Positioned between the neighborhoods of Vinegar Hill, Ft. Greene and Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has long stood as a historic landmark on the East River. It has not been easily accessible to the public until this past Veteran’s Day weekend, when BLDG 92, the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s exhibition and visitors center, finally opened.

Bldg 128 (Credit - Natl. Arch. Rcrds. Adm.)Established in 1801, this significant U.S. military site was decommissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1966. Before the Navy Yard was re-imagined as a modern sustainable industrial park, the 300-acre shipyard was responsible for the construction of famous military vessels like the USS Ohio, Maine and Arizona, produced the United States’ first professional naval publication, and even served as the birthplace of anesthesia thanks to naval surgeon E.R. Squibb. Interactive exhibits trace the history of the site as well as its regeneration, and the lobby display of a 22,500-pound anchor and a wind-and-solar powered streetlight makes an eloquent statement as to the Yard’s continued status as a technological contender.

Now home to small businesses and artists’ studios, green manufacturing, water treatment, and the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is ready for its close-up. Local tour company Urban Oyster offers both bus and bring-your-own-bicycle tours of the Navy Yard (bikes are also available for rental through Recycle a Bicycle). In addition to steering visitors past familiar name-brand tenants and viewing the abandoned marble building that once housed the old naval hospital, you’ll get to see a pre-Civil War dry dock still in use and take a closer look at the Yard’s green technology and sustainable initiatives.

Admiral's RowThere remains some passionate debate as to the future of the Yard’s Admiral’s Row: a stretch of now-dilapidated homes on federal property that were once inhabited by high-ranking naval officers and their families. Abandoned since the 1970s and barely visible through overgrowth from Flushing Avenue, it is still too soon to speculate which, if any, of these once stately structures might be up for restoration. It is possible that some will be razed to make way for a mixed-use development that would include a community supermarket. Slated for purchase by the City of New York later this month, the structures only fall into additional ruin with each bout of inclement weather.

Both a historical resource and a hub of activity for Navy Yard tenants and the surrounding community, admission to BLDG 92 is free to the public. Should you require sustenance and shopping therapy while exploring the exhibits and oral histories, the visitors’ center boasts a small gift shop, and Brooklyn’s own Ted & Honey will be serving up organic, locavore fare for breakfast and lunch in the center’s café. Consider bringing your walking shoes and making a day of it. Cultural hot spots like BAM, Galapagos Art Space and St. Ann’s Warehouse are nearby, and culinary wonders like The Vinegar Hill House, Luz Restaurant and Chez Lola are just a stone’s throw away.

How to get there: Take the F train to York Street or the A train to High Street and walk to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. On Saturdays and Sundays from 12-6PM, the complimentary blue Brooklyn Navy Yard van will make continuous loops between BLDG 92 and downtown Brooklyn (intersection: Jay Street and Willoughby Street). It is easily accessible from the Jay St/Metrotech station (A,C,F,N,R) and is a quick walk from Borough Hall Stations (2,3,4,5).

Photos courtesy of the author except black and white shots by Natl. Arch. Records. Adm.

Tour of Brooklyn Navy Yard
Dry Dock 1 (Credit - John Bartlestone)
Dry Dock 1 (Credit – John Bartlestone)
USS Arizona (Credit - Natl. Arch. Rcrds. Adm.)
USS Arizona (Credit – Natl. Arch. Rcrds. Adm.)
Harper's Weekly - Launch of the USS Maine
Harper's Weekly – Launch of the USS Maine
Naval hospital (Credit - BNYDC)
Naval hospital (Credit – BNYDC)
Warships built at BNY (Credit - Artwork by Mason Nye)
Warships built at BNY (Credit – Artwork by Mason Nye)
Robert Hammond (Credit - BNYDC)
Robert Hammond (Credit – BNYDC)
NYT Photo Archives - Brooklyn Navy Yard - Sept 19 1942
NYT Photo Archives – Brooklyn Navy Yard – Sept 19 1942
"Saturdays and Sundays from 12-6PM, the blue Brooklyn Navy Yard van will make continuous loops between BLDG 92 and downtown Brooklyn (intersection: Jay Street and Willoughby Street) easily accessible from the Jay St/Metrotech station (A,C,F,N,R) and a quick walk from Borough Hall Stations (2,3,4,5)."
"Saturdays and Sundays from 12-6PM, the blue Brooklyn Navy Yard van will make continuous loops between BLDG 92 and downtown Brooklyn (intersection: Jay Street and Willoughby Street) easily accessible from the Jay St/Metrotech station (A,C,F,N,R) and a quick walk from Borough Hall Stations (2,3,4,5)."
A fun, interactive computer model shows how the landscape of the Naval Yard site has changed from the American Revolution to the present.
A fun, interactive computer model shows how the landscape of the Naval Yard site has changed from the American Revolution to the present.
USS Ohio: Model of the first Yard-built ship launched. The Ohio was used to suppress the slave trade off the coast of Africa.
USS Ohio: Model of the first Yard-built ship launched. The Ohio was used to suppress the slave trade off the coast of Africa.
Fun sustainability scavenger hunt in and around BLDG92.
Fun sustainability scavenger hunt in and around BLDG92.
Historic building slated to become a local brewery. Wind turbines at left.
Historic building slated to become a local brewery. Wind turbines at left.
Urban Oyster: Bus & bicycle tours focus on the history of the Yard in addition to the Yard's green initiatives.
Urban Oyster: Bus & bicycle tours focus on the history of the Yard in addition to the Yard's green initiatives.
Admirals Row VII
Admirals Row VII
Admirals Row VII
Admirals Row VII
Admirals Row VII
Admirals Row VII
This historic dry dock predating the Civil War remains in active use.
This historic dry dock predating the Civil War remains in active use.
Future home of green manufacturing; it'll get there.
Future home of green manufacturing; it'll get there.
The anchor contrasts here with a Lumi-Solair Streetlight. These streetlights used throughout the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard campus are powered by energy collected on each device via solar panals and wind turbines.
The anchor contrasts here with a Lumi-Solair Streetlight. These streetlights used throughout the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard campus are powered by energy collected on each device via solar panals and wind turbines.
22k+lbs: Now that's an anchor.
22k+lbs: Now that's an anchor.
In addition to tallying your score at one of these stations for the sustainability scavenger hunt, you can watch some of the many oral histories available for perusal, look up historical documents of the Yard, and even plug your name into a database to see if your ancestors worked here.
In addition to tallying your score at one of these stations for the sustainability scavenger hunt, you can watch some of the many oral histories available for perusal, look up historical documents of the Yard, and even plug your name into a database to see if your ancestors worked here.
Detail of one of the many impressive ship models displayed at the visitors' center.
Detail of one of the many impressive ship models displayed at the visitors' center.
A costumed sailor holds court with opening weekend visitors.
A costumed sailor holds court with opening weekend visitors.
An exhibition featuring the faces and businesses that make up the landscape of today's Brooklyn Navy Yard.
An exhibition featuring the faces and businesses that make up the landscape of today's Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The NYPD maintains an active presence at the Yard.
The NYPD maintains an active presence at the Yard.
During WWII, women were hired to work as mechanics and technicians.
During WWII, women were hired to work as mechanics and technicians.
The museum is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.
The museum is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.