Bush Terminal

Bush Terminal now known as Industry City is a large and historic complex of piers, docks, warehouses, factories, and rail sidings on 200 acres (810,000 m2) on the waterfront of Brooklyn, New York City. It was designed as a massive intermodal shipping, warehousing, and manufacturing center and rail-marine terminal and was the first facility of its kind in New York.

Part of the neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Bush Terminal covered 200 acres (abut 81 hectares) at its peak. It is bounded by Upper New York Bay's Gowanus Bay to the west and north, by 3rd Avenue to the east, and—at its peak—between 27th Street, Brooklyn to the north and 50th Street to the south.

The terminal was the largest of its kind in the world, served as an intermodal hub for railways and cargo ships, and as a model for other integrated cargo facilities. The Bush Terminal Co. handled all the shipping for tenants of the buildings within the facility. It was the first American example of completely integrated manufacturing and warehousing, served by both rail and water transportation, under a unified management, as well as the largest multi-tenant industrial property in the United States.

1895-1902: Concept and Beginnings

Bush Terminal is named after its founder Irving T. Bush, whose family name comes from Jan Bosch, born in the Netherlands who immigrated to New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1662.. Bush Terminal is thus in no way related to the Bush political family.

What set Bush Terminal apart from other rail-marine terminals in New York was 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 and then re-sending goods. So in 1895, Irving T. Bush, working under the name of his family's company, The Bush Co., organized six warehouses and one pier on the waterfront of South Brooklyn as a freight handling terminal. There had only been one warehouse on the site in 1890 , and before that, the land contained an oil refinery belonging to the Bush & Denslow company of Rufus T. Bush, Irving T. Bush's father. Standard Oil bought this refinery in the 1880s and dismantled it, but after Rufus T. Bush's death in 1890, Irving T. Bush later bought the land back using his father's inheritance.

The terminal in its early days was derided as "Bush's Folly." Railroad officials would not ship directly to Brooklyn, which required the extra cost of loading freight cars on car floats for the trip across New York Harbor to the ferry slips at the terminal, unless they first had orders of freight. Irving T. Bush resorted to sending an agent to Michigan with instructions to buy 100 carloads of hay, then to attempt to have the hay sent in its original railcar to Bush's terminal in Brooklyn. Eastern railroad companies declined their western agents' request to send the hay, until eventually, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad agreed to accept the offer and negotiate directly with the new terminal. Other railways followed.

To demonstrate that ocean vessels could (and should) dock at the piers, Irving T. Bush leased ships and entered the banana business (and made a profit while doing so). Likewise, to induce businesses to store goods at his terminal's warehouses, he warehoused coffee and cotton himself.

Once Bush Terminal succeeded and expanded, sources credited Bush's "keen foresight" for undertaking such a "quixotic" business venture.

1902 through World War II: Expansion and Zenith

The Bush Company terminal business became the Bush Terminal Co. in 1902 when Irving T. Bush bought the land from the Standard Oil Co. The warehouses were built circa 1892-1910, the railroad from 1896 to 1915, and the factory lofts between 1905 and 1925

Together, Bush Terminal offered economies of scale for its tenants, so that even the smallest concerns had available to them the type of facilities normally only available to large, well-capitalized firms..

As of 1918, Bush Terminal owned 3,100 feet (944 m) of waterfront in Brooklyn and covered 20 waterfront blocks. Seven piers extended over 1,200 feet (370 m) into the harbor and were at least 150 feet (46 m) wide. Each pier was enclosed. Twenty-five steamship lines used these piers, and as of 1910, Bush Terminal handled 10 per cent of all steamships arriving at New York. Eventually, Bush Terminal handled fifty thousand railroad freight cars and had eight piers that docked vessels from 25 steamship lines.

Once freight was offloaded from vessels or ready for shipment, it could be stored within one of 118 warehouses, ranging in height from one to eight stories. Together, they could hold 25,000,000 cubic feet (708,000 cubic meters) of goods.

The company operated the Bush Terminal Railroad Co., which had about twenty miles (32 km) of track within the terminal. The terminal's railroad greatly reduced shippers' cost to haul freight from their facilities to a railyard. The rail yard could hold about 1,000 freight cars and was six blocks long. The terminal also owned two miles (3 km) of track through Brooklyn to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad.(See also List of streetcar lines in Brooklyn.)

The twelve buildings for manufacturers that had been built by 1918 housed about 300 companies. The buildings, which had 150 freight elevators were mostly u-shaped to facilitate loading at rail sidings. To give an example of Bush Terminal's scale, as of the 1970s, the facility's buildings had 263,740 window panes in their walls and 138 miles (222 km) of fire sprinklers running within them. The terminal had two power plants for steam and light, plus a bank, restaurants, and even a trolley to provide transportation for workers. In addition to a hall for longshoremen, an administration building was constructed circa 1895 to 1902.

World War I

The U.S. Navy first commandeered the piers and warehouses of the Bush Terminal Co. on Dec. 31, 1917. By June 1918, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and later President of the United States) Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to Irving T. Bush to tell him that the Navy would also be commandeering four of Bush Terminal's twelve manufacturing buildings, meaning that 64 manufacturers employing 4,500 people would have to vacate. The United States Navy tied its rail lines into those of the Bush Terminal in 1918 Irving T. Bush not only complied, but he helped to design its southern neighbor, the Brooklyn Army Terminal in 1918. The Federal Government quietly returned Bush Terminal to private ownership after the war.

The Interwar Years

Bush Terminal was an integral part of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The terminal's fortunes rose with those of the borough of Brooklyn, which had more than 2.5 million residents by 1930. The terminal employed thousands directly and many thousands more worked for firms within Bush Terminal.

Besides its own police force, fire department, rail system, steam and power plants, and deep water piers, workers in the terminal created their own system of courts as a form of self-policing.

Though Bush Terminal Company went into receivership during the Depression, operations continued relatively unaltered through the 1930s.

Structures Outside Brooklyn

Early in the century, the Bush Terminal Company commissioned architects Kirby, Petit, and Green to design its headquarters building in Manhattan at 100 Broad St (at the intersection with Pearl and Bridge streets). The relatively small yet notable five-story office building was located on the site of Manhattan's first church (from 1633) and featured a "Gothic design with a strong flavor of Dutch."

The terminal also funded construction of Bush Tower, a 30-story skyscraper near Times Square in Manhattan, where tenants of Bush Terminal were offered display space to showcase their goods, above a club for buyers visiting New York.

The Bush Terminal Company attempted a similar melding of commercial displays and social space at Bush House in London, built in three phases during the 1920s, but the concept was not fully carried through at that project.

World War II

During World War II, Bush Terminal buildings were again seized by the federal government for war use and as a focus for the shipment of goods overseas. Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign swing around New York City on Oct. 21, 1944 started at the Brooklyn Army Base and adjacent Bush Terminal.

Since World War II:

Sunset Park began to suffer economic decline even before World War II, due to the Great Depression, the end of the 3rd Avenue elevated line and the 1941 construction and widening of the Gowanus Expressway.

After the war, "white flight," the maritime industry's move to New Jersey, and the deactivation of the Brooklyn Army Terminal from the 1970s (until its reopening in as a industrial park in 1987) also hurt the neighborhood.

But this decline did not greatly affect Bush Terminal. Though its piers are now defunct and its rail system is much smaller than it was before World War II (nor is it operated by Bush Terminal), the buildings and warehouses at Bush Terminal did not suffer the abandonment so common across the United States after World War II.

Irving T. Bush died in 1948 and a statue to him was dedicated in 1950 at Bush Terminal's Brooklyn administration building by his niece Helen Tunison in front of 3,000 notables and terminal employees.

Shortly thereafter, starting in the early 1950s and continuing into the 1960s, the Topps company of chewing gum and baseball card fame, produced baseball cards at Bush Terminal. Topps moved production to Pennsylvania in 1965 and its offices to Manhattan in 1994.

By 1961, the Bush Terminal Company sold its lower Manhattan headquarters building (which was soon demolished) and consolidated its offices at the terminal itself.

A real estate group led by Harry Helmsley (husband of the infamous Leona Helmsley) bought Bush Terminal in 1963. The complex maintained 95 percent occupancy through the middle of the 1970s, when 25,000 people were employed by the terminal company or firms located there. Renamed Industry City, by the mid-1980s, Bush Terminal housed the highest concentration of garment manufacturers in New York City outside of Manhattan. Even in the 1990s, the terminal offered 6,500,000 square feet (604,000 m2) of floor space (about 600,000 square meters) in 16 buildings that were as tall as twelve stories, and buildings at the site were still mostly occupied.

Industry City is currently owned by Industry City Associates. Industry City consists of a diverse mix of businesses that encompasses more traditional industry such as garment manufacturing, data centers and warehousing to a growing base of creative businesses. In 2009, Industry City made a concerted effort to attract artists by building 30,000 sq ft (2,800 m2) of artist studios, and conducting creative events such as art raves and film screenings as well as providing space for a temporary contemporary art museum, titled Marion Spore

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.

Bush Terminal Railways

Due to the decline of the railways after World War II, Bush Terminal Railway went defunct in the 1970s, its operations continued by the New York Dock Railroad. As of 2006, the car floats and Bush Terminal Rail Yard are operated by New York New Jersey Rail, LLC and used occasionally to deliver New York City Subway cars via the South Brooklyn Railway.

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.

Prior to 1974, Bush Terminal was still an active port facility, with vessels that docked between its piers. 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. Filling however was halted in 1978 after reports of environmental violations. New York City officials later learned that toxic wastes including oils, oil sludges, and wastewaters had been dumped at the site, making the four piers a polluted brownfield. In 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki announced a $36 million plan to clean up and redevelop the Bush Terminal piers. The plan included a $17.8 million grant from the state of New York, the largest single grant New York state had ever awarded to clean a brownfield site.


Bush Terminal was not only one of the first and largest integrated cargo and manufacturing sites in the world, it served as a model for other industrial parks, offered employment to thousands, and is the home of many businesses today. Besides funding other important buildings such as a Bush Tower and Bush House, it served during both World Wars, influenced the design of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and affected the growth of Brooklyn and New York City. The later South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, also owned by EDC, occupies the waterfront to the north, from 39th to 29th Streets.

Building Activity

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