local love

navy yard

draw visits the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

David Brooke Robinson


May 25, 2022
"It doesn't matter where I live. I'm always gonna be from Brooklyn."

– most everyone from Brooklyn

Did you know that New York city is a coastal city?

I mean, most people see it as an east coast city, but it truly is coastal in that it is completely intertwined with, and in some cases, surrounded by tidal waters. In fact, there is only one true river in NYC, the Hudson. Other “rivers”, such as the East and Harlem are actually part of a large system of saltwater tidal estuaries, straights, and bays…very much susceptible to rises in sea level.

So, when we had a chance to check out some events offered as part of the recent NYCxDESIGN’s week-long celebration of design, we jumped at the chance to take an Architecture and Infrastructure Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a place that has been an essential part of the strategic and economic engines of this coastal city for many years.

A view of building 77 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the site of NYCxDESIGN’s Brooklyn Navy Yard Architecture and Infrastructure Tour.

What is now known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, opened in 1801 aspart of President John Adam’s effort to nationalize the country’s naval armed forces. After operating as a key naval manufacturing and repair facility for many years, the Brooklyn Navy Yard closed in 1966. During its operation, the Navy Yard was an incredible source of innovation, construction of many of the Navy’s most prominent warships and, at its height of operations, employed 70,000 people!

A view of the renovated interior of the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s building 77. The robust structure of these repurposed industrial buildings are a perfect match for many of the innovative businesses that now call the navy yard home.

Since it’s closing, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has been operated by a non-profit organization now known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC). In 1987, after closure of two major maritime tenants, the BNYDC shifted its focus by providing spaces that were more appropriately sized for smaller industrial enterprises “that reflect the diversity, energy, and creativity of the community”.

While a shipyard facility still operates on the site, the BNYDC has focused many of its development initiatives on sustainability and attracting a growing community of innovative “green” businesses.

A green roof on the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s building 92, a LEED platinum certified project.

During draw’s visit, we were pretty blown away by the ongoing efforts to reuse and revitalize many of the original industrial buildings, as well as the “green” innovation taking place on site. These include Tarform, an all-electric motorcycle company; IceStone, a sustainable countertop manufacturer; and The Brooklyn Grange, the leading rooftop farming and intensive green roofing business in the country, where they operate a 1.5 acre agricultural rooftop farm on the roof of one of the navy yard’s industrial buildings.

Today, The Brooklyn Navy Yard continues its success with ongoing redevelopment and expansion, offering a home to over 450 businesses employing more than 11,000 people. This admirable model, with a focus on sustainability, innovation, and support for the local Brooklyn community, is truly an inspiration for other coastal cities to follow!    

Incredible views of the navy yard, the east river, and the island of Manhattan, from below a huge rooftop gantry crane on one of the navy yard’s repurposed industrial buildings.

So, next time you see the draw mobile, be sure to say hi or greet us with a beep! And if you’re feeling adventurous, follow along as we visit local and regional places that contribute to our resilient coastal communities.