Hoping the Swedish Meatballs Hold Out in Red Hook
By Jennifer 8. Lee
The New York Times
May 12, 2008
So the first thing Ikea wants you to know: Customers will not be allowed to line up outside the new Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn, until 48 hours before the grand opening (which is scheduled for 9 a.m. on June 18). That may seem like a bizarre warning, except that a man showed up two and a half weeks before the opening of West Sacramento Ikea store in California in 2006, and another person showed up two weeks early in Tempe, Ariz., in 2004. (In Brooklyn, there will be give-aways to early arrivals on that opening Wednesday, but not to the very first few people.)
Secondly, there will be many ways to get to the first Ikea within the confines in New York City (but the 35th in the country). Many, many ways:
▪ There will be shuttles from three separate subway stations: the Smith and Ninth stop on the F and G line, the Fourth and Ninth stop on the R, and Borough Hall in Brooklyn, which is a major subway hub. (Look for the lollipop signs, courtesy of the Department of Transportation.)
▪ The B61 and B77 bus lines will be extended to reach Ikea.
▪ A free water taxi, operated by New York Water Taxi and paid for by Ikea, will leave from Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan and go right to Ikea’s own dock, every 40 minutes.
▪ You can also drive, which is what most people in the world do to get to Ikea. The 22-acre site offers a parking lot with 1,500 spots but, as local residents point out, unlike most Ikeas it is not just off a major highway and thus will cause traffic problems.
Third, to help car-challenged New Yorkers, Ikea will be offering a courier service, starting at $39.99, where a box of three cubic feet can be delivered the same day or the next day. It’s a made-for-New-York thing,” said Mike Baker, the Red Hook Ikea store manager who was recruited from the Toronto Ikea.
Fourth, there is an absolutely unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty (including the pedestal!) from the Ikea restaurant. So while drinking the bargain-priced lingonberry juice and munching on Swedish meatballs, you can savor a view that has been largely unappreciated in Red Hook’s recent history. This was not an easy Ikea to shepherd into existence. In fact, it was arguably one of the hardest stores for the Swedish-based chain to get going in the United States, involving promises of significant environmental cleanup and overcoming a lot of community opposition. Despite the fact that there are three other Ikeas in the New York metro region — Paramus, N.J.; Elizabeth, N.J.; and Hicksville, on Long Island — it was symbolically important to have one inside New York City.
So the search for this Ikea-friendly location has gone on since the turn of the millennium, and included investigating a location in Gowanus, later abandoned. This current proposal, at the base of the Erie Basin, also faced a lawsuit that cited numerous reasons to block an Ikea in Red Hook. Nearby residents also argued that it would perpetrate, rather than fix, the racial divide in the neighborhood. Ikea has spent a lot of effort in cleaning up the basin. Even this week, cranes continue to dredge large piles of wood from the river, even as construction crews were laying final details of the six-acre esplanade.
In addition, Ikea has tried to play to the neighborhood’s maritime history. It has preserved four sweeping cranes that were once used for loading and unloading. Old tools found on the site were painted orange and transformed into a public art exhibit. A motif inspired by the criss-crossed shadows cast from masts is repeated used throughout the outside. A number of chocks — stone blocks used to secure boats — have been lined up and labeled after historic ships that once docked at Red Hook. Pedestrians can walk by names like Kythnos, Delgado, Resolute and Gulf Glow. (Red Hook is being transformed from a post-industrial landscape into a big-box retail center. But that may not even be the end of the evolution, as aged big-box stores across the country are themselves adapted into post-retail functions.)
In an effort to hire locally, Ikea gave residents within the 11231 ZIP code a three-week head start in the application process, which will ultimately bring in more than 500 employees. Mr. Baker, the store manager, said the company has been very happy with the results so far. Is that enough? Well, give Ikea credit. As much criticism as it has received for traffic, importing, and labor practices, it has successfully managed to open a big-box store in New York City, perhaps the environment most hostile to big-box stores in the United States, one where even Wal-Mart has thrown in the towel.
Home (‘The most important place in the world’ Ikea campaign)
Directed by Martin De Thurah, Produced by Christian Zethner
Robert/Boisen & Like-Minded, Denmark
Caption: Houses may take many different forms depending on where you are in the world, but it takes a lot more than bricks and mortar (or wood and cloth in some cases) to create a home as we find out in this world tour of some possibly Ikea-enhanced domains.
See also: IKEA (Official Site)