In 1973, the entire block of North 4th street between Bedford and Berry was the scene of protests and destruction dealt by the scandalous hands of then NYC Mayor Lindsay. Lindsay forcefully evicted families from their homes to make way for a huge expansion of the S & S corrugated box company factory.
NYC was once a very middle class manufacturing city. Over 1 million people worked here in jobs building everything from staples to light switches. S & S corrugated made machines for constructing corrugated boxes. They employed 600 people in a factory just across the street (on 4th btw Berry & Wythe)
- and in 1973, NYC was losing thousands of such jobs per year. When S & S went to City Hall and told the mayor they needed to expand their factory in order to stay in Brooklyn, they devised a plot to simply kick out everyone living on the block just east of their present factory in order to build a huge new wing. The mayor, likely paid off to do so, went right along with this plan.
The mayor and S & S likely did not realize that the 94 families whose homes were slated to be demolished would not go quietly. They organized. When their voices were not heard, they blocked traffic on the BQE during rush hour (this became a favorite tactic of local political activists). Such protests were just plain unheard of at the time.
They blocked traffic on the BQE during rush hour (this became a favorite tactic of local political activists).
Eventually the Mayor 'compromised' by agreeing to build replacement homes just across N. 3rd street. These homes still exist today. It begs the question though - if that property was available, why the hell didn't S & S just build their factory there?
Some protested right up until the very end: "Seven cops couldn't push me off the stoop of one house, even with the glass flying all over" Frank Kulikowski, a hulking man who is the neighborhood's friendly grouch, said last week".
S & S did indeed expand their operation and for several years survived. At some point in the 1980s or 90s though, S & S closed down, leaving their brand new factory building empty and obsolete. For a short while it was rented out by a company that maintained arcade games. In the end, throwing all of those families out of their homes proved to be a complete waste of time, money and strife.
Today, (June 2013) the entire neighborhood is better known for trendy loft apartments and stores than manufacturing. This building remains exactly as it was when we explored it in 2007: a large empty completely abandoned shell of a building. It is rather amazing that it has been allowed to sit in this condition for so long. The exterior walls were used as a legal graffiti canvas in the early 2000s. Whatever becomes of it, it most certainly will never be a factory again.
There's something inherently funny about walking up the front stairs of a building and looking out onto the street below (because there are no walls up here anymore) - especially when that street is full of people going about their lame ass boring lives. There was but a sheet of plywood between us and them, but when you think about it, it may as well have been the great wall of china. This is the barrier between those who explore and those who will never understand the pleasures of crossing lines, physically and mentally.
Beyond the thrill of the location, this building offers absolutely nothing.
Original writeup, July 8, 2007 under the title 'barging in on bedford'. History added June 11, 2013
NY Times: A Battle leads to a New Northside: August 20, 1974
People Power: Grass Roots Politics and Race Relations By Judith N. DeSena