Robert (Bob) Guskind, a beloved Brooklyn reporter and founder of The Gowanus Lounge blog, died suddenly last March and this year’s Red Hook Film Festival has been dedicated to his memory.
“There’s a huge hole that’s been left behind,” said Nathan Kensinger, a photographer and organizer of this year’s festival. “There’s not really any type of media that’s picking up where he left off.”
Although he didn’t report solely on Red Hook, Guskind made an impact there. The festival, which opened on Oct. 3, included a documentary about his life and another about the Gowanus Canal, an issue in which he was involved.
“We commiserated over changes that happened to Red Hook,” said Mr. Kensinger. “He was definitely affected by Red Hook changes over the years.”
Guskind strongly supported the arts and last year was a sponsor of the festival.
Guskind focused on Brooklyn issues that receive little coverage from larger media. One major focus was the Gowanus Canal, where people are reported to have died from the fumes after falling into it. He was against residential building planned there, and advocated for its cleanup and monitoring of industrial pollutants around it.
He was the first to respond when the Red Hook Food Vendors appealed to the blogging community for help in 2006 – the city was trying to evict them from selling Latin American food at the ball fields, which they had done since 1974. Through Mr. Guskind’s tireless support, the issue eventually received national attention and the vendors were able to get the proper permits.
Cesar Fuentes, executive director of the food vendors, described Guskind as “more like a crutch of support” than just an advocate.
“We are eternally indebted to Bob, to his help and his interest,” he said.
Bob Guskind struggled to preserve the Red Hook waterfront, where an IKEA was built last year and many of Red Hook’s shipping docks, cobblestone streets, and centuries-old warehouses were destroyed. He wrote about it regularly on the Gowanus Lounge.
“It was one of the worst land deals in New York City,” said David Sharps, managing director of the Red Hook Waterfront Museum.
Guskind’s coverage of the entire borough united smaller, neighborhood-specific blogs. His reporting style of advocating for people in the community inspired other bloggers.
“He used his website as means for people to get their voice out who wouldn’t otherwise be heard,” said Heather Letzkus of the blog New York Shi**y, who viewed him as a mentor.
“He really loved things that were broken,” said Katia Kelly of Pardon Me for Asking, a Carroll Gardens-based blog. “He himself was a broken man in some respects.”
At 50, Bob Guskind died of a prescription drug overdose. He had recently lost his job and had separated from his wife.
“Nobody will be able to cover things in the same way,” said Nathan Kensinger.
Bob Guskind supported Kensinger in his own photography, bringing visitors to his blog and collaborating on stories.
“Besides my own work, he helped support artists, poets, photographers and writers,” Kensinger added. “He did his own website out of love.”