worked in and with the Red Hook community since the early 1990s. 

Info about this Pratt class on "participatory planning techniques" is here.  

Wally and Ron refer several times to the following:

  • The Red Hook 197-a Plan: Red Hook: A Plan for Community Regeneration submitted to the Department of City Planning by Brooklyn Community Board 6 on July 14, 1994. 197a plans are community-led plans for a neighborhood. Red Hook created one of NYC's first, a point of pride; but it was never enacted leading to frustration and disappointment, and confirming long-standing feelings that "government never listens to us."
  • the killing of PS15 Principal Patrick Daly, shot by crossfire when he went out to find a student who was not in school.
  • The crack epidemic. We are working on getting permission to share the July 1988 LIFE Magazine story "CRACK downfall of a neighborhood" about Red Hook which made Red Hook the national poster child for the crack epidemic. We have a hard cover copy of the magazine on the Mary Whalen available for reading on site. It is not online as far as we can find.
  • Waste transfer stations. These grew in number during the economic collapse and were considered a community nuisance and what would now be called an EJ issue. The community, working with Community Board 6, succeeded in pushing them out over almost 20 years, after the 197a plan.
 The recordings (more history below)

[At the bottom of the text is another recording of the same conversation. It is an amplified cell phone recording, which is slightly louder, but at the cost of some noise and sound distoritions at points.  We recommend Pratt Institute's recording.]

Pratt Institute recording part 1:
Pratt Institute recording part 2:

Ecomomic context
Red Hook's economy tanked with changes in shipping around 20 years after WWII. A 1971 New York Times article Neglected Red Hook Takes On the City,” we have referenced in our profile of Nancy Kearse Gooding in Red Hook WaterStories captures the feeling of decline. 

Containerization moved international shipping to new, huge containerports on the New Jersey side of the harbor, prompting the finger piers and smaller port facilities of Red Hook to go dark.  There was a long-running, start-n-stop discussion about creating a containerport along the western edge of Red Hook which prompted many property owners to sell and leave. The current much smaller container port was finally built and opened. This is covered in more detail in our essay "Red Hook Then to Now."

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey showed little interest in developing other Red Hook waterfront properties and they fell into ruin. The Port Authority began selling them off in the early 1990s. Many decayed piers and were pulled down by the US Army Corps drift removal project.  Fire destroyed others such as the pier that was where Valentino Park is now. 

This economic plummet co-incided with deterioration inside NYCHA Red Hook housing described in the 1994 article "Fighting to Fix the Red Hook Houses" by City Limits. 

More about Patrick Daly:

  • PS15 elementary school was renamed in his honor.  Patrick Daly's shooting was frontpage news in The New York Times, December 18, 1992 and reported  by them a year later.
  • The National Memorial to Fallen Educators honors Patrick Daly on their website.
  • On YouTube there is an ABC News story from 1992 where people speak about how he was such a great person. There are also reminiscences in the comments. Daly is covered at the start of the video, not all of this long video.
More about 197a plans: 

New York City Department of Planning's 197-A Technical Guide (pdf) and the actual text from the 197-a section (pdf) of the NYC Charter.

[Cell phone recording of the same conversation:  original to this entry but with some sound distortion and noise in sections]
Cell phone recording part 1:

Cell phone recording part 2:

Cell phone recording part 3:



Audio File 1

View File Details Page

Audio File 2

View File Details Page

Audio File 3

View File Details Page

Audio File 4

View File Details Page

Audio File 5

View File Details Page


Share this Item