Made in Brooklyn @ Metropolis Magazine The Brooklyn Navy Yard is rebranding itself as a “sustainable industrial park.” Less than a handful of its 240 businesses have anything to do with ships…
The United States has lost over 42,000 factories since 2001, and some 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since the turn of the millennium. Officially, this is a death spiral. At the same time, a powerful desire to make things—tangible things, products even—has sprung to life in the border zones where high tech meets the green movement. And Brooklyn now sits squarely in this fertile territory. The borough is home to the wildly successful Web site Etsy, a marketplace of handiwork, which can be read as a Web 2.0 rebuke to the clean-out-your-storage-locker ethos of creaky old eBay. Local food production is booming; it seems as if every 28-year-old guy in the borough has a line of artisanal pickles.
And then there’s the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300-acre site on the East River, established by the U.S. Navy in 1801. Since 1966, when the Navy pulled out, it’s been a city-owned industrial zone. Sitting on what is now prime real estate, just across the river from Manhattan, the Navy Yard contains a fascinating mix of about 240 businesses, only a couple of which have anything to do with ships. There’s Crye American, a young company that managed to snag a defense contract to make Kevlar body armor; Steiner Studios, the largest soundstage on the East Coast; and Cumberland Packing, the company that invented Sweet & Low. There are also artisans—metal- and woodworkers, set builders, display makers—who straddle the boundary between art and industry. The Navy Yard, according to Andrew Kimball, its president, is energetically rebranding itself as a “sustainable industrial park,” home to America’s first “multistory, green industrial facility,” the newly completed, 89,000-square-foot, LEED-certified Perry Building.
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