The celebrate Black History Month and the 220th birthday at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we are looking at the obstacles and opportunities that Black people encountered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the end of the Civil War through the Yard’s closure a century later. The program will examine the long history of African-Americans in the maritime trades, their systematic exclusion from the uniformed ranks of the US Navy in the Jim Crow era, and the new opportunities that emerged during World War II. We will look at profiles of trailblazers, innovators, and activists who worked and served there, and how the Yard became an important to Black economic and cultural life in Brooklyn. This virtual program follows up where we left off with last year’s “An Unfree Fleet,” which looked at the Yard’s connections to the institution of slavery.
Take a short trip west of New York City to explore a little-known and much misunderstood language and culture: the Pennsylvania Dutch, who aren’t Dutch at all but German. Educator and entertainer Keith Brintzenhoff takes us beyond pork and sauerkraut, hex signs and distelfinks, to learn about this German immigrant community, efforts to preserve its endangered language, and opportunities to celebrate its music, food, and more.
The Canal Society of New Jersey returns to our virtual program as Joe Macasek will share the history of the Delaware & Raritan Canal. While George Macculloch was working to complete his Morris Canal across the highlands of New Jersey, farther south men like Robert Stockton and Robert Stevens competed for control of a route across the narrow waist of the state. This route would give the winner access to potential profits from the coal trade and control of the already lucrative trade route between the country’s two greatest cities, New York and Philadelphia. Stockton wanted a canal and Stevens a railroad. In the end, the state legislature settled their differences by giving them both charters. Rather than compete, they formed a joint company that, for 30 years, monopolized transportation, introduced technical innovation, and wielded enormous political power.
February 23 marks 220 years since the founding of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but 2021 also marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, the non-profit organization that manages the city-owned industrial park. In this birthday celebration, we will look back at the decades-long transformation of the Yard from a military shipbuilding installation into a dynamic and diverse hub of manufacturing, technology, design, and opportunity that hosts more than 500 businesses and 11,000 good-paying jobs. We will be joined by staff from BNYDC, who will share new projects and initiatives, insights on the growth of the Yard in recent years, and how the businesses have navigated the pandemic.
Celebrate the Chinese New Year with our team as we share the history, traditions, and foods of one of the world’s most widely-celebrated holidays. While the actual New Year falls on February 12 this year, the celebrations stretch on for more than three weeks around the holiday. Our staff member Gina Gao will teach us about the mythology of the holiday, how people prepare for the New Year, and the origins of traditions like the red envelopes (hóngbāo) and the Lantern Festival (Yuánxiāo jié). We will also learn about New Year traditions unique to Gina’s hometown of Wuhan, and look at the evolution of celebrations in New York City’s Chinese communities. Though public celebrations are subdued due to the pandemic, we will also go live to Flushing, Queens to see how the community is marking the holiday.
Join us for another virtual boat tour, this time aboard a beautiful motor yacht with our friends at Classic Harbor Line. Starting at Chelsea Piers, we will head down the Hudson, past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and around the northern Upper Bay. Along the way, we will discuss the evolution of the skylines on both sides of the river, highlight the maritime history still visible in the landscape, and share insights on the working of the harbor today.
The Brooklyn waterfront is blessed with many cultural institutions, but three of the most unique are led by three dynamic cultural entrepreneurs. The Brooklyn waterfront is richer because of Andrew Gustafson, Carolina Salguero, and David Sharps, who lead Turnstile Tours, PortSide NewYork, and the Waterfront Museum, respectively. Join the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center for a virtual Breakfast Talk with these entrepreneurs as they speak about how they have been navigating their institutions through the pandemic. After each explains their unique mission, they will tell us what they did to carry on during COVID, how they did it, and which of the changes they have made will be carried into post-pandemic Brooklyn.
We are teaming up with our friend and renowned pizza expert Scott Wiener from Scott’s Pizza Tours to explore the world of mobile pizza and discuss the history and culture of pizza on the street with some special guests. We will be joined by Ernie Wong of Shanghai Mobile Kitchen Solutions, one of the city’s leading fabricators of food carts and trucks, who will teach us about what goes into building and operating a pizza oven on wheels in New York City.
As the country transitions from one presidential administration to another, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is an instructive historical example, as it was founded amidst the rancorous transition from President John Adams to Thomas Jefferson. Over the next 150 years, more than a dozen sitting US presidents would visit the Yard, and on this Presidents Day virtual program, we will examine many of these presidential visits and their historical and political context. From ship launches to campaign speeches to memorial services, presidents have used the Yard as a backdrop for a variety of official duties. And since the establishment of the Navy Department in 1798, the Navy Yards were some of the largest employers of civilians in the federal government, making them important symbols of federal power, and centers of political patronage.
In late 2020, as part of the long-overdue cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, dredging of the toxic sediment began, and photographer, filmmaker, and writer Nathan Kensinger has been there to document it. For more than a decade, Nathan has been recording images and stories of New York City’s waterfront, with a special focus on the industrial landscapes, hidden ecosystems, and environmental challenges of coastal communities. In this conversation, Nathan will show some of his photography and film about the Gowanus and discuss the canal’s environmental history, the cleanup process, and the changing neighborhood around it.