Inside the Navy Yard’s ambitious plans to become more than just a tech hub

The Navy Yard is adding a Freedom Tower's worth of office space. Here's what that means.
Correction: More than 300 companies are tenants of the Navy Yard, not 100, as was previously reported. (3/23/16, 2:36 p.m.)

Since it was closed in 1966 by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has sat, 300 acres of docks and piers and parking lots and boxy buildings and just open land on the East River, in various states of use and decay.
Today, the Navy Yard is looking for food companies to populate the ground floor of its newest space, Building 77 — 1 million square feet of manufacturing and light industrial space facing Flushing Avenue, into which the Navy Yard has put $185 million in renovations. Over the next three years, the Yard will be adding 2.5 million square feet, the largest expansion in the Yard’s history.
“We believe that the future of tech and manufacturing are going to intersect in places like New York,” said Navy Yard head honcho David Ehrenberg. “With the internet of things or medical devices, that embedding of tech into every product is really just beginning in some ways. We want to be that spot in New York where these things intersect. To do that we believe we have to operate the Yard as a true 21st-century business hub.”

StrongArm's V22 Ergoskeleton.

StrongArm’s V22 Ergoskeleton. The company is a Navy Yard tenant. (Courtesy photo)

The Navy Yard, as it exists now, is by no means moribund.
More than 300 companies work there, employing 7,000 people, according to Navy Yard representatives. The companies there tend to be the type that would need a lot of open space, so it’s manufacturing-heavy, but not exclusive. A brief sampling of current tenants includes: OgoSport, which designs toys and sporting equipment for kids, Mariano del Rosario’s painting studio, Honeybee Robotics, Eastern Transport Trucking Company and StrongArm Technologies, the company making innovative gear for blue collar workers that was recently profiled in these here web pages.
But the Navy Yard plans to more than double the number of people working there, from 7,000 to about 15,000. And it plans on making the community a part of that as well. The new entrance to Building 77 will be a food court of sorts for the workers at the Navy Yard. Its anchor tenant will be Russ & Daughters, which will have a retail storefront and also commercial cooking and baking space. The Navy Yard hopes to have dozens of other food companies there and will revamp the entrance to Flushing Avenue, creating a welcoming front-gate to the community.
What will be the front door of the Navy Yard.

What will be the front door of the Navy Yard. (Image courtesy of Marvel Architects)

The Navy Yard is ratcheting up its transportation offerings, as well.
Nestled in the mini-harbor of the East River, it has Williamsburg to the north and Dumbo to the south, but little in the way of train service. So Ehrenberg and his team are launching a shuttle bus loop to the nearest train stops, to be equipped with an app letting workers know when the next bus will arrive. The buses will run to the F, A and C trains nearby, and to the G in Fort Greene and then onto Atlantic Terminal. Any worker, Ehrenberg says, should be able to get to her train stop within ten minutes, and because of the app, without having to wait for the shuttle.
Ehrenberg is from Brooklyn. He grew up and went to public schools in South Slope. He really cares about the well-being of his borough and its residents. To that end, the Navy Yard has fostered an employment center, where the companies at the Yard can outsource some of their HR work.
“What we’re then able to do is turn around and work with local residents and have a focus on placing hard-to-place employees at the Yard. Maybe a veteran or a person with history in the criminal justice system,” he explained. “And we’re ready to do work with training. It’s meaningful for me personally because it puts in context what we’re doing. We’re not just adding 2.5 million square feet, but actually adding jobs that have an impact on the community.”


Companies: Brooklyn Navy Yard
People: David Ehrenberg
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