By Hans Baldauf, FAIA
The Hudson River has long been the highway that provided the link between New York City and its agricultural hinterland. It was for this reason that the food hall we designed at Brookfield Place is named Hudson Eats. The lower portion of the Hudson, like the San Francisco Bay, is an estuary where ocean and river meet to create a very particular ecosystem. On a recent trip through the Hudson Valley, I was reminded of this by the silhouette of the sturgeon one finds on the many signs in the area, which warn against polluting the streams that run into the Hudson. The Bay, too, has sturgeon—fantastic prehistoric fish that are susceptible to toxins that find their way into the river bottom. As the BCV New York team visited farms and small businesses in the region, these signs were a constant reminder of the presence and influence of the mighty river.
Today this region is not only a major food source for New York City, but the recipient of the talents of the city, as New York chefs and food producers choose to make their home here for a variety of reasons—from economic pressures to the love of the land and culture of this beautiful place.
A word about economics—as we approach the ten year anniversary of the economic collapse of 2008, it is clear that one of the outcomes of the dislocation it created was the emergence of many small food businesses, as people turned to their own skills to create their own employment after they saw their corporate jobs evaporate, or after they became disillusioned by these jobs. Ironically this proved to be a good time to start businesses as rent and other costs were low and the relatively quick recovery of the economy in cities like New York and San Francisco created demand. These businesses helped solidify the draw to communities such as Brooklyn that have now become so desirable that rents have increased to the point that these pioneers are being forced to look elsewhere for new homes.
The presence of Etsy’s headquarters in Brooklyn symbolizes the strength and appeal of this maker culture. It is telling to me that Etsy has chosen to locate its customer service department in the town of Hudson—an old whaling port turned mill town that after years of stagnation is seeing its fortune rebound as a meeting place of food and the arts.
With only a couple of days to explore the region I was able to gather a series of impressions of the dynamic activity going on. My sights and observations are detailed below.