A borough so deeply ensconced in history, you’d be hard pressed to find a neighborhood in Brooklyn that doesn’t have something historical tied to it. Located within the area of Sunset Park, the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT), which is now a premiere real estate location for businesses, is another one of Brooklyn’s landmarks that is rich in history. Originally constructed as a means to dispatch supplies and personnel to military fronts around the world, the terminal has served in a variety of capacities throughout its lifetime. “The Brooklyn Army Terminal is such a remarkable place because it connected to so much of the infrastructure that makes New York City work,” says Andrew Gustafson, owner of Turnstile Tours.
The four-million square foot structure, which will celebrate its 100th birthday next year, spans from 58th street to 63rd street and from 2nd avenue all the way to the waterfront. Surrounded by water, it’s like its own industrial city. Remarkable in sight, the most dramatic feature is the atrium inside Building B.
“When you step inside the vast atrium, you get a sense of the sheer volume of materials that was moved through these enormouswarehouses, but what you don’t see is what’s behind the walls,” says Gustafson.
At one time this was the hub for all of the military transportation operations of New York Harbor. Freight cars would pull into the building and unload supplies with a five ton moveable crane that traveled the atrium from endto end, spanning the length of three football fields and the zig zag balconies you see today were once loading docks. The area is currently closed to the public but regular tours are available for those interested in taking a step back in time.
Essential during WWII, over 20,000 military and civilian personnel were employed at the terminal and millions of servicemen passed through as they began their journey overseas. The most famous soldier to come through was Elvis Presley when he set sail on an 18-month tour of Germany in 1958. Photographers, reporters, and fans arrived in droves to catch a glimpse of the iconic singer.
In addition to being a major nerve center during the war, the Brooklyn Army terminal, which was once considered the world’s largest structure, served the city in a variety of other ways. During prohibition, it housed confiscated liquor from NYC speakeasies. What was once a thriving piece of real estate for the city unfortunately fell into a state of decay throughout the ‘60s and the ‘70s. In 1981, NYC acquired the space from the federal government and a few years later a massive renovation was under way.
Since the days of old, the Brooklyn Army terminal has come a long way. Today, the massive space is home to a host of different types of businesses. Once filled with mostly warehouses and distribution centers, manufacturing companies are also taking up residency.
Mario Macaluso, whose family restaurant, Pete’s Brooklyn Eats, has been a staple in the area for the last 28 years, and opened up a second location in the BAT six years ago. “It was complete tumbleweeds but we built it from the ground up, even adding an outdoor garden,” says Macaluso. Having delivered to the people at the terminal for years, the family had established relationships that proved helpful when space became available. “After my brother, who runs the original location helped them out during the tragedy of 9/11, they came to us when the opportunity to bid on the space opened up,” he says. It’s taken some time but Macaluso says this past year he’s begun to see changes. “There’s a lot of history here.”
Other businesses like Chocolatier Jacque Torres, a chocolate manufacturer, Uncommon Goods, an on-line boutique store, TechShop, a high-tech manufacturing hub, and the Intelligence Division of the NYC Police Department, all call this location home. It is also widely used for film and photo shoots.
In 1965, the area, once referred to as South Brooklyn, took on the name of the neighborhood’s largest park which was built in the late 1800’s. Made up of 25 acres of beautiful elevated terrain, it’s a location that offers residents and tourists magnificent views of NYC landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and the Manhattan skyline.
The neighborhood is also home to NYC’s second largest Chinatown, with excellent restaurants and markets. In the mood for something a little different, stroll along Fifth Avenue and you’re guaranteed to find a multitude of restaurants that specialize in cuisine from almost every country in Latin America.
Reinvented through an increase in residents and strong business growth, Sunset Park is full of diversity and charm, making it an attractive place to call home.