Bush Terminal / Industry City
Bush Terminal, now known as Industry City, is a historic intermodal shipping, warehousing, and manufacturing complex on the waterfront in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. Bush Terminal was the first facility of its kind in New York and the largest multi-tenant industrial property in the United States.
The Bush Terminal Company managed shipping for all the Bush Terminal tenants, making it the first American example of completely integrated manufacturing and warehousing, served by both rail and water transportation, under a unified management system. At its peak, Bush Terminal covered 200 acres (about 81 hectares), bounded by Upper New York Bay's Gowanus Bay to the west and north, by 3rd Avenue to the east, and—at its peak—between 27th Street to the north and 50th Street to the south.
Today, Industry City comprises roughly 40 acres of Bush Terminal, including 16 original buildings. The 6.5 million square foot complex is currently undergoing renovations to modernize the historic infrastructure in an effort to preserve the industrial heritage of the project for future generations of artisans, craftsmen, and small businesses.
Concept and beginnings
Bush Terminal is named after its founder Irving T. Bush. His family name came from Jan Bosch, who was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1662. Bush Terminal is in no way related to the Bush political family. Bush Terminal was unique from other rail-marine terminals in New York due to its distance from Manhattan, the magnitude of its warehousing and manufacturing operations, and its fully integrated nature.
Wholesalers in Manhattan faced expensive time, transportation, and labor costs when importing and then re-sending goods. So in 1895, Irving T. Bush, working under the name of his family's company, The Bush Co., organized six warehouses and one pier on the waterfront of South Brooklyn as a freight handling terminal. There had only been one warehouse on the site in 1890, and before that, the land contained an oil refinery belonging to the Bush & Denslow company of Rufus T. Bush, Irving T. Bush's father. Standard Oil bought this refinery in the 1880s and dismantled it, but after Rufus T. Bush's death in 1890, Irving T. Bush later bought the land back using his father's inheritance.
The terminal in its early days was derided as "Bush's Folly." Railroad officials would not ship directly to Brooklyn, which required the extra cost of loading freight cars on car floats for the trip across New York Harbor to the ferry slips at the terminal, unless they first had orders of freight. Irving T. Bush resorted to sending an agent to Michigan with instructions to buy 100 carloads of hay, then to attempt to have the hay sent in its original railcar to Bush's terminal in Brooklyn. Eastern railroad companies declined their western agents' request to send the hay until eventually the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad agreed to accept the offer and negotiate directly with the new terminal. Other railways followed. To demonstrate that ocean vessels could (and should) dock at the piers, Irving T. Bush leased ships and entered the banana business (and made a profit doing so). Likewise, to induce businesses to store goods at his terminal's warehouses, he warehoused coffee and cotton himself. Once Bush Terminal succeeded and expanded, sources credited Bush's "keen foresight" for undertaking such a "quixotic" business venture.
Expansion and zenith
The Bush Company terminal business became the Bush Terminal Co. in 1902 when Irving T. Bush bought the land from the Standard Oil Co. The warehouses were built circa 1892–1910, the railroad from 1896 to 1915, and the factory lofts between 1905 and 1925.Together, Bush Terminal offered economies of scale for its tenants, so that even the smallest interests had available to them the type of facilities normally only available to large, well-capitalized firms.
As of 1918, Bush Terminal owned 3,100 feet (944 m) of waterfront in Brooklyn and covered 20 waterfront blocks. Seven piers extended over 1,200 feet (370 m) into the harbor and were at least 150 feet (46 m) wide. Each pier was enclosed. Twenty-five steamship lines used these piers, and as of 1910, Bush Terminal handled 10 percent of all steamships arriving at New York. Eventually, Bush Terminal handled 50,000 railroad freight cars and had eight piers that docked vessels from 25 steamship lines. Once freight was offloaded from vessels or ready for shipment, it could be stored within one of 118 warehouses, ranging in height from one to eight stories. Together, they could hold 25,000,000 cubic feet (708,000 cubic meters) of goods.
The company operated the Bush Terminal Railroad Co., which had about twenty miles (32 km) of track within the terminal. The terminal's railroad greatly reduced shippers' cost to haul freight from their facilities to a rail yard. The rail yard could hold about 1,000 freight cars and was six blocks long. The terminal also owned two miles (3 km) of track through Brooklyn to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad.(See also list of streetcar lines in Brooklyn.)
The U.S. Navy first commandeered the piers and warehouses of the Bush Terminal Co. on Dec. 31, 1917. By June 1918, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and later President of the United States) Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to Irving T. Bush to tell him that the navy would also be commandeering four of Bush Terminal's twelve manufacturing buildings, meaning that 64 manufacturers employing 4,500 people would have to vacate. The United States Navy tied its rail lines into those of the Bush Terminal in 1918. Irving T. Bush not only complied but also helped to design its southern neighbor, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, in 1918.
Ultimately piers of the terminal became part of the United States Army's New York Port of Embarkation which at the war's end included eight piers in Brooklyn including six Bush Terminal piers, 120 Bush Company warehouses and two at the Army Supply Base; in Hoboken twelve piers and seven warehouses and three piers in the North River, Manhattan. The federal government quietly returned Bush Terminal to private ownership after the war.The twelve buildings for manufacturers that had been built by 1918 housed about 300 companies. The buildings, which had 150 freight elevators, were mostly U-shaped to facilitate loading at rail sidings. To give an example of Bush Terminal's scale, as of the 1970s, the facility's buildings had 263,740 window panes in their walls and 138 miles (222 km) of fire sprinklers running within them. The terminal had two power plants for steam and light, plus a bank, restaurants, and even a trolley to provide transportation for workers. In addition to a hall for longshoremen, an administration building was constructed circa 1895–1902.
Bush Terminal was an integral part of Sunset Park. The terminal's fortunes rose with those of the borough of Brooklyn, which had over 2.5 million residents by 1930. The terminal employed thousands directly and many thousands more worked for firms within Bush Terminal. Besides its own police force, fire department, rail system, steam and power plants, and deep-water piers, workers in the terminal created their own court system as a form of self-policing. Although the Bush Terminal Company went into receivership during the Depression, operations continued relatively unaltered through the 1930s.
Early in the century, the Bush Terminal Company commissioned architects Kirby, Petit, and Green to design its headquarters building in Manhattan at 100 Broad Street (at the intersection with Pearl and Bridge Streets). The relatively small yet notable five-story office building was located on the site of Manhattan's first church (from 1633) and featured a "Gothic design with a strong flavor of Dutch." The terminal also funded construction of Bush Tower, a 30-story skyscraper near Times Square in Manhattan, where tenants of Bush Terminal were offered display space to showcase their goods, above a club for buyers visiting New York. The Bush Terminal Company attempted a similar melding of commercial displays and social space at Bush House in London, built in three phases during the 1920s, but the concept was not fully carried through at that project.
During World War II, Bush Terminal buildings were again seized by the federal government for war use and as a focus for the shipment of goods overseas. Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign swing around New York City on October 21, 1944, started at the Brooklyn Army Base and adjacent Bush Terminal.
After World War II
Sunset Park began to suffer economic decline even before World War II, due to the Great Depression, the demolition of the Fifth Avenue El, and the 1941 construction and widening of the Gowanus Expressway. After the war, "white flight", the maritime industry's move to New Jersey, and the deactivation of the Brooklyn Army Terminal from the 1970s also hurt the neighborhood until the terminal was reopened as an industrial park in 1987. However, this decline did not greatly affect Bush Terminal, because although its piers are now defunct and its rail system is much smaller than it was before World War II (and not operated by Bush Terminal), the buildings and warehouses at Bush Terminal did not suffer the abandonment so common across the United States after World War II.
Irving T. Bush died in 1948 and a statue to him was dedicated in 1950 at Bush Terminal's Brooklyn administration building by his niece Helen Tunison in front of 3,000 notables and terminal employees. Shortly thereafter, starting in the early 1950s and continuing into the 1960s, the Topps company, of chewing gum and baseball card fame, produced baseball cards at Bush Terminal. Topps moved production to Pennsylvania in 1965 and its offices to Manhattan in 1994.
On December 3, 1956, Bush Terminal was the site of what might have been the largest explosion in New York City history. Dockworkers were using an oxyacetylene torch to perform routine maintenance work when sparks ignited 26,365 pounds of ground foam rubber scrap. Employees abandoned initial efforts to control the blaze; 26 minutes later, the fire reached 37,000 pounds of Cordeau Detonant Fuse, setting off an explosion. The blast resulted in 10 deaths, 270 injuries, "major destruction" in a 1,000-foot radius, and broken windows a mile around. People 35 miles away reported hearing it. Miraculously, none of the firefighters on land or water was injured.
By 1961, the Bush Terminal Company sold its lower Manhattan headquarters building (which was soon demolished) and consolidated its offices at the terminal itself. A real estate group led by Harry Helmsley (husband of the infamous Leona Helmsley) bought Bush Terminal in 1963. The complex maintained 95 percent occupancy through the mid-1970s and employed 25,000 people. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Bush Terminal housed the highest concentration of garment manufacturers in New York City outside of Manhattan.
Due to the decline of the railways after World War II, Bush Terminal Railway went defunct in the 1970s, its operations continued by the New York Dock Railroad. Shipping activity at Bush Terminal also declined after World War II. The introduction of containerized shipping and the construction of the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey hastened the decline of sea traffic to Bush Terminal. However, car floats and transload activity have moved to the nearby 65th Street Yard and, along with the Bush Terminal Rail Yard, are operated by New York New Jersey Rail, LLC, now owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; trackage through Bush Terminal has been refurbished and extended to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal and is used occasionally to deliver New York City Subway rolling stock via the South Brooklyn Railway.
Prior to 1974, Bush Terminal was still an active port facility, with vessels that docked between its piers. In 1974, the City of New York Department of Ports and Terminals hired a private company to fill the spaces between Piers 1 through 4 to make space for parking shipping containers. Filling, however, was halted in 1978 after reports of environmental violations. New York City officials later learned that toxic wastes including oils, oil sludges, and wastewaters had been dumped at the site, making the four piers a polluted brownfield. In 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki announced a $36 million plan to clean up and redevelop the Bush Terminal piers. The plan included a $17.8 million grant from the state of New York, the largest single grant the state had ever awarded to clean up a brownfield site.
Renaming as Industry City
Bush Terminal was renamed Industry City in the mid-1980s. Owned by Industry City Associates, the complex is home to a diverse mix of businesses encompassing artisans, garment manufacturing, data centers, and warehousing.
In 2009, Industry City began attracting artists by building 30,000 sq ft (2,800 m2) of artists' studios and conducting creative events such as film screenings and art installations, such as the Marion Spore project. Industry City hosts Brooklyn's Fashion Weekend, a biannual exposition showcasing the work of local and international fashion designers. Tenants at Industry City include Virginia Dare, Freecell, Fiber Media, Tumbador Chocolate, Paul Chan, Cory Arcangel, Nils Folk Anderson, Andrea Geyer, Jarrod Beck, Tamar Ettun, Julia Dault, Chris Kannen, K8 Hardy, Elizabeth Shelton, Torild Stray, Cara Enteles, Peter Maslow, NEW (non-traditional employment for women), Yona Verwer, Natalia Zubko, Lenore Mizrachi, and street artists Andrew Hermida and Cycle.
A full-scale renovation plan was announced in September 2011. The 10-year program will include repaving the streets that separate the property's buildings, bulkhead renovation to the buildings that line the waterfront, installation of overhead power distribution and buss ducts, and a complete modernization of the property's 150 elevators.
On June 26, 2014, the Brooklyn Nets NBA team announced their intention to move their training center to Industry City. The new facility, to be known as the Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center (HSS Center), will be built on the roof of an empty warehouse in the complex, occupying 70,000 square feet of space in total. The renovation project will cost roughly $50 million.
Not only was Bush Terminal one of the first and largest integrated cargo and manufacturing sites in the world; it also served as a model for other industrial parks and offered employment to thousands, and is the home of many businesses today. Besides funding other important buildings such as a Bush Tower and Bush House, it served during both World Wars, influenced the design of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and affected the growth of Brooklyn and New York City. The later South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, also owned by EDC, occupies the waterfront to the north, from 39th to 29th Streets.
Today, Industry City has grown with the redevelopment of the Bay Ridge and Sunset Park areas by renovating the complex to serve artistic and modern businesses at the expense of the local ethnic communities of color that occupied the area. Organizations such as UPROSE have been in discussion with government departments since the early 2000s to try to include community input into the development vision for the space. The park has been a part of the incoming, predominately white, gentry into the Sunset Park community. A Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a 14-mile (23 km) off-street path is planned to connect neighborhoods along Brooklyn's waterfront, running through the Industry City complex to the 23-acre (9.3 ha) Owls Head Park also served by the Sunset Park Greenway. Construction on a Bush Terminal Pier Park began in 2012.
- Irving T. Bush
- Bush Tower
- Bush House
- Rail freight transportation in New York City and Long Island
- South Brooklyn Marine Terminal
- Industry City Associates, Brooklyn, NY. "Welcome to Industry City." Accessed 2012-10-08.
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- Port Authority South Brooklyn Marine Terminal
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bush Terminal.|
- Industry City
- Aerial view of Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, in 1920 at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery
- Photo of Bush Terminal Co. headquarters at 100 Broad St. in 1905, from Architecture magazine of the same year, at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery
- Bush Terminal Company (1917). Bush Terminal International Exhibit Building & Buyers' Club. New York, Redfield-Kendrick-Odell Co. (Full-text. Mostly about Bush Tower, but at the end, includes four pages of illustrations and descriptions of Bush Terminal's Brooklyn services and a photo of the company's Manhattan executive offices.)
- Photos of Bush Terminal
- Photos of the current brownfield piers, which have a mature apple orchard growing on them
- Bush Terminal - Industrial & Offline Terminal Railroads of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx and Manhattan