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Next Steps at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

BWRC hosted its first Breakfast Talk of 2019 on March 15th. Last fall, the Brooklyn Navy Yard publicly released an ambitious Masterplan for the future development and growth of its 200 acre-plus campus. Adam Lubinsky, AICP and Managing Principal of WXY Studios, introduced the community to the civic and physical infrastructure that are included in the Masterplan. Once the largest employer in the five boroughs, the Navy Yard was decommissioned in the 1966 by the federal government as an active defense industry site. Although the city maintained the property and leased some low-cost production space to tenants in the following decades, the ramifications of losing nearly 70,000 jobs had a tremendous impact on the surrounding communities. Since taking over management of the Navy Yard in 1981, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC) has put great efforts into revitalizing manufacturing and creative industries in Brooklyn by leasing production and office space at below-market rates to a variety of tenants.

Competition is already fierce for available space on the campus, and the limited availability also limits the growth, and thus employment, potential of the industries operating there. Currently, about 8,000 jobs are held at Navy Yard firms. All pre-existing buildings have now been rehabilitated and filled, which leaves BNYDC with only one option: to build more. BNYDC and WXY Studios project that with the new buildings, the Navy Yard could host nearly 30,000 jobs. Lubinsky walked the audience through a birds-eye view of the future, highlighting critical design elements like “vertical manufacturing” buildings, pedestrian, ferry, and bike connectivity to the surrounding community, and the integration of social infrastructure like day care, public programming, and educational facilities.

The opening of the Brooklyn STEAM Center (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) in Building 77 earlier this winter marked a watershed moment for innovative public education and career training in New York City. The morning’s second speaker, Katie Beck-Sutler, Vice President of Workforce Development at BNYDC, presented the structure and guiding ethos of the STEAM Center within the Navy Yard. The STEAM Center is managed and run by the Department of Education and pulls junior and senior high school students from eight Brooklyn schools. Students spend a half day taking courses at their base high school, and then spend a half day at the STEAM Center, working closely with industry experts and entrepreneurs in fields like coding, digital design, culinary arts, construction, and media arts. Students receive on-the-job training, industry-recognized credentials, and leave with a portfolio of work that can jump-start their next step after graduation. More importantly, noted Beck-Sutler, students are immersed in a professional environment. In addition to the technical skills they learn in the classroom, students are exposed to the subtle “soft” skills that are critical to career advancement. Working directly with entrepreneurs and firms in the Navy Yard is a huge advantage because it develops a pipeline of talent aligned with industry needs that will benefit both student and employer, encouraging company growth and economic development in Brooklyn.

We’d also like to remind you that on April 12th, BWRC will be hosting its annual conference at CUNY City Tech. “Living in Brooklyn: Housing along the Brooklyn Waterfront” will feature panels discussing affordable housing policy and financing, various development strategies, the role of organizing and tenant’s rights in preserving affordability, and what the future may hold for residents along the waterfront as sea levels and storm surges continue to threaten the viability of housing.