What’s that funny little alley across the way from 110 Livingston? The street is Red Hook Lane, a remnant of one of the oldest Brooklyn pathways dating to pre-colonial times. It also technically no longer exists–the city recently removed the alley from the official city streetmap, so that the land can be developed. What you see now is ghost of Brooklyn past, which won’t last much longer.
Originally Red Hook Lane ran from the parish of Brookland all the way down to Red Hook, hence both its name and direction. It was actually a Native American trail before colonists arrived. This map from 1766 shows the original Fulton Street running through Brookland Parish, with Red Hook Lane branching off diagonally toward the lower left:
During the Revolution, George Washington observed the Battle of Brooklyn taking place near the Gowanus from Red Hook Lane. The road survived the initial grid layout in Downtown Brooklyn, as shown by this 1827 map. However, various later urban planning initiatives have almost entirely eliminated the road, and only a few remnants remain.
Apart from the segment we see between Fulton and Livingston, the irregular angle of Red Hook Lane still can be seen in at least two local buildings which once fronted on it–their angled walls which don’t match the street grid show that they once sat on Red Hook Lane.
Forgotten New York has this photo of one building on Atlantic Ave. between Court and Boerum which has an angled wall once facing Red Hook Lane (an alert commenter points out that this is the Brazen Head bar on Atlantic). We also recently discovered another building, at the back of St. Vincent’s on Boerum Place — whose sharply angled wall clearly once fronted the street (viewed here from State Street looking toward Atlantic Ave.):
These irregular shaped buildings may soon be the only trace left of Red Hook Lane–the city recently “de-mapped” the segment between Fulton and Livingston, to allow that block to be redeveloped. This means the road officially no longer exists, and may physically disappear as soon as a development moves forward. Pay it a visit to experience an original Brooklyn pathway, before it’s gone.