Inside Brooklyn Navy Yard

Brooklyn Navy Yard is one of NYC’s largest pieces of intact — though decaying — history. Sprawling over nearly 300 acres, it has both current industrial tenants, and plans are in the works for adaptive reuse projects for some of the buildings. It’s living history, dotted by pockets of contemporary industry.

For this video, we looked for someone who could tell us about the Yard from the perspective of an employee during it’s heyday (or one of them, at least), and came upon Rubena Ross. An employee of the Yard around the time of the second World War, Mrs. Ross toiled in the flag loft for years, earning a comfortable salary that allowed her to purchase not one but two brownstones in Prospect Heights. By pure coincidence, one of those homes, which she had recently sold, is the subject of the 2009 season of PBS’ This Old House.

Of the many beautiful buildings you’ll see in this piece, my favorite had to be the Laboratory Building. A massive structure, it has a top floor containing an amazing greenhouse-like space with a vaulted glass ceiling. Only recently, in Nov. 2008, did the Navy Yard start opening up the medical campus and other parts of the yard to public tours (brochure pdf) — they’re highly recommended.

-Tom Vigliotta, Producer

This episode wouldn’t have been possible without much help from Daniella Romano, Sara Fitzpatrick, and Andrew Kimball of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Janet and Rubena Ross, Ian Ference, Monark, the Brooklyn Historical Society, the David Rumsey Map Collection, and the National Archives. Thanks to Steve Hindy, president and co-founder of the Brooklyn Brewery, for originally sending me in the direction of the Yard.