At the edge of Brooklyn there sit two sister shipping warehouses, 160 and 62 Imlay Street, hulking above the East River and one of Red Hook’s industrial areas.
Built in 1913, the loft buildings were part of the New York Dock Company’s expansive network of 39 piers and 200 warehouses, keeping the Brooklyn Waterfront loud and prosperous. Their floors were filled with cotton and tobacco, their halls populated by young men moving shipments up and down the many shafts which pervade the buildings’ interiors. Then, in 1983, due to the quickly dying industry and the buildings’ antiquated structure, all operations came to a screeching halt and the buildings sat quietly, unused.
In 2002, 29 years later, a developer bought both buildings for 22 million, planning to turn 160 Imlay into 144 condos. However, these plans fell through due to a lawsuit from the local Chamber of Commerce seeking to retain the properties for industrial use only. 62 Imlay, on the other hand, was adopted as a storage facility for the up-scale auction house Christie’s. It got a high-tech security reboot (including biometric readers, infrared video cameras, and motion-activated monitors), and now houses private art collections, including works by Pollack, Van Gogh, and Brancusi. Its sister, 160, has been left to fate and sits gutted, derelict, and shrouded in black netting just adjacent to its refurbished sibling.
But oh, what the elements have done with the place. Having been a shipping warehouse, every sprawling floor is a single room, and the place is entirely empty of objects, the floors almost immaculate except for the decay. The whole place has a strange beauty to it, and it is nothing short of a feat that nearly 100 years after 160 Imlay was built, no other structure mars the view from its roof. It is still the tallest building in Brooklyn for miles.