Red Hook contained one of NYC's tallest abandoned industrial buildings, with one of the best graffiti galleries and a rooftop view unparalleled in awesomeness. Today, it is being converted into apartments.
The New York Dock building at 160 Imlay street is one of two twin warehouse buildings. It was built in 1912 for the New York Dock Railway, and utilized for the storage of goods that came in via ship and were subsequently shipped out via truck and rail. (NY Dock was a railway with terminal tracks on the Brooklyn waterfront - those tracks came right up to the rear of this building).
As is often the case, Brownstoner has a nice writeup about this building's history. The original tenant for this building was Montgomery Ward, the first mail order company in the united States (the late 1800s version of Amazon.com). During WW1, the military used it (and much of NYC's port) for deploying troops and materials to Europe. The military found the use of a terminal such as NY Docks' to be worthy of the construction of their very own massive Brooklyn warehouse - the Brooklyn Army Terminal - further south in Sunset Park.
As shipping became more containerized, and larger cargo ships began using larger terminals in New Jersey, New York Dock's finances faltered. In the early 1980s the railway entered bankruptcy and the twin warehouse buildings of Imlay street were sold. But more on that in a second...
For a true deep dive history on the New York Dock railway - you simply need to go to Phil Goldstein's extremely detailed page on this subject.
162 Imlay became a high tech storage facility for Christie’s Auction House, while 160 sat forlorn and abandoned for over a decade - tied up in politics and zoning.
The conversion to housing seems posed to happen soon. The building was secured in 2012 and some work has begun. The current plan for the site is to create 70 apartments, with a grocery store and another business on the ground floor.
I'll always have fond memories of going here at 7AM one Sunday morning. I had been inside on several nights, hanging out with friends on the roof, goofing off and taking in the view of lower Manhattan. I wanted good clear morning daylight shots of everything though, thus my early morning trip. As I came down Develan street some scantily clad girl stumbled out of a building and into a waiting cab. It took my decaffeinated brain a second before I started laughing at her 'walk of shame' (or 'stride of pride', depending on if you're a hater or not). "Hey lady don't forget your underwear!". (Yeap, I'm a hater!)
I don't usually cat-call, but when I do, I'm a total jerk. Sue me. If it were a guy stumbling around drunk, I'd asked him if he knew the soon to be baby momma's name. In the immortal words of the mayor in Ghostbusters 2: "Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker's God-given right". Besides, I was driving a fucking 17 year old Buick - which makes me awesome. So Hot. So Pimping.
I stopped halfway down the next block, threw open the door with the engine running and shot a photo of the building exterior. It's 7AM - all the dumb crooks are still in bed or arrested a few hours ago (Besides, who the hell would want to steal this boat/car?! I bought it off your grandma for 800 bucks years ago!). The building is like a huge wall at this vantage point. At 6 stories high, it looms over the much shorter buildings on Van Brunt - with the NEW YORK DOCK name in large letters at the very top. New York Dock was a big business back then - and their buildings made sure everyone passing by knew, regardless of if they remembered to put on their underwear.
Closer in, I park and slide through a decent sized hole in the fence. This hole would grow and grow over the years - becoming big enough to drive a truck through (too bad it had no loot in it). This is a little surreal to me - as I had kept an eye on this building for years. The first time I passed it, there were guard dogs. Actual guard dogs. You never see guard dogs at an abandoned building in NYC. Now here it is - wide open.
I walk around back and into the door leading to the stairs, and straight to the roof. May as well get today's workout in straight away, right? "Who me officer? I'm not doing anything shady, just working out". F*ck paying for a gym - exploring is where it's at.
The skyline view, of course, is spectacular. Plasma Slugz would probably describe it as a 'panty dropper'. Too bad that chick down the street already lost hers.
I spent quite a bit of time shooting the view and stalking the very lazy guard in the lot below, and eventually started my decent (down the stairs, that is - I started heading to hell long ago).
On the floors below, and on every available piece of wall space, graffiti artists had put in serious work. This isn't toy garbage scribbles from area kids. These are the works of masters. Curve, Ronin, Mast, Jedi, Jick, Smash, F5, Stae2. It's a select small amount of writers, but the art is all serious. I stop and shoot every last piece I come across, knowing that in a few years time, this will be someone's living room, and the art will very likely be long gone (which is a shame - it could have been a serious selling point if you ask me).
Within the hour I'm back out on the street, heading back to the car. It's barely 8AM on a Sunday, and there's a list of other buildings to break into today, and probably a plethora of people to heckle along the way.
Because it's expected.