Sunset Park’s Ever-Evolving Waterfront
Though just a short jaunt south of Industry City’s buzzing, sometimes frenetic hive of activity—ample retail, offices, and tourists that’s rapidly multiplied in recent years—Cooktop’s unique positioning on the waterfront in Sunset Park feels worlds away, and impeccably suited as a comfortable, attractive home base for shoots and events.
The neighborhood’s extensive waterfront today is a dramatic contrast to just a decade ago, maybe even less. But first, to back up a century or so earlier: Sunset Park’s stretches of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Avenues, those closest to the water, were a bustling Scandinavian community in the early 1900s, before Robert Moses’ controversial decision in the early ‘40s to build an expressway over 3rd Ave., at the time a lively, mom-and-pop-filled, main thoroughfare, which got completely ripped up and obliterated as a result, separating the waterfront from the rest of the neighborhood.
The area also historically housed a sizable shipping industry until the ‘70s and ‘80s, when technological and engineering advances in shipping made many equipment and practices obsolete, leaving a number of piers and constellation of cavernous warehouses neglected and decaying.
At the start of the 21st century, its cobblestone streets and abandoned piers were precisely the sort of visual that “no man’s land” conjures. That’s all changed dramatically in recent years, as real estate development has exploded in this riverfront pocket of the South Brooklyn area, largely thanks to the complete overhauls of behemoth former industrial spaces, like The Whale (Cooktop’s home), Brooklyn Army Terminal, South Brooklyn Marine Terminal; and Bush Plaza.
The distinctive space and location is sure to inspire: Priceless vistas of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from Cooktop’s perch inside multidisciplinary creative hub, The Whale, are juxtaposed with the gritty, industrial feel of the immediate surrounding streets. Sunset Park is a truly diverse melting pot of a neighborhood, which includes large populations of Asian, South American, and Central American immigrants.
Head past the BQE and up a few blocks to devour some of the city’s absolute best tacos along 5th Avenue. Then, venture further East, literally and figuratively, for one of NYC’s three Chinatowns, arguably the city’s most underrated one. It’s packed with a delicious slew of regional cuisines, some hard to find elsewhere in the city, concentrated on 8th Avenue.
The area is also constantly evolving, piquing the interest of recent residential newcomers who’ve discovered the neighborhood’s eclectic appeal and great potential for further change. As its become increasingly hipper (and, yes, experienced the inevitable gentrification that a spike in coolness often brings) Sunset Park has retained many longtime residents and businesses, vital to the area’s neighborhood-y vibe and significant diversity.