Navy Yard

Nanotronics seeks city approval for Navy Yard renovation

Community Board 2 to review plans for Building 20

March 5, 2019 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This conceptual rendering shows a proposed design for the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Building 20, the building with the dark gray roof. Renderings by Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers

Tech manufacturer Nanotronics is expanding its presence at the Brooklyn Navy Yard by turning Civil War-era Building 20 into a modern factory.

“We’re building the foundation for the next industrial revolution,” Nanotronics’ Chief of Staff James Williams told the Brooklyn Eagle.

[Interested in learning more? Community Board 2 is hosting a meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at St. Francis College, where a committee will vote on the proposed design.]

Some elements of the proposed renovation drawn up by Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers were part of Building 20’s original design — like the skylights, Williams said. Windows and arches that had previously been bricked up would be newly opened.

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Some elements of the design are new, such as a clerestory on the side of the building.

According to the Navy Yard’s 2014 application for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, Building 20 was constructed in 1865. Originally, it was an iron plating shop.

Building 20 will be Nanotronics’ second manufacturing flagship, Williams said. The other one is located in Hollister, California.

The company is leasing Building 20 from the Navy Yard for an undisclosed rent. The space is 34,000 square feet, including the area of a mezzanine the company plans to construct.


This rendering shows what the inside of Nanotronics' Building 20 factory would look like.
This rendering shows what the inside of Nanotronics’ Building 20 factory would look like.

Building 20 is in good condition and doesn’t require massive restoration work, Williams said. Nanotronics expects to finish the renovation project and open the factory by the end of the year.

The company hopes the planned manufacturing facility will inspire some of its customers to become Navy Yard tenants.

Nanotronics currently has space in the Navy Yard’s Building 128, in a hub for high-tech entrepreneurs called New Lab, and wants to retain a presence there after opening the Building 20 factory, Williams said.

Community Board 2 will vote on the design

Nanotronics is seeking the approval of the Public Design Commission for its renovation plan for Building 20.

The commission reviews design changes proposed for city-owned properties. The 300-acre Navy Yard belongs to the City of New York.

As a step in the review process, Community Board 2’s Economic Development and Employment Committee will vote on the proposed design on Tuesday evening, District Manager Robert Perris told the Eagle.

Before the vote, Williams and Vince Lee of Rogers Partners will give a presentation about Building 20. The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled for 6 p.m. at St. Francis College (180 Remsen St.) in Brooklyn Heights.

The full community board is scheduled to vote on Building 20’s renovation design on March 13, Perris said.

A mighty microscope

Nanotronics is one of some 400 tenants at the Navy Yard, a burgeoning industrial park that began its existence as a shipyard in 1801.

Some of America’s most important naval vessels were built at the North Brooklyn facility — such as the USS Arizona, which sank in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The shipyard was decommissioned in 1966.

The tech company makes inspection equipment for manufacturers — very sophisticated equipment.

Its nSpec microscope is “self-driving,” meaning it doesn’t need a human being to operate it.

The microscope uses a type of artificial intelligence that trains machines to operate like human brains, a 2018 Wired story says.

This microscope detects minute flaws in polymers, batteries, smartphones, automotive parts, semiconductor wafers and other products.

Nanotronics’ microscopes and other tech were invented to make people’s work easier — not to take their jobs away.

“Our instruments allow humans to be creative. The instruments do the tedious tasks,” Williams said.

Follow Brooklyn Eagle reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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