Red Hook Lane: Illegal Parking Lot to History
A few weeks back I happened to be strolling through the Fulton Mall in Downtown
Brooklyn with my camera. I turned onto Red Hook Lane and was amazed by what I
saw. The incredible parking abuses by everyone from government officials to
local dentists represent an unprecedented disrespect for our parking laws and
I was moved to investigate further, and in my research found out some things
about Red Hook Lane that lend an interesting historical perspective to the
permit abuses there. In this context, the overwhelming disregard for
pedestrians seems even more inappropriate.
The name Red Hook Lane goes back to the middle of the 18th century, and the road
itself is much older than that, dating back to the 17th century when it was
used as a Native American trail. In its early days, Red Hook Lane was much
longer and more significant than the single block it currently occupies. Once
one of the longest streets in Brooklyn, the Lane was the sole route to Fort
Defiance, a 5-gun fort protected on three sides by the swampland that defined
Brooklyn. The Fort played a pivotal role in the Battle of Brooklyn, and between
August 27 and August 29th, 1776, served as the instrument of resistance from
which George Washington battled the British troops led by Richard Howeâ€™s
400-ship fleet stationed in the East River.
The Battle of Brooklyn was the largest battle of the American Revolution and was
the first ever battle for an army representing the United States following the
signing of the Declaration of Independence. And while the guns of Fort Defiance
managed to hold off Howeâ€™s troops just long enough for Washingtonâ€™s retreat, it
seems now inappropriate that a site so representative of our countryâ€™s
formation and even the creation of The Declaration of Independence, should be a
parking lot for beneficiaries of that initial move to self-government.
It is not just an issue of respect for history, but also one of understanding
the significance of this space. What was once a route integral to Americaâ€™s
independence is today obstructed by police officers who are paid to uphold the
ideals contained in the documents that have outlined their freedoms,
professional responsibilities and unfortunately it seems, even their
bureaucratic entitlement that allows for such disregard for public space.