On the morning of May 2nd, 2006. The sun rose to a greet a thick cloud of
smoke above Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The massive Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse
complex was burning
. It was the largest fire in NYC since 9/11. Some 350+
firemen answered the call to this 10 alarm fire. It took 2 days and millions
of gallons of water to finally put down the flames. By the end of the first
day though it was apparent that the heart and soul of GTW, a long string
of up to 14 interconnected historic warehouse buildings, was lost.
GTW was an explorers paradise. It was an ever evolving environment filled
to the brim with dangers and challenges. As the years passed the danger
that the buildings would be bulldozed and redeveloped was ever present.
The owner, Joshua Guttman
, had received permission to demolish much of the
property from the Department of Buildings. Additionally, the property was
to be rezoned, from industrial to residential/commercial use. The writing
was on the wall. We all knew it would be gone some day, though no one assumed
it would go down in such a dramatic fashion.
The first time I came across GTW, it was in the mid to late 1990s. I remember
walking over to west street, seeing the rusting skywalks running over the
street from a distance, and being drawn to the place like a bear to honey.
It was a strange place. I walked from North to South. To the north of Building
1 (as noted on my map - i'm not sure how the property owners identified
these buildings - I've simply numbered them in the order I explored them)
was a large empty lot, full of trash and polish squatters. building 1 itself
also seemed to be teamed with these squatters (as well as a location in
LIC, the old Review oil refinery - photos of that are here
South of there, the intersection of Noble and West was the crossroads of
the facility. GTW 2 lay to the east, and areas 3 and 4 were on the west
side of the street. These were protected by tall fencing and an ever-present
Further south there was a lot next to GTW2 that also occasionally had a
guard on duty, and beyond Oak street the CF freightways terminal on the
west side of West street featured a very busy warehouse with 24/7 security
and an awful lot of truck traffic. Everything was well fenced in and secured.
Time is a bitch though, and eventually Guttman bought the property. We can
only assume he severely cut back on security as there was no longer a guard
posted at the Noble street gate, and the occasional hole in the fencing
could be found at either the Noble or Oak street gates. This of course opened
the doors for us to visit on a much more regular basis than we had in the
What we found was a delightfully decayed location, full of mystery and madness.
Oak street behind the gate proved to be a rubble strewn post apocalyptic
playground. The pavement, covered in debris, and the buildings looking as
if bombs had hit them. Inside there were rotting floors, old offices, warehouse
space, rusted cars, amazing graffiti, and rooms filled waste deep with old
clothing. We also found Squatters, a man named Ra being the most established
of them. He had built a camp for himself high atop the buildings in a room
filled with clothing, old books, tables, and minimal candlelight.
GTW was thus the home to a punk rock concert one year, thrown by Ra and
Al, frontman of the notorious NYHC band 'Eyes of Hate'. In 2004 there was
an effort to repeat that concert and document it all on film and video.
I was to do the photography work. The plans were laid and set in motion,
but at the last minute the NYPD fowled the plan. 3 of us made a daring escape
that night, which is too long of a story in and of itself to repeat here.
Sadly, Al passed away not terribily long after. As one person said, you
weren't a punk in NYC if you didn't know Al. No other concerts took place
there after that...
GTW was a lot of things to a lot of people. It was indeed the forgotten
city. It was a place where the wicked feral children played and created
amongst the debris of a land that time seemed to have forgot. There isn't an NYC explorer worth their salt who was actively exploring back then that doesn't have fond memories of how GTW was, and this
page is but a small tribute to some of our adventures there.
-Control. May, 2006 - with minor edits & links added in October 2015.