The Real Deal New York

City takes possession of Brooklyn Navy Yard in the 1970s, evictions follow World War II...and more

A look back at some of New York City’s biggest real estate stories

June 01, 2014
By Adam Pincus

1970: City takes possession of Brooklyn Navy Yard

Brooklyn Navy Yard

Brooklyn Navy Yard

The City of New York made a down payment of $2.6 million and formally took ownership of the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard 44 years ago this month.

The commissioner of the city’s Real Estate division handed over the check to the federal government as a deposit on the total price of $22.5 million.

The once-bustling shipbuilding district founded in 1801 had seen the industry decline, from as many as 20,000 workers during World War II to several hundred at the time of the sale. The federal government closed the yard in 1966. It reopened as an industrial park in 1969, managed by the nonprofit Commerce Labor and Industry in the County of Kings. In 1981, that group was replaced by the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp.

At the time of the transfer, the city anticipated employment would return to peak levels at the reconfigured industrial park. But that never occurred. Today, about 7,000 people work there in a range of businesses from Steiner Studios to Brinks armored service.

1946: Post-war real estate caps bring evictions

Midtown Manhattan in 1946

Midtown Manhattan in 1946

A combination of regulations drafted under the economic pressures of World War II and a post-war priority toward residential housing led to evictions of small office tenants in Midtown, 68 years ago this month.

That month, the local committee of the U.S. Civilian Production Administration, which regulated building, cut the weekly total of non-residential construction for the region. The agency was under a directive from Washington to reduce commercial construction in New York by 18 percent, because the federal government wanted to direct scarce building materials to housing construction, the New York Times reported.

The commercial building restrictions, combined with office rent caps, squeezed growing companies that could not lease more space.

Instead, some companies purchased buildings, giving them the right to terminate leases. For example, that month, California Texas Oil Company, a joint venture of the predecessors of Texaco and Chevron, acquired 6 East 45th Street. A few months earlier, the brokerage John J. Reynolds purchased 16 East 49th Street for its own use. Because of the nearly zero vacancy rate, smaller tenants faced shutting down operations when they could not find new space. One broker described the situation as dire: “Something has to explode soon.”

1924: Third Madison Square Garden site acquired

The third incarnation of Madison Square Garden

The third incarnation of Madison Square Garden

A boxing promoter in partnership with circus owner John Ringling and others purchased a former streetcar barn on the West Side 90 years ago this month, where they built the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden. This was the first of four arenas bearing the name to be built outside of Madison Square Park.

George “Tex” Rickard led the group that paid $2 million to the Eighth Avenue Railway Company for the parcel along Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets, in a deal arranged by a Douglas Elliman broker.

The new structure opened in November 1925, with seating for about 17,000 people.

The original Madison Square Garden opened in 1879, the second in 1890, both adjacent to the park. The second was designed by famed architect Stanford White and was a striking example of the rich Beaux-Arts style, but property owner New York Life Insurance demolished it in 1925 to make way for its iconic gold-pyramid topped office tower.

The Eighth Avenue structure was demolished in 1968, when MSG’s latest incarnation opened above Pennsylvania Station. Developer William Zeckendorf Jr. purchased the third Garden site in 1984 for what would become Worldwide Plaza.

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