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Industry City

Photo Credit: Julia Wertz

Industry City, once known as Bush Terminal, is a historic shipping, warehousing, and manufacturing complex on the waterfront in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. According to the Encyclopedia of New York City, "Bush Terminal was the first facility of its kind in New York, and the largest multi-tenant industrial property in the United States.”

The Bush Terminal Company managed shipping for all the Bush Terminal tenants, making it the first American example of completely integrated manufacturing and warehousing, served by both rail and water transportation, that operated under a single management system. At its peak, Bush Terminal covered 200 acres bordered by Gowanus Bay to the west and north, 50th Avenue to the south and 3rd Avenue to the east.

Bush Terminal is named after its founder Irving T. Bush. Bush Terminal was unique from other rail-marine terminals in New York due to its distance from Manhattan, the magnitude of its warehousing and manufacturing operations, and its fully integrated nature. Wholesalers in Manhattan faced expensive time, transportation, and labor costs when importing materials and then exporting finished goods. In 1895, Irving T. Bush, along with his father’s company The Bush Co., constructed six warehouses and one pier on the waterfront of South Brooklyn to serve as a freight-handling and manufacturing terminal.

While it took a huge effort on the part of Irving Bush to make the terminal profitable - Railroad officials originally would not ship directly to Brooklyn, and ships were leery of docking at the new pier, the Bush Terminal eventually succeeded and expanded. At it’s peak during WWII the terminal was one of the largest shipping and manufacturing hubs in the region. Irving Bush died in 1948, during the peak of his terminal's success.

Open Images: Bush Terminal c. 1955 - Library of Congress

On December 3, 1956, Bush Terminal was the site of one of the largest explosions in New York City history. Dockworkers accidentally ignited thousands of pounds of ground foam rubber scrap which started a massive fire. Too large to control, the blaze managed to reach a container of Cordeau Detonant Fuse, setting off a massive explosion, that decimated a large portion of the complex.

By 1961, the Bush Terminal Company sold its lower Manhattan headquarters and consolidated its offices at the terminal itself. A real estate group led by Harry Helmsley bought Bush Terminal in 1963.

Due to the decline of the railways after World War II, Bush Terminal Railway finally went defunct in the 1970s, and shipping activity at Bush Terminal also declined after World War II. The introduction of containerized shipping and the construction of the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey hastened the decline of sea traffic to Bush Terminal. While it remained an active shipping terminal until 1974, traffic was low and the port went largely unused.

In 1974, the City of New York Department of Ports and Terminals hired a private company to fill the spaces between Piers 1 through 4 to make space for parking shipping containers. However, filling was stopped in 1978 after reports of environmental violations. New York City officials later learned that toxic wastes including oils and other waste had been dumped at the site. After officially being declared a “Brownfield” waste site in 1979, the entire shipping area of the terminal, including the partially filled in piers, sat vacant until 2006.

However, despite these crippling disasters, the complex maintained 95 percent occupancy through the mid-1970s and even after the Brownfield designation in 1979. In fact, Bush Terminal housed the highest concentration of garment manufacturers in New York City outside of Manhattan during the 1980s and 90s.

In 2006, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NY Governor George Pataki announced a $36 million plan to clean up and redevelop the Bush Terminal piers. Bush Terminal was renamed Industry City in the mid-1980s, and began to attract a diverse mix of businesses encompassing artisans, garment manufacturing, data centers, and warehousing.

Today, Industry City (owned by Industry City Associates) comprises roughly 40 acres of the former Bush Terminal, including 16 original buildings. The 6.5 million square foot complex has undergone, and is still in the process of completing massive renovations to modernize the historic infrastructure. Developers hope to “preserve the industrial heritage of the project for future generations of artisans, craftsmen, and small businesses.”

Industry City set out to attract a very different clientele in 2009 when they built 30,000 sq ft (2,800 m2) of artists' studios and conducting creative events such as film screenings and art installations. Industry City now hosts Brooklyn's Fashion Weekend, a biannual exposition showcasing the work of local and international fashion designers.

Tenants at Industry City include Virginia Dare, Freecell, Fiber Media, Tumbador Chocolate, Paul Chan, Cory Arcangel, Nils Folk Anderson, Andrea Geyer, Jarrod Beck, Tamar Ettun, Julia Dault, Chris Kannen, K8 Hardy, Elizabeth Shelton, Torild Stray, Cara Enteles, Peter Maslow, NEW (non-traditional employment for women), Yona Verwer, Natalia Zubko, Lenore Mizrachi, and street artists Andrew Hermida and Cycle.

A full-scale renovation plan was announced in September 2011. The 10-year program will include repaving the streets that separate the property's buildings, bulkhead renovation to the buildings that line the waterfront, installation of overhead power distribution and buss ducts, and a complete modernization of the property's 150 elevators.

On June of 2014, the Brooklyn Nets announced their plans to move their training center to Industry City. The new facility, known as the Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center (HSS Center), was built on the roof of an empty warehouse in the complex, occupying 70,000 square feet of space and cost roughly $50 million to complete. This and other new developments and tenants in the complex promise to usher in a new era in the former shipping terminal, and, much like Williamsburg in the early 2000's, the affect this has on property values, amenities, and the general landscape of the surrounding neighborhood of Sunset Park is likely to be profound.

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