Sunset Park

Industry City: See it like a tourist

Eye on Real Estate: The historic Sunset Park complex began its existence as Bush Terminal

December 28, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Here's a glimpse of Industry City, a historic Sunset Park complex that's too vast to fit into a single photo unless you're in a helicopter. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
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It’s a waterfront wonderland for history-minded folks who feel nostalgic about Brooklyn’s industrial past. The artisanal furniture makers and chocolatiers who now occupy the complex are pretty cool, too.

Back in the day, it was known as Bush Terminal. The mammoth warren of warehouses on the Sunset Park shoreline was built more than a century ago by biz bigwig Irving T. Bush.

Today, 16 of Bush’s reinforced-concrete buildings comprise a complex that’s called Industry City.

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There’s 6.5 million square feet of space in the buildings. Some of them stand in a row between Third and Second avenues that starts at 37th Street and runs several blocks north. Other buildings are clustered between 39th and 41st streets and Second Avenue and the shore of New York Harbor.

Managing partners Belvedere Capital, Jamestown and Angelo, Gordon & Co. are working to turn the 30-plus-acre complex into an “Innovation Economy hub,” as they call it.

By the way, Jamestown owns Chelsea Market, a Meatpacking District tourist magnet.

Industry City tenants are a mix of manufacturers, artisanal entrepreneurs, tech companies and media businesses. They include the Brooklyn Nets, whose training center is at 168 39th St., and 3-D printer manufacturer MakerBot, which has space at 148 39th St. See related story about the progress of the landlords’ leasing campaign.

Skateboards, fused-glass artwork and a tenant called Mr. Dog

Industry City buildings are accessible to the public. There are shops including Design Within Reach Warehouse, which is located at 219 36th St., and a food hall. The complex has played host to Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg.

We hadn’t paid a visit to the Sunset Park waterfront in a long time, and really wanted to see it again. So the other day, we attended a December holiday market that Industry City sponsored.

There were dozens of the complex’s tenants among its participants, so we got the chance to look at some of the products that are being designed and made at Industry City.

Two furniture maker tenants, Fallen Industry and Grain Control, caught our eye.

The former’s designs are made of wood from fallen trees. The latter’s designs are mid-century modern.

Kaze Kruisers, another Industry City tenant, was selling skateboards that look like works of art on wheels. Their designs are inspired by Japanese culture and street wear.

“Kaze” means “wind” in Japanese, in case you’re wondering.

Ernest Porcelli, an artist with a studio at Industry City, was selling colorful works made of fused glass.

Another tenant, Mr. Dog, displayed chic pet accessories like water bowls made of marble and leather pouches that are poop-bag dispensers.

The holiday market was organized by WantedDesign, which curates a store at Industry City.

Willy Wonka would feel right at home  

We also got a look at Industry City’s food hall, which has an entrance at 254 36th St. Its tenants include popular Brooklyn businesses such as One Girl Cookies and organic ice cream maker Blue Marble.

Ends Meat, a whole-animal salumeria located in the food hall, set up a spit in an Industry City courtyard during the holiday market and roasted a whole pig. Chinese savory-crepe maker Jianbing, which is a big hit at this year’s Smorgasburg at the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, recently opened a location in Industry City’s food hall.

Another food business at Industry City is Li-Lac Chocolates, which was founded in 1923 in Greenwich Village. It has a chocolate factory at 68 35th St. with glass walls so passersby can watch the candy being made, and a store as well.  

Numerous food businesses at the complex are glassed in so other tenants and visitors can see the work they’re doing.

Harry Helmsley was the owner for many years

Though much 21st-century restoration has been done at Industry City, and more is on the way, a sense of history pervades the place.

You can feel it when you stroll the streets that thread through the rows of buildings. Some are cobblestoned. Some are embedded with railroad tracks that hearken back to the days when the complex was a shipping terminal.

The starkly handsome façades of the reinforced concrete buildings, which were designed by British-born architect William Higginson, have old-fashioned appeal.

According to a two-part story by architectural historian Suzanne Spellen, a portion of the land on which Bush Terminal was built had been the site of a small oil refinery that belonged to Irving T. Bush’s father. His dad sold the refinery to Standard Oil, which demolished it.

After his dad’s death, Irving T. Bush purchased the property on which the refinery had stood and opened his shipping terminal. Over the years, he bought additional waterfront land and expanded Bush Terminal.

Bush Terminal played important roles in both World War I and World War II.

After Bush’s death, the complex belonged to the late real-estate mogul Harry Helmsley and his investment partners for many years, city Finance Department records indicate.

Remember his wife Leona Helmsley, the fabled Queen of Mean? Of course you do.

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