Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York City
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The United States Navy Yard, New York -- better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard or the New York Naval Shipyard (NYNSY) -- is located 1.7 miles northeast of the Battery on the Brooklyn side of the East River in Wallabout Basin, a semicircular bend of the East River across from Corlear's Hook in Manhattan. The area is part of Brooklyn Community Board 2. Bounded by Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, it covered over 200 acres at the height of its production of U.S. Navy warships.
Following the American Revolution, the waterfront site was used to build merchant vessels. Federal authorities purchased the old docks and forty acres of land for forty thousand dollars in 1801, and the property became an active U.S. Navy shipyard fives years later, in 1806. The offices, store-houses and barracks were constructed of handmade bricks, and the yard's oldest structure, the 1807 federal style commandant's house, was designed by Charles Bulfinch, architect of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Military chain of command was strictly observed. During the Yard's construction of Robert Fulton's steam frigate, Fulton, launched in 1815, the year of Fulton's death, the Navy Yard's chief officers were listed as follows:
Captain Commandant: Samuel Evans
Master Commandant: George W. Rodgers
Lieutenant of the Yard: Benjamin Cooper
Master of the Yard: Francis H. Ellison
Surgeon of the Yard & Marine Barracks: J.G.T. Hunt
Purser of the Navy Yard: George S. Wise, Jr.
Naval Storekeeper: John P. Decatur
Naval Constructor: John Floyd
Major commanding the Marine Corps: Richard Smith
The nation's first ironclad ship, Monitor, was fitted with its revolutionary iron cladding at the nearby Continental Iron Works. By the American Civil War, the yard had expanded to employ about 6000 men. In 1890, the ill-fated Maine was launched from the Yard's ways.
On the eve of World War II, the yard contained more than five miles (8 km) of paved streets, four dry docks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet (99 to 213 meters), two steel shipways, and six pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work, barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur, as well as the expected foundries, machine shops, and warehouses. In 1937 the battleship North Carolina was laid down. In 1938, the yard employed about ten thousand men, of whom one-third were Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. The battleship Iowa was completed in 1942. On January 12, 1953, test operations began on Antietam, which emerged in December 1952 from the Yard as America's first angled-deck aircraft carrier.
At its peak, during World War II, the yard employed 70,000 people, 24 hours a day. Unfortunately for its workers, the Brooklyn Navy Yard made extensive use of asbestos in the manufacturing and repairing of its ships during the twentieth century. While the federal government successfully resisted responsibility in court for the extensive and often mortal health problems that resulted in the following years, thousands of retired workers have successfully sued the private businesses that supplied asbestos products to the U.S. Navy.
The Navy decommissioned the yard in 1966 and sold it to the City of New York. It then became an area of private manufacturing and commercial activity. It now has over 200 tenants with more than 3,500 employees, and is managed and operated by the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation for the City of New York.
The yard has three piers, owned by the city and operated by Seatrain Shipbuilding and Coastal Drydock and Repair Corporation, and a total of 10 berths ranging from 350 to 890 feet long, with ten-foot deck height and 25 to 40 feet (7 to 12 meters) of depth alongside. A Federal project maintains a channel depth of 35 feet (10 m) from Throgs Neck to the yard, about two miles from the western entrance, and thence 40 feet (12 m) of depth to the deep water in the Upper Bay. Currents in the East River can be strong, and congestion heavy. Access to the piers requires passage under the Manhattan Bridge (a suspension span with a clearance of 134 feet or 41 meters) and the Brooklyn Bridge (a suspension span with a clearance of 127 feet or 39 meters).
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