RESCHEDULED: INDUSTRY CITY on Wednesday, April 1st : This post is about an off-the-beaten path INDOOR NYC exploration to the newly revamped INDUSTRY CITY (formerly Bush Terminals) right on the waterfront in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Industry City is yet the latest example of the modern New York economy in microcosm (although it’s not so small!) as it has developed over the last century or so and shape-shifted through many historic eras to what it is now – a multi-industrial warehouse, retail and manufacturing site catering to all make and manner of uber-cool New York businesses, with a focus on the new, the modern and the artisanal. We’re going on WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1st and we will have lunch at IC’s food hall and then check out some of the many retailers, designers, food companies and makers who have made it their professional home. MWC’ers, go to SIGN UP! to register. There is no cost for this NYC exploration experience but NO-SHOW INSURANCE will be required – refunded after you show up! Meet-up and transportation information will be provided to attendees after they sign up.
In the last five years or so, some of the best known Brooklyn brands have wound up in Industry City. Brooklyn Flea. Brooklyn Rail. Rooftop Films. Brooklyn Kitchen. The Bell House. Sahadi’s. Hometown BBQ. And more! While the initial focus was on Brooklyn, there are now – from everywhere (see a partial list at the end of the post) – many, many artisanal and gourmet food producers, tech concerns, design businesses and retailers, artist studios as well as television and film facilities. Why did they gravitate to this concrete behemoth in a not-so-easy to find stretch of the Sunset Park waterfront on the “other” side of the Gowanus Expressway? Well, with over 6,000,000 SF of revamped, renovated and rewired mixed use space housed in historic NYC industrial architecture and a critical mass of working creatives across many industries – why not? Hey, just like the rest of NYC, It’s all about the mix
For most of its history, what’s now known as Industry City was called the Bush Terminals and part of Bush Terminals (the southern portion) is still called that and is leased by NYC’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) where they are creating a high-tech garment manufacturing hub as part of what’s being branded a “Made in New York” campus.
But it all started in the 1890’s when Irving T. Bush began to build a gargantuan warehousing, manufacturing and distribution center serviced by several types of freight transportation – in this case train (and you can still see some of the tracks between the buildings) and ships. No surprise, due to its efficiency, size and its placement in America’s largest market it employed 25,000 and established Brooklyn as a major international seaport. Fast-forward to the 1960’s by which time urban manufacturing was on the run and America had a well-established and government-funded highway transportation network across the country. As a result, most goods started being transported by truck.
For the next fifty years, Bush Terminal declined, falling into disrepair and decay and leasing relatively small spaces to light manufacturing concerns. The surrounding area entered a period of decline after World War II and in the 1970s, the ports in Bush Terminal were filled. On a personal note, in the 1980’s I had occasion to visit a lampshade workroom (a picture of which is in one of the Industry City elevators!) where older, mostly Italian, women hand-sewed the wares. By that time Bush Terminal was almost a ghost yard. Disinvestment and decay had the expected result.
In the early 2000’s with big spaces becoming rarer and rarer in New York City, Bush Terminal became desirable again – just in time for the Brooklyn Renaissance!. The same developer behind Chelsea Market and the same CEO (Andrew Kimball) who oversaw the rebirth of the Brooklyn Navy Yard were brought in to work the same magic for the Bush Terminals. These guys know something about how to use creativity and the arts to create a destinatiaon site! Today, the Bush Terminals covers almost 71 acres of open space, sixteen former factory buildings and eleven warehouses. Supported by the NYCEDC (tax breaks, bond funding …etc), private equity and real estate concerns became involved and made the financial, management and marketing investments necessary to re-brand Bush Terminals and recruit participants in New York’s nascent innovation economy. Voila – Industry City!
But in a City where nothing happens without some amount of controversy, Industry City has its share. Naturally, there are fears about the development of the site and the impact of billions of dollars of both public and private investment. More changes are ahead (hotels, residential buildings, recreational amenities …etc) and are currently being proposed via rezoning. There’s no question that development of this magnitude will continue to change the current nature of Sunset Park and its existing businesses. This is all more than a little off-putting for the families and local businesses which have been in the neighborhood for generations – through thin and thick – and are wary of its now being described by Lonely Planet (in 2017) “one of the world’s coolest neighborhoods to visit right now.” Streeteasy and the New York Post have encouraged Millennials to relocate to Sunset Park for its “affordable prices and chill vibe.” Do we hear anyone shouting, “Bougie!” and “Gentrification!” ??? Yes, we do.
Perhaps. But even as the artists clear out, long-time residents sell up and local retail gets priced up, it’s hard to justify NOT developing an underutilized resource in a city which has distinct geographic limitations. And an aging tax base. This is a perennial problem which has vexed urban planners for years – and will continue to do so.
But as we wander through Industry City’s hallways and its various, rather preciously-curated businesses, we’ll experience what some people think “Brooklyn” means today. Some will see a resurgence of business and vibrancy where there hadn’t been much for many years. Others will see a highly sanitized, Disney-ized, post-industrial backdrop for luxury products presented as craft items. Oh yes, and there will be food – very expensive but truly delicious and innovative food experiences. For a non-exhaustive list of Industry City retailers and food purveyors – scroll to the bottom.
For good or for bad, what we will see is the NEW Bush Terminal – a.k.a. INDUSTRY CITY – and enjoy and experience its current incarnation in this latest social and real estate experiment in our fair city. Come on and join us – you’ll learn a lot, have a great time – and have a great lunch!
PARTIAL LIST OF INDUSTRY CITY RETAILERS
Design Within Reach Outlet
ABC Carpet and Home
Arcade by Current Affair
Brooklyn Flea (on Saturdays)
IC Store by Wanted Design
Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams
PARTIAL LIST OF INDUSTRY CITY FOOD PURVEYORS (in addition to those already mentioned)
Yaso Tanbao (Shanghai street food)
Kotti Berlin (doner kebabs!)
Ejen (Korean comfort food)
Avocaderia (straight from Shark Tank!)
One Girl Cookies
Blue Marble Ice Cream