The Brooklyn Navy Yard and the US Occupation of Haiti, 1915–1934

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWorld War I

As we reflect on the deeper meaning and troubling implication of the US president describing certain foreign countries as “shitholes,” it has also opened an opportunity to think critically about how and why these places became impoverished. Often, European and American imperial intervention – or outright exploitation – played a significant role. While we celebrate the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a center of innovation, labor, and service, we must also recognize its role in projecting American power across the globe, sometimes for less-than-noble ends.

Take Haiti, the world’s first free black republic, founded as the result of a slave rebellion against French colonial rule. Following the revolution, France and the Great Powers attempted to strangle this young nation in the crib, placing trade embargoes and saddling it with astronomical debt. The United State has a long and complicated history with the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, but the height of US involvement was when the American military occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Many of the actions of this military operation originated 1,300 miles away in Brooklyn. (more…)


Archtober Podcast: Brooklyn Grange Farm at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Filed to: ArchitectureBrooklyn Navy YardPressWorld War I

Throughout AIA NY’s Archtober – New York Architecture Month – each day has a “Building of the Day,” which is highlighted with tours and other programming. This year, three of the 29 featured sites are located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, including New Lab, the Naval Cemetery Landscape, and on October 3, the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm. As part of the celebration, our own Andrew Gustafson sat down with Grange COO Gwen Schantz to talk about the farm and the history of the building it sits on, the massive Building 3.

In this 5-minute conversation, they discussed the construction of Building 3 during the height of World War I, past and current uses of the building, and how and why the Grange built their 1.5-acre farm on this 11-story structure. The podcast is featured on Culture Now’s Museum Without Walls project. (more…)


The Great War and NYC: Street Vendors and Public Markets

Filed to: Public MarketsStreet VendingWorld War I

April 6, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the US entry into the First World War. America’s involvement was comparatively brief, yet the war had massive impacts on American society. This year, we will be posting a series of articles about the ways in which the war affected the sites where we work in New York City.


New York City was far removed from the battlefields, occupied territories, and blockaded countries locked in the struggle of the First World War. While many of those places experienced food rationing, shortages, even deadly famines, the US was largely spared these deprivations. Nevertheless, the war was extremely disruptive to the food system of the nation and New York City, leading to the creation of new modes of food distribution to respond to this national crisis. (more…)


The Great War and NYC: Prospect Park

Filed to: Prospect ParkWorld War I

April 6, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the US entry into the First World War. America’s involvement was comparatively brief, yet the war had massive impacts on American society. This year, we will be posting a series of articles about the ways in which the war affected the sites where we work in New York City.


War has played an integral part in the history of Prospect Park. In August 1776, the future site of the Park was a battleground, as American troops tried to stop the British advance in the epochal Battle of Brooklyn. Originally conceived in 1861, the Civil War intervened; this turned out to be a blessing, as the pause gave the Park’s commissioners reason to reconsider the original design – with Flatbush Avenue coursing through the middle of the proposed park – and instead hire the visionary team of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. 50 years into its life, World War I would arrive to alter the Park’s landscape yet again. (more…)


Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: Stanislaw Kozikowski

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWorld War I

This post is part of our eight-part series profiling immigrants to the United States who made significant contributions to the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the eighteenth century to the present day.


Stanislaw Kozikowski (1895–1967)

Stan Kozikowski came to fame as a young man in the First World War, but spent much of his life as an unheralded machinist in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He was born in Poland – then part of the Russian Empire – in 1895 (according to his naturalization record; other records cite 1894 and 1896) and emigrated to the United States in 1912; five years later, about age 21 and not yet a US citizen, he was drafted into the US Army. There he joined the famed 77th “Statue of Liberty” Division, 308th Infantry Regiment, which is where he would demonstrate his remarkable bravery as a member of the “Lost Battalion.” (more…)


Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: Frederick Lois Riefkohl

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWorld War IWorld War II

This post is part of our eight-part series profiling immigrants to the United States who made significant contributions to the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the eighteenth century to the present day.


Frederick Lois Riefkohl (1889–1969)

The histories of Puerto Rico and of the US military are deeply intertwined, and much of that history runs through the career of Frederick Lois Riefkohl, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the US Naval Academy, to win the Navy Cross, and to achieve the rank of rear admiral. Normally we would not consider someone from Puerto Rico an immigrant – they are US citizens – but Reifkohl lived in a complicated time. (more…)


Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: Peter Asserson

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWorld War I

This post is part of our eight-part series profiling immigrants to the United States who made significant contributions to the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the eighteenth century to the present day.


Peter Christian Asserson (1839–1906)

The Brooklyn Navy Yard has always adapted to change. Over its first 165 years, rapid changes in naval ship designs forced the adoption of new shipbuilding technologies, materials, and techniques, and the construction of new facilities. No single person did more to shepherd the Yard through these transitions than Peter Christian Asserson, civil engineer of the Navy Yard from 1885 to 1901. (more…)


Homing Pigeons Return to Brooklyn Navy Yard After 115-Year Absence with “Fly By Night”

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardEventsWaterfrontWorld War I

After a hiatus of 115 years, a vast squadron of homing pigeons has returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

This weekend marks the opening of Fly By Night, an ambitious performance piece by artist Duke Riley and produced by Creative Time. On the deck of the decommissioned naval vessel Baylander, Riley and his team have erected a pigeon coop and assembled some 1,800 birds. After weeks of training and preparations, performances will begin on May 7 and run for six weeks, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at dusk. Each evening, this flock will be released as the sun begins to set, each bearing an LED light on its foot to create a swirling, winged light show above the East River. (more…)