When John Hockenberry isn't probing the latest conflict on Capitol Hill as the cohost of The Takeaway, a daily morning show produced by WNYC and Public Radio International, he's doing the similarly demanding job of raising five children in Brooklyn with his wife, Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, a freelance writer and editor. The veteran journalists met in the early 1990s while working for ABC News, and now live in a three-bedroom loft in Red Hook with their two sets of twins, Olivia and Zo, 12, and Regan and Zachary, 9, as well as their son Ajax, 1.
How do you like living in Red Hook?
ACH We love it. Smelling the salty sea air and looking at the New York skyline at the same time is awesome.
JH I use a wheelchair, so our lives are dictated by accessibility and having a wide-open space. Those are hard to find in New York! Red Hook isn't particularly accessible, but our converted loft building is—it has a big elevator.
And you live right above Fairway. Isn't that, like, every New Yorker's fantasy?
ACH Yeah, we're down there every day.
JH It's ruined us for the rest of our lives.
ACH Our building has a sort of secret entrance to the caf. We send the kids down to get pancakes on Saturdays, and they're always first in line!
John, what do your children think about the news you report on the radio?
JH Regan is very morally incensed and has a deep sense of justice. Zo is a complete journalistic cynic like her father. Olivia is way more into what the Goo Goo Dolls are doing than, say, what General Petraeus is doing. And Zachary is just interested in the mere fact of, "Wow, that's Daddy!"
Having five kids in the city seems astounding. How do you manage it?
ACH I think like any parents, you do what you can. We incorporate the kids into our family life at every level—they cook and do chores. And they're so helpful with Ajax.
Do you have assistance with child care?
JH Your needs change depending on the age of the kids. Right now we have a live-in sitter, although she's getting married soon. So we're totally in crisis mode. But we're figuring it out.
"Louis J. Valentino Pier (Coffey St at Ferris St, Red Hook, Brooklyn) is a small park with a fishing pier, skateboarding space and about two acres of grass. It also has free kayaking in the summer."
"We're kind of an ordeal when we come into a Brooklyn-sized restaurant, but Provence en Boite (263 Smith St at DeGraw St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-797-0707, provenceenboite.com) is so welcoming of our big, boisterous family. They have great omelettes, and the kids love their hot chocolate—it comes in a giant cup."
"Karaoke with the drag queen at Hope and Anchor (347 Van Brunt St at Wolcott St, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-237-0276). The kids had a blast!"
"Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies (204 Van Dyke St at Pier 41, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-858-5333, stevesauthentic.com) has these things called Swingles, which are mini key lime pies dipped in chocolate on a stick and frozen."
"Zo loves the fried bananas, Regan adores the sesame noodles, and Olivia goes for the rotisserie chicken (480-500 Van Brunt St at Reed St, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-694-6868, fairwaymarket.com)."
"Every time we go to the Museum of Modern Art (11 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves; 212-708-9400, moma.org), the kids bring a sketchbook. They love going around and drawing their impressions."