Artists to set up camp in Brooklyn Army Terminal

Non-profit ArtBuilt to open 50 workspaces for artists, artisans and designers in the massive New York City-owned property

By Victoria Stapley-Brown

New York-based artists, designers and artisans will soon have an affordable new place to set up camp: the Brooklyn Army Terminal, a former military supply base built in 1919 along the waterfront in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn-based non-profit ArtBuilt has launched construction work on 50,000 sq. ft of new workspaces on the property, which is owned by the City of New York, as part of a new project, ArtBuilt Brooklyn.

The ArtBuilt Brooklyn spaces will provide affordable long-term leases to around 50 tenants, including individual artists, artisans and set design teams, whose differing needs will be accommodated with spaces ranging in size from 250 sq. ft to 4,000 sq. ft. The future tenants are expected to move in by the end of the year.

This initiative is the result of a market research project that ArtBuilt began at the end of 2015 on prices for studios in industrial neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, such as Gowanus, where hundreds of artists had recently lost their studios due to commercial redevelopment. “This research quickly led us to realise that the affordable workspace market was entering a period of unprecedented crisis,” Esther Robinson, the co-executive director of ArtBuilt, tells The Art Newspaper in an email.

The organisation decided to look for raw industrial space that could be converted into studios, and the most competitive bid came from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) for the Brooklyn Army Terminal space. Such leases are part of New York’s Affordable Real Estate for Artists (AREA) initiative, a joint effort of multiple administrative agencies including the NYCEDC and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to create 500 affordable workspaces across the city for artists over the next decade, which was announced in 2015 by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The new ArtBuilt Brooklyn workspaces have been carved out of three million square feet of usable space on the property designated for lease by tenants from the art-making, manufacturing and emerging industries. The City of New York has invested around $115m to renovate this enormous usable space.

The Brooklyn Army Terminal already houses around 60,000 sq. ft of artist studio spaces run by the arts non-profit Chashama, as well as manufacturers such as the 3-D printing eyewear producer Lowercase and the chocolate maker Jacques Torres. It has also hosted art projects such as the artist Pedro Reyes’s Doomocracy, a political haunted house project staged by Creative Time last autumn.

The ultimate goal of ArtBuilt Brooklyn, and the wider AREA initiative, is to keep artists and innovative businesses in New York—mutually beneficial for these creative professionals, and the city’s economy. “New York would be a poorer place without its small-scale producers,” Robinson and her co-executive director at ArtBuilt, Guy Buckles, say in a statement. “We’re helping these vital but vulnerable economic generators stay in NYC, not just to survive but to flourish, for the benefit of all New Yorkers.”