Brooklyn Navy Yard Opens to Public After 200 Years with New Visitors Center

Brooklyn Navy Yard 7
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn salute as a Navy color guard retires the colors after a ceremony announcing the opening of the BLDG 92 Brooklyn Navy Yard Center.

Check out the exclusive International Business Times photo gallery documenting the past and present of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard opens its doors to the public for the first time in 200 years Thursday morning with the opening of the BLDG 92 Brooklyn Navy Yard Center museum and visitors center.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the festivities at the grand opening celebration of the new $25 million facility, educating attendees about the rich history of the Navy Yard along the way.

The event was also a chance for the mayor to showcase the launch of a new employment center there that will help place 300 local residents, veterans and other workers in industrial and tech jobs at the yard.

Brooklyn Navy Yard: Rich History

We all know Brooklyn Navy Yard has a great past and one that this visitors center does a great job showcasing, Bloomberg told the attendees. The Navy Yard also has a bright future that makes it the city's premier industrial park.

Many of the hundreds of people in attendance Thursday were former or current Brooklyn Navy Yard workers, including 101-year-old Brooklynite Wesley Fagan, who worked beginning in 1968 as a government photographer at the yard. He brought along a book of stunning black-and-white images depicting the bustling commerce that animated the yard at that time in history.

Today's important because it's my legacy. All these pictures they're showing, that's my work, he explained. Oh yeah, it was busy here back then.

The fete featured other leaders including U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and State Senator Daniel Squadron, who all expounded on the benefits opening the Navy Yard to the public and creating jobs there has on nearby neighborhoods. More than 1,000 local residents have been placed in jobs at the yard since 2000, making the industrial yard one of the city's best job creation engines as well as a beacon of hope for the nation during the down economy, they said.

It's really a wonderful day. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is not just about an industrial park, it's also about working families and it's great that today we're throwing the doors to the Navy Yard open, Velázquez said. This visitors center will introduce people to the Brooklyn Navy Yard's rich history and its bright future.

Green Theme

Of the 4 million square feet of lease-able space at the navy yard, 99 percent is filled with green tech companies, printing houses, laboratories and Steiner Studios, the largest studio outside of California, said Bloomberg, calling it a triumph and a sign that New York's industrial industry is booming despite the economic woes facing the nation.

One of the most historic military sites in America, the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard was the Navy's premier ship-building facility from its establishment by President John Adams in 1801 to 1966. Today 275 businesses with 6,000 workers call the yard home. At the height of World War II, the navy yard's workforce reached its peak, with 70,000 people on the job there, building the ships used in that great conflict.

Welder's World War II Work Recalled

Ida Pollack told a story of the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II during a recorded segment played at the opening Thursday. Pollack worked 58-hour workweeks as a welder at the yard during the war, and she remembers fighting for women's rights with other Rosie the Riveters there.

After about a year we began to ask for equal pay to what the men were getting, and soon enough we go the $1.14 per hour [about $14.40 per hour in 2011 dollars] the men were getting, she said. I made more than my father.

The BLDG 92 center itself was built by a green modular building company based at the yard, and it features a wide range of offerings. Upon walking into the building, visitors are greeted by a 22,500-pound anchor salvaged from a Texas shipyard, and from there they are treated to an extensive tour of the history of the yard, with a number of exhibits and a rooftop café to top it off.

Quinn said the day was one of celebration for the workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the public alike.

The opening of BLDG 92 is a wonderful opportunity for the community, she said. What more can we have? Open to the public, a museum celebrating the past, present and future of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, veterans we get to honor, and jobs for New Yorkers.

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