PPA Profiles 150: Steve Hindy, Co-Founder, Brooklyn Brewery
April 17, 2017
This year, as Prospect Park Alliance celebrates the 150th anniversary of Prospect Park, we’re bringing you stories from members of the community about the role the Park has played in their lives. Interested in contributing your own? Submit your story and have a chance to become part of Brooklyn history. Portrait by Virginia Freire.
“The first time I came to New York City was in 1957. I was eight years old, and I came up with my mother and grandmother for the Billy Graham Crusades. My mom and grandma got saved seven nights in a row, and I fell asleep seven nights in a row. On that same trip, we went to the last Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field. I was completely taken by New York and Brooklyn, and knew that someday I’d be back here, because I wanted to be part of this. So that’s what I did.”
To say that Steve Hindy has been a “part” of what is going on in Brooklyn is somewhat of an understatement. After spending his childhood in West Virginia, Ohio, and Seneca Falls, NY, Hindy became a journalist and settled in New York City, where he worked for the Associated Press (AP). “I got it into my head that I wanted to cover a war,” says Hindy, “so I studied Arabic and headed to Beirut.” Over the following years, Hindy served as the Middle East Correspondent for the AP. While overseas, he married Ellen Foote, his high school sweetheart, and the couple had two children, Lily and Sam. After six years, the family returned, settling on 8th street in Park Slope.
It was in this house that the Brooklyn Brewery got its start. “In the Middle East, I had met Americans living in Saudi Arabia where they have Islamic Law, meaning no alcohol, so they all made their own beer at home.” Spurred to try his hand at home brewing, Hindy began producing beer from his 8th street kitchen. Together with his partner (and downstairs neighbor) Tom Potter, they established Brooklyn Brewery, producing their first commercial beer in 1988.
As the Brewery grew and gained notoriety, Hindy was getting to be a part of his Park Slope community. Having visited Prospect Park in the 1970’s, Hindy’s early impression was that the space was, “kind of forbidding. People were afraid of the Park, and it wasn’t very heavily used.” Hindy was part of the local dog-owner community, and began visiting the Park with others in early morning, emboldened by the safety in numbers. On one of these visits in the early 1990’s, Hindy struck up a conversation with Tupper Thomas, who at the time was the Prospect Park Administrator, and founder of the Prospect Park Alliance. Hindy recalls telling Thomas about the fledgling brewery, “Tupper loved the idea, said ‘oh you have to join my board.’”
Since then, Hindy has served on the Alliance’s Board of Directors, helping to steer the organization during decades of monumental change in the Park, helping to oversee projects like the construction of the Tennis Center. “In the last two decades, the Alliance has become an extraordinarily effective organization, and more importantly, a desirable form of community service for people living in Brooklyn.”
Hindy and the Brooklyn Brewery have made another recent contribution to the Park, a new beer called Long Meadow Gold, created as an homage to Prospect Park in celebration of the 150th anniversary. “Long Meadow Gold is brewed with a new yeast that we’re experimenting with, and has a really bright, lively flavor,” says Hindy, comparing the democratic quality of the Park to a beer. “Beer is a wonderful inexpensive beverage, accessible the same way the Park is for the public and available to everyone. We’re really excited to be a part of the 150th anniversary.” Try Long Meadow Gold at Smorgasburg in Prospect Park.
In addition to the Brooklyn Brewery and Prospect Park Alliance, Hindy has made his mark in the city through his involvement with other community organizations including the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. Additionally, Hindy dedicates much of his time to working with Transportation Alternatives, the non-profit organization that advocates for better and safer bicycling, walking and public transit, and fewer cars. Hindy’s son, Sam Hindy, was killed in a bicycling accident in 2007. Ever since, Hindy has been a vocal proponent for pedestrian safety, supporting Vision Zero, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s action plan for ending traffic injuries and fatalities.
Hindy and his family moved to a house in Gowanus years ago, but they still find themselves back in Prospect Park. “We used the park constantly when we lived up here, and we still use it all the time. We play in the Tennis Center and come to the Park to sit on a bench that is dedicated to our son. It’s on a hill where we used to have birthday parties for our kids, so that’s what we call Sam’s Hill.” Looking around the Park on a recent spring morning, Hindy is reflective on the changes in the Park, “it’s amazing what’s happened here, and it’s been an honor to be part of the transformation.”