The Brooklyn Army Terminal, formerly referred to as the ‘US Army Military Ocean Terminal’ or the ‘Brooklyn Army Base’ served as the largest military supply base in the US through WWII. Today, the Brooklyn Army Terminal is a fully functioning commercial/industrial complex that houses over 100 local businesses and thousands of good manufacturing jobs.
Built for Battle
The federal government began building the Brooklyn Army Terminal in May 1918 to serve as a military depot and supply base. The massive four-million-square-foot complex was completed in September 1919, just 16 months later. This feat is impressive even by today’s standards, especially given the facility’s massive size. Since its creation, the terminal has helped deploy millions of troops and tons of supplies to battlefronts around the world.
An Architectural Feat
Cass Gilbert, best known for his Beaux Arts and Gothic buildings, was the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s principal architect. Gilbert designed the US Custom House, the Broadway Chambers Building, the Essex County Courthouse, and the highly acclaimed Woolworth Building.
Though the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s modern, utilitarian style was markedly different from Gilbert’s best-known work, it has been recognized by modern architects for its powerful aesthetic and highly functional form. The design was highly innovative for its time: the complex was constructed without girders, using steel-reinforced concrete slabs and included 96 centrally controlled elevators, the largest elevator installation at that time. The larger of the two buildings featured a huge skylight-enclosed atrium, which featured staggered balconies from which cargo could be loaded and unloaded by movable cranes. Additionally, the entire complex was interconnected, with bridges on the third floor linking the two main buildings.
WWII and Elvis
The Brooklyn Army Terminal was most-heavily trafficked during WWII, during which more than 20,000 military and civilian personnel were employed there. The terminal was the headquarters for the New York Port of Embarkation, a region-wide operation covering more than a dozen facilities that moved 3.2 million troops and 37 million tons of military supplies to fronts across the globe. Arguably the most famous soldier to deploy from the Brooklyn Army Terminal was Elvis Presley. He greeted fans and dozens of photojournalists in September 1958 when he shipped off from Brooklyn to Germany.
From Military to Manufacturing
The Brooklyn Army Terminal remained active through the early 1970s with both military and civilian tenants. New York City purchased the Brooklyn Army Terminal from the federal government in 1981 with the intention of repurposing the structure for manufacturing and industrial use.
New York City Economic Development Corporation now manages the Brooklyn Army Terminal complex and has carried out a phased renovation plan that began in 1984. Today, over three million square feet have been renovated for use by a diverse mix of industrial businesses.
Today’s Brooklyn Army Terminal: Flexible Business Spaces
Today, a full century after ground was broken, the Brooklyn Army Terminal is one of the most innovative and accessible manufacturing campuses in the world. With 500,000 square feet of affordable industrial space, the Brooklyn Army Terminal is New York City’s premier space for companies working in traditional and advanced manufacturing, food and fashion, and film/TV/media production.
In additional to offering space for traditional and advanced manufacturing, the terminal features a recently renovated Food Manufacturing Hub for small food manufacturing firms and space for fashion companies and garment manufacturers.
And, a portion of the campus is dedicated to the terminal’s Micromanufacturing Hub, which allows small industrial businesses to grow within the campus. One of Brooklyn Army Terminal’s unique features is a flexibility that allows tenants to grow into new spaces as their company grows—keeping thriving small businesses in New York City.