Red Hook rests in South Brooklyn. Water surrounds two sides. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which fences in the landlocked side, serves as a looming reminder of separation. Cut off from the subway, the neighborhood feels unlike other Brooklyn neighborhoods where gentrification and redevelopment rule. One business owner said, “People love living here. We don’t have a lot of transportation options and that’s part of the reason we have a strong neighborhood.”
The neighborhood contains the largest housing projects in Brooklyn. Karima, a precocious 17-year-old, travels over an hour to get to her prestigious high school. Having to take bus to the subway, she transfers three times. “It’s the worst in the winter,” she says, “I leave when it’s still dark. It’s so cold.”
I have spent quite a bit of time in Red Hook. Residents seem to want the same types of things: access to quality healthcare, jobs, and education.
Common Core standards. NCLB waivers. Competency-based learning. College and career readiness. College ratings. STEM.
The stories of the young men and women who allow me to document their lives remind me of how disconnected education reform often is from the underserved and under resourced communities it often purports to help.
Similar to policy reforms, we need to nurture a balanced portfolio of short- and long-term goals, improving foundations and innovations.