Sensing impending doom, I took a walk out to the end of the block Friday to explore the ruins of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal. My spider senses must be sharp, as this morning the surveyors and bulldozers set to work on breaking up the lot which fronts on much of what I photographed. Douglaston Development's 'The Edge' - a pair of 40-story residential towers - was slated to begin construction this past spring, and this is the first sign of a groundbreaking.
The BEDT was originated in 1875 as the East River Terminal by the Havemeyer & Elder Sugar Co. (later Domino Sugar) as a railyard that accepted freight cars delivered by float barges from terminals in New Jersey (remember, this predates all East River bridge and tunnel connections). The sugar refining, as well as hundreds of other manufacturing businesses in and around Williamsburg and Greenpoint - not to mention the Brooklyn Navy Yard - needed an efficient way to receive raw materials and ship out finished goods. With the bulk of domestic freight being moved by train in those days, there was a natural efficiency in moving loaded railcars by barge, rather than unloading them onto ships and standard freight barges.
The East River waterfront from North 3rd (including the recently landmarked, then un-landmarked Austin Nichols Warehouse) to North 10th was a bustling railyard from 1875 until August, 1983, when the decades-long decline in rail transportation (due primarily to the boom in interstate trucking) finally led the BEDT to cease operations.
There is a bit of a silver lining here. Those of you who know me are aware of my current obsession with the seemingly asymptotic East River State Park. The New York State Parks Department has held the parcel bounded by Kent Avenue, North 7th, North 9th and the East River for several years, and concurrent to all the contentious post-zoning-change Williamsburg development, has been quietly transforming the plot from a weed-choked dumping ground to a bucolic (er, somewhat rustic) bit of waterfront bliss. In the process, they've uncovered a number of BEDT trackbeds and concrete features that will - at least for the time being - be preserved to puzzle the inevitable legions of recreating hipsters likely to visit the park when it opens (hopefully in the next few weeks).
i'mjustsayin's BEDT photo expedition