What can 72 abandoned buildings tell us about NYC

Published on: September 6th, 2016 Written by:

Recently, our google map of former industrial buildings around NYC has reached 75 locations. There is a lot to be learned from what eventually became of these properties.


Former industries of NYC:

Before we get into the data, I want to offer a disclaimer: There is a large, uncounted number of other buildings that I’ve explored which are not a part of this article. My estimate is somewhere between 200-500 buildings. As more get added to the map I’ll likely parse the data every few years. This article also only looks at former factories and warehouses.

Also, there’s 3 locations on the map that I’ve removed from this count since they are rail bridges/embankments – Hell Gate bridge was important to NYC’s industrial development, but isn’t likely to become a condo or mall anytime soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Industry vs. Condos:


Colonna Marble Co – Before & After

Currently, of 16 the 72 former industrial locations have been, or are in the process of being replaced with condos. That represents nearly 22% of the total.

Here they all are:
Colonna Marble company (site of to two residential high rises)
CN West chemical company (site of several new residential high rises)
Andrea Radio (site of a 60+ floor residential high rise)
Shine Electronics (site of over a dozen townhouses)
11th street print shop (replaced with a short residential building)
5ptz (site of two new residential high rises)
Eagle Electric at Thompson Ave (converted to ‘aaris lofts’)
Flushing Light Industrial Complex (site of several residential high rises)
Faber pencil (replaced with a short residential building)
Gotham Container (replaced with a medium height hotel)
Armored Car warehouse (replaced with a short residential buildings)
S & S Corrugated building 1 (converted to residential use)
N4th realty (replaced with several short residential building)
Domino Sugar (being replaced with several residential high rises)
Keap Street warehouse (converted to apartments)
Hope street factory (converted to apartments)

Some of these buildings were rather small industrial locations (Shine electronics, Gotham container) while others are really well know (5ptz and Domino). Many of them are being replace with apartment buildings that are far larger than the factories they replaced. Andrea Radio, for example, is being replaced with a 66 floor apartment building. 5ptz and CN West are also being replace with 50 floor apartment towers. Domino Sugar is being replaced with several large apartment towers. These new residential towers are driving up the population of neighborhoods where public transportation and other city services (like firehouses and ambulances) are often scarce.

Industry vs. Retail: The invasion of big box stores in NYC

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Flushing Light Industry Complex – Before and After

9 of the 72 have been replaced with retail locations – often these locations are large chain stores.

Stella Doro – (now a Home Depot)
Washburn Wire (now a Target & Mall)
Flushing Light Industrial Complex (made into a Target & Mall, under residential towers)
Terminal Cold Storage (offices and ground level storefronts)
Aigner index (currently on the market as a retail location)
1 of Greenpoint Terminal’s buildings (ground floor converted to a storefront)
S & S corrugated Building 2 (Whole Foods supermarket)
Todd Shipyard (replaced with the Red Hook Ikea)
Phelps Dodge (partially replaced with a Restaurant Depot store)

Thus, there have been almost as many large new retail outlets to come out of the paving over of NYC’s industrial past as there have been apartment buildings. This increase in large chain stores has a strong correlation with the decline of mom & pop storefront businesses, which Jim and Karla Murray have so well documented.

Still Vacant:

Former BRT powerplant along the Gowanus Canal

15 of the locations are still vacant. The reasons why are as varied as the locations themselves – though there are some common themes.

3 former power plants (Glenwood, Waterside, and the BRT) were proposed as condo conversions – with each plan eventually being stalled or falling through. The same failed plans have bedeviled the former Wrigley’s factory on Staten island, Greenpoint Terminal, and NY Terra Cotta sites.

Some locations are simply too toxic to build upon without an expensive environmental cleanup. These include the former Triplex X Oil / Quanta site in LIC, the Iron Triangle (next to citifield), and Nelson Galvanizing in Astoria.

Here is the complete list of still vacant properties:
Glenwood power station (may become an event space)
Nelson Galvanizing (currently a vacant lot)
Iron Triangle (slowly being demolished)
Quantas/Triple X Oil Refinery (currently a parking lot)
NY Terra Cotta (factory office has been repaired, but is still vacant – property behind is also vacant)
Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse (currently mixed use, storage and retail)
Brooklyn Navy Yard power plant (empty lot)
Waterside Generating plant (empty lot)
Revere Sugar (Parking lot – new office building might be built here)
Moore McCormack Marine Terminal (final buildings demolished this summer)
BCRR powerhouse (demolished this summer)

Only a few of these abandoned factory buildings still stand – a list that has dwindled significantly over the last 10 years:

BRT Powerplant
Wrigleys Gum Factory
Red Hook Grain Terminal
Navy Yard Dry Dock

In the coming years, these sites will very likely be cleaned up, and the stalled residential projects will eventually get underway.

Parks
Bklyn-Waterfront4
Former BEDT terminal on the Williamsburg Waterfront.

Disturbingly, only 4 of the 72 locations have become parks.

2 of these locations are former Certified Ready Mix properties that the city came to control out of after Certified was exposed as a mafia controlled company. One is located in The Bronx, while the other is along the Harlem river.

The other two are in North Brooklyn, where the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal and a former Dept. of Sanitation lot were converted to parkland. (The DSNY lot has been used to host concerts, but it is currently vacant awaiting inclusion in the Bushwick Inlet Park.

Outliers:
The only building on this map to have been demolished for a transportation project is the former Flux factory location on 43rd street in Sunnyside. This building (and several neighbors) was taken down for the MTA’s East Side Access project.

The only building on the map to be demolished to make way for a Museum was the former Meat Packing building along the high line, which made way for the Whitney.


Conclusion
The main takeaway here is the obvious one: Industry and blue collar jobs were once the backbone of NYC. Manufacturing has moved elsewhere, and has been replaced largely by residential and retail outlets. These industries will never return to NYC, as costs are prohibitive and property scarce.

There are so many conclusions one can draw from this data – so instead of diving deep into my own opinions, I rather just hear yours in the comments below.

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  • About The Author

    Joseph Anastasio

    Design & History nerd, open space & infrastructure advocate. 
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