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Citizens Union


Brooklyn Navy Yard

Alfred Hitchcock made the Brooklyn Navy Yard the setting of his film, "Sabotage." Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly hopped ashore there at the beginning of "On The Town." So, it is fitting that a movie studio is about to be built there.

The Navy Yard is ringing with the sounds of construction of the Steiner Film and TV production studios. The first of the mammoth buildings, requiring their own power plant, will be completed in a year. The studios will employ 2,000 people.

If this was all that was going on, it would be impressive enough. But there are many, many more plans and projects.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard was at its most glamorous when it was at its most useful. During wartime, it played a critical role in the nation's defense for more than a century and a half, from the War of 1812 to World War II. During peacetime, it suffered neglect. The Navy closed it down completely in 1966.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is not just a monument to its amazing past. The City of New York purchased about 255 acres of the land and made it into an industrial park. Currently, there are 225 businesses employing 2,500 workers. And the level of innovation that is promised for the future is inspiring.

Already, in 1997, the first power plant to open in New York State under the strict Clean Air Act emissions restrictions was built in the Yard, using natural gas combustion turbines and reusing the waste heat to turn steam turbines.

The Navy Yard is committed to continuation of the Navy Yard's tremendous resources, four active drydocks and five piers. There are two large ship repair companies, chandlers, and a maritime workshop teaching wooden boat building and repair skills to high school-age youth. And berthed at the Navy Yard are the Statue of Liberty Circle line ferries, Staten Island ferries, and New York City fireboats.

A capital program will repair and rebuild the piers. About $30 million will go to repair the bulkheads surrounding the piers. Pilings, being eaten away by the marine borer, are being wrapped in special plastic casings. Capital funding will also be used to dredge the underwater channels leading to the drydocks, piers, and berths that interlace the Navy Yard's landscape. The dredging is necessary to allow entry to the new larger ships needing repair.

One proposal, which has received some government funding, is to use the silt from the dredging to create four acres of new land as part of a new ferry landing to service the influx of new workers.

Buildings are being refurbished. The Brooklyn Navy Yard administration building's top floor, outfitted for the sailor barracks during World War II, was totally refurbished and re-wired, creating new offices for businesses that can benefit from high tech capability. The refurbishment is being promoted through Digital New York. The roof of the building was repaired, in a simple elegant fashion. With views of the city across from Wallabout Bay, word has got around and it is being rented for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and cocktail parties.

The Navy Yard is moving in the direction of more private financing and undertook its first private sector bank lending for construction of a light manufacturing factory and warehouse building that can house five separate businesses, to be operational by November.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation has increased its size recently by adding 28 acres of adjacent property.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation has begun refurbishing an existing building for use as a day care center for worker's children (90 children) to open next year. In addition, more shuttle buses to help workers and visitors get from the subway station to the Yard and to travel within the Yard, and the ferry system are in the works. The Navy Yard has also established an employment center to help people living in the neighborhoods surrounding the Yard obtain good jobs.

Security, one of the selling points of the facility, is very tight, and an individual cannot just pay a casual visit. However tours are given by the 92nd Street Y; Neighborhood Open Space Coalition and its Take A Walk New York program; the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment; and the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Peter B. Fleischer, currently writing a book on the New York City waterfront, was formerly a transportation and environment policy advisor to New York City Mayors David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani.

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