Industry City in Sunset Park

Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn is known for its plethora of design stores and innovative dining locations, set within a predominantly minority community of Chinese and Hispanic residents. Visitors have the opportunity to shop at one of its more than fifty retail locations, including outlets for ABC Carpet & Home, Restoration Hardware and Design Within Reach, before taking time to relax in its courtyards which offer access to mini-golf, fire pits, and outdoor yoga classes. The facility also serves as a prime location to view thought-provoking public art installations, listen to live Latin music, and participate in workshops.

Yet, the complex’s past life is ever-present in the architecture. Known in the past as Bush Terminal, Industry City is the result of a transformation of a historic shipping and manufacturing complex located on the Upper New York Bay waterfront. Founded during the 1890s, Bush Terminal quickly helped to transform Brooklyn into a major international seaport—employing over 25,000 workers at its peak. Due to Bush Terminal’s railroad connection with the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the mainland United States, the facilities came to be utilized by the United States Navy as a base during World War I. It would later be revealed in a 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article that during the war, Bush Terminal had handled around 70% of the ammunition, clothing, and food that was shipped overseas to American soldiers. Around the early 1950s, the terminal’s buildings began to be advertised as Industry City, in reference to how Bush Terminal had become one of the first industrial parks in the United States. However, following the end of World War II, the terminal’s shipping activity began to decline with the introduction of containerized shipping and the construction of the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey, leading to a 50-year period of divestment and decay. 

The facility was purchased by Belvedere Capital Real Estate Partners and Jamestown Properties in 2013. A $450 million redevelopment project was launched, turning Industry City into a manufacturing, office, and commercial hub. Today, Industry City comprises 16 buildings across 35 acres of repurposed industrial space. From having been the site of one of New York City’s largest explosions to containing the training facilities for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Industry City houses countless secrets ready to be discovered.

1. Industry City was the site of one of New York City’s largest explosions

Aerial view of pier 5 at Bush Terminal
Aerial view of pier 5 at Bush Terminal. Courtesy of Historic American Engineering Record (Library of Congress).

On December 3, 1956, the flagship dock of the Bush Terminal cargo shipping complex, located at the end of 35th Street, was the site of one of New York City’s largest explosions. At 3:15 p.m., longshoremen on the north end of the pier were using a torch to repair cargo-handling equipment when sparks and bits of metal began to fall to the ground. This ignited a pile of flammable foam rubber which quickly spread across the pier. Though firefighters arrived quickly to help mitigate the damage, thick black smoke created from the burning rubber made the fire difficult to contain. Unbeknownst to the four fire boats at the scene, 37,000 pounds of Primacord, a ropelike material typically used in controlled detonations, was located close to the fire.

Around 30 minutes later at 3:41 p.m., the detonation material caught fire and a large explosion eviscerated the southern midsection of the pier, launching steel beams half a mile into the distance and rattling buildings all the way in Lower Manhattan. In addition, the explosion was so powerful it was heard over 35 miles away. None of the firefighters present were injured by the explosion as the debris was projected over their heads. However, the same could not be said for individuals located 1,000 feet or more away from the center of the blast. Overall ten people were killed and 247 were injured—many of which occurred when the accompanying shock wave to the explosion shattered glass up to a mile away. In a 2016 New York Times article, Tony Cuccia, recalled his experience of the explosion as a young boy, ultimately learning that his father was attempting to help open the door so people could escape from the fire when the explosion occurred, killing him. Inspired by his father’s heroism, Cuccia went on to become a paramedic and later joined the New York Police Department, which he retired from in 2002.