The Navy Yard was established by the federal government in 1801. By the American Civil War, the Yard had expanded to employ about 6000 men. On the eve of World War II, the yard contained more than five miles of paved streets, four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two steel shipways, and six pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work, barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur, as well as the expected foundries, machine shops, and warehouses. In 1938 the Yard employed about ten thousand men, of whom one-third were Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers.
The Yard was the site for the construction of Robert Fulton's steam frigate, Fulton, launched in 1815. In 1890, USS Maine (ACR-1) was launched from the Yard's ways. In 1937 the battleship North Carolina (BB-55) was laid down. The battleship Iowa (BB-61) was completed in 1942. On January 12, 1953, test operations begin on USS Antietam (CVA-36) which emerged in December 1952 from the Yard as America's first angled-deck aircraft carrier.
The Navy decommissioned the Yard in 1966, but it became an area of private manufacturing and commercial activity. Now the Yard has over 200 tenants with more than 3500 employees, and is managed and operated by the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation for the City of New York.
The Yard has three piers, owned by the City of New York and operated by Seatrain Shipbuilding and Coastal Drydock and Repair Corporation, and a total of 10 berths ranging from 350 to 890 feet long, with ten-foot deck height and 25 to 40 feet of depth alongside. A Federal project maintains a channel depth of 35 feet from Throgs Neck to the Yard, about two miles from the western entrance, and thence 40 feet of depth to the deep water in the Upper Bay. Current in the East River is strong and congestion is heavy. Access to the piers requires passage under the Manhattan Bridge (a suspension open with a clearance of 134 feet) and the Brooklyn Bridge (a suspension span with a clearance of 127 feet).
The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation maintains a Web site at http://www.brooklynnavyyard.org/ .