Brooklyn Navy Yard is the only active shipyard in NYC. In 1966, the yard was finally sold to the city by the Nixon Administration. At it’s in peak over 70,000 were employed 24 hours a day during WWII. The yard sits in Wallabout Basin in the East River.
After the American Revolution the site was used to build merchant vessels. In 1801, the Federal Government purchased the old docks and 40 acres for $40,000. It became an active US Navy shipyard. Handmade bricks were used to build the offices, barracks and storehouses.
Admiral’s Row housed many naval officers for over a century. In the 1970s, their use was discontinued. Sadly, they will be demolished for a parking lot. Yup, you read that right – a parking lot for Wegman’s supermarket. I’d would have felt better it the land was used for mixed income housing but a parking lot. Sigh. You can check out Admiral’s Row here.
To gain access to Brooklyn Navy Yard you have to be on a tour. It’s an active commercial site so you can’t just wander around. Turnstile Tours is one of my favorite tour companies. They give you a unique insight to the city.
USS Ohio, Dolphin, Peacock, Savannah, Vincennes, Fulton II, Decatur, San Jacinto, and Niagara were Navy Yard built and were used to suppress the trade of slaves off the coast of Africa from 1820-1861. This came about when a US law in 1820 made slave trading piracy punishable by death.
On this particular weekend, we got a bonus. We were given tickets to Bettina WitteVeen photographic exhibit “When we were Soldiers…once and young (WWWS). It was shown inside the abandoned Navy Yard Hospital and we weren’t allowed to take pictures. It was torture to not be able to take pics of the building. The hospital came to being in 1825 when the Secretary of Navy bought the adjacent 25 acres to the Naval Yard. They staffed some of the first female nurses and medical students in the US Navy. You can check the exhibit out here.
I’m glad we got to see the hospital. Steiner Studios, a film and television studio is one of the yards most well known tenants. They will be restoring the building and constructing additional space for tech and media purposes.
In 1966, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara closed the yard. At the time is employed 9,000 workers. Today its the oldest continually active industrial plant in NY State.
More than 200 businesses operate in the yard and around 5000 are employed. Many artists lease space and established Brooklyn Navy Yard Arts. The yard is home to the world’s largest green roof farm, Brooklyn Grange Farm.
It was a pretty neat experience even though it doesn’t look like much. Growing up, I had a view of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges from my apartment and I always wondered what was on the other side. It’s nice seeing that old industries are giving way to new. Next time I will go on the WWII history tour.