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Brooklyn Army Terminal Railway - Military Railroads of the New York Metropolitan Area

MILITARY RAILROADS
OF THE NEW YORK METROPOLITAN AREA:


BROOKLYN ARMY TERMINAL /
A
RMY TRANSPORT CENTER

Owl's Head / Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

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updated:
MONDAY, 18 JUNE 2012 - 14:10


Chapters exanded 18 June 2012
GE locomotives and Ohio Locomotive cranes added to rosters 31 January 2012
1947 Fallen Soldier from ETO Repatriation
#7896 loco added to roster
17 June 2011

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Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) #NY202
The original providence of the map is given as Engineering News Record 1919.
BAT property annotated by author.

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Overview

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   The Brooklyn Army Terminal began construction commencing in March 1918, for the purpose of supply base and depot. Construction was completed in just 17 months, by Septemer 1919, and comprised of 5,000,000 square feet.

   The design of the facility was highly innovative for its time. The complex is constructed of girder-less, steel reinforced concrete slabs and included 96 centrally-controlled push-button elevators, the largest elevator installation of its time.

   Furthermore, the entire complex is interconnected, with three "skybridges" on the third floor linking the two main building structures. The larger of the two buildings featured a huge skylight-enclosed atrium equiped withn enclosed rail service, and the smaller building was joined to the atrium by three covered piers.

   The Brooklyn Army Terminal (shown above bordered in red), is part of the New York Port of Embarkation, and was formerly known as the Brooklyn Army Base (1918-1959), and was also known as the New York General Depot, and Army Transport Base. It was also known as U.S. Army Military Ocean Terminal.

   The "BAT" is located in the Owls Head section of Brooklyn, with the main entrance located at 58th Street and First Avenue.

   The City of New York purchased the property from the federal government in 1981.

   The BAT was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The NRHP listing includes 11 contributing buildings on an area just over of 97 acres.   

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Property Acquistion & Construction

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   Mentioned in the New York Times, is that the government "requisitioned" warehouses and property from Irving Bush, (as part of Bush Terminal) on or about January 1, 1918:

 "He said (Mr. Bush) that the War Department had decided that it needed a base such as the Bush Terminal furnishes and had consequently determined to take it. The facilities of the Bush Terminal will make it possible for the government to concentrate it supplies in the warehouse which are adjacent to the piers where the supply ships will be loaded."

   The structures of the Brooklyn Army Terminal was designed by none other that Cass Gilbert (architect of the Woolworth building among other structures). Gilbert, is best known for his Beaux Arts and Gothic building styles, was BAT’s principal architect. Gilbert also designed the Unite States Custom House, the Broadway Chambers Building, the Essex County Courthouse and the highly-acclaimed Gothic skyscraper, the Woolworth Building.

   BAT’s modern utilitarian style was markedly different from Gilbert’s previous work. Nevertheless, the structure has been recognized by modern architects the world over for its powerful aesthetic and highly functional form.


Port of Embarkation

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   During World War II; the Brooklyn Army Terminal was used as a Point of Embarkation for outgoing troops as well.

   BAT was most heavily trafficked during WWII, during which 56,000 military and civilian personnel were employed there. Over three million troops and 37 million tons of military supplies passed through the facility.

   Arguably the most famous soldier to deploy from BAT was Elvis Presley. He greeted fans and a dozens of photojournalists in September of 1958 when he shipped off from Brooklyn to Germany.


September 1958
photos by Alfred Wertheimer

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Facilities

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   The following photo (looking north) shows the property and structure arrangement of the Brooklyn Army Terminal very well.

   It should be noted the railroad yard to the right of the photo (running vertical) belongs to Brooklyn Army Terminal. However, the railroad yard at the bottom and the float bridge gantries at the bottom left corner of the photo is the 65th Street / Bay Ridge Yard of the New York, New Haven & Hartford RR / Long Island Rail Road. Bush Terminal is at the top center of the photo.


Brooklyn Army Terminal -1931
Fairchild Aerial Survey Photo
New York State Library archives

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   The Brooklyn Army Terminal is comprised of two huge warehouses and 3 covered multistory piers: Building 'B' (east and the wider of the two) and Building 'A' (west). Building 'A' is 980 feet x 200 feet wide and eight stories in height. Building B is 980 feet by 300 feet and eight stories high with an interior court 66 feet wide (with platforms and through tracks).

   Dimensions for the ancillary buildings are as follows: heating plant, 137 feet by 88 feet with 225 foot smokestack and the administration building with a huge cafeteria and kitchen area (204 feet x 64 feet).

   Building 'B' is connected to Building 'A' by three enclosed skybridges 150 feet long allowing matériel to be moved from building to building without being exposed to weather or hindering street traffic.

   Building 'A' is connected by skybridges 260 feet long to the three covered "double deck" piers which are 1300 feet long by 150 feet wide. To the south of the covered piers there was also a single open pier 1300 feet by 60 feet wide, but this pier was not connected to any of the structures.

   The skybridges from Building 'B' to Building 'A' and the skybridges from Building 'A' to the piers are in line with one another, and there are ninety freight elevators in banks of 6, 8 and 10. The elevators are of 10,000 lb capacity so freight movements between structures and piers is quick and efficient.

   Slip dimensions between the piers are 250 feet wide and the piers could accommodate at least 12 ships of 8000 ton capacity at one time, and all could be unloaded within 24 hours. 

   It is stated that within 90 days from the day of opening, the BAT was filled to capacity! A short list of the items housed are: millions of uniforms, overcoats, hats, shoes, thousands of yards of khaki cloth, muslin, and fabric sheeting. Some small arms, medical equipment, artificial arms & legs, millions of pounds of bacon, sugar, canned fruits, fish, meats, vegetables, tea, coffee, prunes, beans, candy and other delicacies destined for fighting personal, were warehoused at the Brooklyn Army Terminal.

   After the war, a vast majority of these surplus items were released through the Government Public Market.

   Joe DeMay, a collector of images of piers and wharves in the New York Harbor area, forwarded the following image:



September 6, 1946
International News photo
courtesy of J. DeMay
added 29 June 2010

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Repatriation of Fallen Soldiers of WWII

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   One of the more somber and poignant tasks the Brooklyn Army Terminal has been used for, was it being the point of arrival of the remains of 5200 fallen servicemen from the European Theater of Operations after World War II.

   In November 1947, these soldiers were disintered from a cemetery in Belgium and were repatriated to the United States. The ship carrying the caskets docked at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and the caskets transferred to US Army Transportation Corps Mortuary Cars. Following the completion of loading,  the cars were brought from the Army Terminal to Bush Terminal float bridges by a Bush Terminal locomotive and crew. Then, they were placed onboard Bush Terminal Carfloats #44 and 41 and were floated west to Greenville, NJ.

   Clicking on the following image will bring you to the collection of images once seen in an issue of Life Magazine. A link at the bottom of that page or the back arrow on your browser will return you here:

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   Fortunately, almost all of the Brooklyn Army Terminal structures still exists to this day; but the piers have been torn down. The buildings have since been converted to civilian & commercial applications, including an annex to a local hospital. 

   The following image is looking south along First Avenue from the main gate. Crossing First Avenue are the skybridges from Building 'B' (on the left) to Building 'A' (on the right). The arched bridge on the right side of the photo led from Building 'A' to the Administration Building.

   Those tracks in the foreground lead to Bush Terminal. The New York New Haven & Hartford / Long Island Railroad 65th Street Yard (out of view) is past the Army Terminal buildings in the background:

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Trackage & Rail Service

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   The following schematic, shows the Brooklyn Army Terminal trackage (in green) in relationship to the other railways in the area: Bush Terminal (in red) and the New York, New Haven & Hartford / Long Island Rail Road Bay Ridge Division (in brown) and via the Bush Terminal, the South Brooklyn Railway (in blue).

   Please keep in the mind the schematic is not to scale, and is a composite representation of all the railways and industries in the area throughout the twentieth century, although not all industries may have operated at the same time as others.

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   The Brooklyn Army Terminal utilized a track layout of modest proportions with a aggregate amount of trackage totalling 17 miles, and could house over 1,250 cars of 40' length and by referencing the map below, we can discern that the Brooklyn Army Terminal property actually contained nine railyards.

   The Brooklyn Army Terminal trackage could be accessed by locomotives on the Bay Ridge Division of the New York New Haven & Hartford / Long Island Railroad's Bay Bridge Branch at the southeastern corner of it's property, and by the Bush Terminal Railroad at the north end of the property.

   The following image shows the extensive trackage layout at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the adjacent Long Island Rail Road /New York & New Haven Railroad 65th Street Yard:


Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) #NY202
The original providence of the map is given as Engineering News Record 1919.
BAT property annotated by author

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   What make the Brooklyn Army Terminal unique in terms of  railroad operations, is that one of the buildings constructed at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, "Building B"; incorporated two indoor tracks with platforms 740 feet long for a total capacity of 50 cars. This structure was also equipped with three overhead cranes with a clear height of 101 feet.

   The entire interior of this loading dock and trackage was covered by a glass skylight, which permitted operations in the daytime without the need for artificial light and in all types of weather. This indoor loading / unloading area also provided security for "sensitive" or secret matériel.

   The staggered platforms (balconies) seen on the left and right sides of the following two photos allowed for cranes to pick up or deliver items from various levels without interference from the floor above. Moveable bridges which spanned the individual tracks could be relocted anywhere needed, which provided greater loading & unloading flexbility. One these bridge can be seen immediately infront of the box car on the right track under the word "Public" in the watermark.


Brooklyn Army Terminal - January 10, 1945
"These freight cars are being unloaded in 'the well' of one of the huge Army Transportation Corps warehouses
at the Brooklyn Army Base Terminal [located on Second Avenue from 58th Street to 65th Street],
an installation of the New York Port of Embarkation."

US Army Signal Corp photo
Brooklyn Public Library archives

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Brooklyn Army Terminal - October 1949
"Off-loaded freight from box cars being hoisted up to jutting loading platforms at Brooklyn Army Base."
Andreas Feininger photo
Life Magazine archives

added 21 Dec 2008


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   Some research for this chapter by Paul Strubeck, reflects that the majority of car movements within the BAT were administered to by the motive power of the Long Island Rail Road, but little information and no photos have surfaced in regard to these Long Island Rail Road movements.

   Beginning in 1941, locomotive builders records reflect several entries for locomotives acquired for specific use at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. As far as can be ascertained, the BAT would employ the use of their own dedcated locomotives through the late 1950's possibly ealry 1960's, howevera an exact date on which BAT gave up their own locomotive operations current eludes us.

   According to Joe Roborecky, when New York Dock assumed operations of Bush Terminal in 1972, New York Dock leased trackage rights within the Brooklyn Army Terminal from the City of New York of whom by this date owned the Brooklyn Army Terminal property.

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Locomotives

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   The builders records of the Plymouth Locomotive Works, show a 3 1/2 ton Model HL - Type 2 36" gauge locomotive, construction number 3213, built 5/17/29; being sent to the BAT from Raritan Arsenal, NJ. This locomotive is not marked for export either. Until this locomotives usage at the BAT can be proved or disproved, I have listed it for reference.   

   As all trackage as constructed and in place within the BAT, is of standard gauge width, it is left to ponder why a narrow gauge loco was sent to the BAT, unless there was a narrow gauge trolley system set up in one of the warehouses.

   Coming to light in December 2009, is a revealing notation on Long Island Rail Road track maps drawn by Robert Emery. I happen to be referencing the Bay Ridge Branch maps in my research on some of the industrial customers along that route, when I happened across the notation:

   "All tracks within fence - property of U.S. Army, who does own switching with its diesel loco"

   Below is the map and I have highlighted the notation and the fenced area:


R. Emery map
courtesy of S. Lynch

added 16 Dec 09

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   The following photo is from the Brooklyn Army Terminal history archives. It is undated and looking north. It shows a General Electric 80 tonner on the left track and a Ingersoll-Rand (which can be determined by the square shape of the nose and headlight mounted on top of the hood), on the right track. The Ingersoll without any doubt is of the Bush Terminal locomotive stable, but the 80 ton could either be military owned or owned by Bush Terminal (as Bush Terminal acquired their first 80 ton locomotive circa 1947)

   In either case, all evidence surfacing now points to the fact that Brooklyn Army Terminal did indeed have a locomotive on premises to switch cars in their railyard.


added 25 Oct 2008

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   .Lapse forward to 17 June 2011, when Paul Strubeck sends a link pertaining to a series of image taken when 5200 fallen servicemen were repatriated from a cemetery in Belgium to the United Stated. In several of these images, a U. S. Army locomotive is seen shifting the US Army Transportation Corps Mortuary Cars the Brooklyn Army Terminal!

   Just as fortunate, it the images clearly show the locomotive and number: A General Electric 80 tonner with U. S. A. 7896 on the cab...

   Yet another revelation, seen in the images below; is that the overhead catenary from New York, New Haven & Hartford / Long Island Railroad's 65th Street Yard leads into the Brooklyn Army Terminal and even partially northward up First Avenue (completely within the Brooklyn Army Terminal property). Undoubtedly, this would allow for NYNH&H RR overheead electric powered locomotives to interchange within the Brooklyn Army Terminal.


US Army #7896 pulls loaded Mortuary Cars south out of  Brooklyn Army Terminal east yard - November 1947
November 1947

photographer: Michael Rougier
Life Magazine archives

added 17 June 2011

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US Army #7896 pulls loaded Mortuary Cars south out of  Brooklyn Army Terminal east yard - November 1947

November 1947
photographer: Michael Rougier
Life Magazine archives

added 17 June 2011

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US Army #7896 pulls loaded Mortuary Cars south out of  Brooklyn Army Terminal east yard - November 1947
photographer: Michael Rougier
Life Magazine archives

added 17 June 2011

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US Army #7896 shoving the loaded Mortuary Cars north on First Avenue to interchange with Bush Terminal Railroad - November 1947
Note the overhead catenary permitting NYNH&H RR electric locomotives to venture this far into BAT property!

photographer: Michael Rougier
Life Magazine archives

added 17 June 2011

   Thanks to the research and generousity of John Taubeneck, he has furnished a roster of both GE locomotives and railway cranes of assorted manufacturet that are list by the Brooklyn Army Terminal.

   It is confirmed that locomotive #7864 and #7896 were in fact assigned to and operated at Brooklyn Army Terminal. #7449 may also operated at this location as well. These three locomotives are highlighted in the table below.

   Other locomotives listed may have simply been ordered and shipped to and from the Brooklyn Army Terminal for forwarding to their final shipping destination.

Brooklyn Army Terminal Locomotive Roster


builder

c/n
build
date

gauge
model wheel
arrangement
wheel
dia

acquired

number / name

disposition

notes
ref
Plymouth 3213 5/17/1929 36" 3½T HL2 B new     from Raritan Arsenal, NJ [6][a]
Plymouth 3902 5/26/1937 60" 8T DLL 2 B new     War Dept [6][b]
Plymouth 3903 5/27/1937 60" 8T DLL 2 B new       [6][b]
Plymouth 4069 11/15/1940 std. 45T KC B or
B - B?
new USA #7426 to Camp Claiborne, LA;
for sale 2/1946
300 hp? [6][c]
GE 13142 10/14/1941 std. 60 Ton
off center cab
B-B used
USA QMC #6042
USA #7501,
USA CoE
Brooklyn Army Base,
Bay Ridge, NY

Ringwood Iron #7501, Ringwood, NJ;
Carbon Limestone #D-11. Bessemer, Pa
CB ENL-8
120/120-4GE838
D/E 420hp
GE 15091 1/23/1942 std. 60 Ton
off center cab
B-B used
USA QMC #6005;
USA #7506,
52nd Coast Artillery,
Ft. Hancock, NJ
;
USA #7506,
Brooklyn Army Base,
Jersey City, NJ
Ringwood Iron Mine #7506. Ringwood, NH;
Carbon Limestone #D-12. Bessemer, Pa
CB ENL-8
120/120-4GE838
D/E 420hp
GE 15092 1/23/1942 std. 60 Ton
off center cab
B-B used
USA QMC #6004;
USA #7505,
52nd Coast Artillery,
Ft. Hancock, NJ
;
USA #7505, Quartermaster Depot, Jeffersonville, IN;
Continental Steel #106, Kokomo, Ind
CB ENL-8
120/120-4GE838
D/E 420hp
GE 15093 1/23/1942 std. 60 Ton
off center cab
B-B used
USA QMC #6006;
US Army #7507,
52nd Coast Artillery,
Ft. Hancock, NJ
US Army #7507, 830th AAF Depot, Memphis, TN;
For sale – War Assets Administration 2/1948
American Steel Foundries #9G5 > #5, Alliance, OH;
Alliance Castings #5, Alliance, OH;
Portage County Fairgrounds, Randolph, OH
(Donation – Deal Not Completed);
Mahoning Vly RR Hstrc'l Assn, Youngstown, OH - On Display

CB ENL-8
120/120-4GE838
D/E 420hp
GE 17891 7/16/1943 std. 65 Ton
center cab
B-B new? USA #7177,
Brooklyn Army Air Base, Jersey City, N J
US Dept of Corrections #7177, Lorton, VA “Lorton & Occoquan RR”;
Birmingham Rail & Loco (Dlr), Birmingham, AL;
Florida Steel, Tennessee Steel Div, Jackson, TN
Birmingham Steel Corp #YD-02, Seattle, WA
Nucor Steel #YD-02, Seattle, WA
HBIS-600
130/130-4HM838
D/E 400hp (2)
GE 17910 6/21/1943 std. 80 Ton
center cab
B-B 38” new USA #7449,
Brooklyn Army Base,
Brooklyn, NY
US Dept of Energy, Mississippi Test Site,
Lamar County, MS;
River Terminal Development #6, Kearney, NJ
LI-600 (2)
D/E 500 hp
160/160-4HM833
GE 18014 8/3/1943 std. 80 Ton
center cab
B-B 38" new US A #7864,
Brooklyn Army Base,
Brooklyn, NY
Bush Terminal #88, Brooklyn, NY
New York Dock #88, Brooklyn, NY
Naparano Iron & Metal, Newark, NJ
(scrapped @  Bush Terminal)
LI-600 (2)
D/E 500 hp
160/160-4HM833
GE 18061
11/6/1943

std.

80 Ton
center cab
B-B 38" new USA #7896
Brooklyn Army Base,
Brooklyn, NY
Erman Corp, Turner, KS
North Carolina State Port Authority #L-5,
Wilmington, NC
LI-600 (2)
D/E 500 hp
160/160-4HM833
US Army order
#281-3105-
Model IIA2 (Reed)
 
GE 31349 7/18/1952 std. 80 Ton
center cab
B-B 38" new US Army #1642,
Brooklyn Army Base,
Staten Island, NY
New Cumberland General Depot, New Cumberland, PA - for -
US Army #1642, Brooklyn Army Base, Staten Island, NY
US Navy #65-00502,
Naval Supply Depot, Bayonne, NJ
US Army #1642,
Ellwood Ordnance Plant, Ellwood, IL
US Army #1642, Iowa Ammunition Plant, Middletown, IA
US Army #1642, Red River Army Depot, New Boiston, TX
NHBIS
D/E 400hp
Cummins (2)
160/160-4GE747

Locomotive Footnotes
[a] Fate - Root - Heath / Plymouth Locomotive sales records indicate this locomotive was ordered by the Raritan Arsenal, Metuchen, NJ, and shipped to the Brooklyn Army Base, Brooklyn, NY.
[b] Fate - Root - Heath / Plymouth Locomotive sales records indicate these two locomotives were ordered by the War Department, Washington, DC ansd shipped to the New York Port of Embarkation, Bay Ridge Station, Brooklyn, NY. These locomotives may have been for export to an overseas military facility.
[c] Fate - Root - Heath / Plymouth Locomotive sales records indicate this locomotive was ordered by the War Department, QMCUSA, Washington DC, and shipped to Port Quartermaster, U.S. Army, Brooklyn, NY; Renumbered 7426, Camp Claiborne, LA; for sale via WAA (War Assets Administration) 2/1946

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   John Taubeneck also furnnished railway cranes that were shipped to the Brooklyn Army Terminal. In two of the Life Magazine images above, seven of the cranes can be seen in the background behind the train, with their booms in upright position.

   By no means should it be considered this roste complete, as this list is only from one (Ohio Locomotive Crane) of many equipment manufacturers.

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Brooklyn Army Terminal Railway Crane Roster


builder

c/n
build
date

gauge
model wheel
arrangement
liftuing
capacity
boom
length

power

acquired

disposition

notes
ref
Ohio Loco 4219 11/25/1942 std. G B-B 35 tons 50' gasoline new New York Port of Embarkation [56]
Ohio Loco 4273 4/29/1943 std. G B-B 35 tons 50' gasoline new New York Port of Embarkation
Ohio Loco 4445 11/16/1944 std. G B-B 35 tons 50' gasoline new Royal Dutch Blast Furnace & Steel Works;
Ymuiden, Holland
, 1949
New York Port of Embarkation
Ohio Loco 4446 11/29/1944 std. G B-B 35 tons 50' gasoline new Chantiers Equipment; Paris, France 1949
Societe des Grands Travaux de Marseille; Paris, France 1949
New York Port of Embarkation
Ohio Loco 4447 11/30/1944 std. G B-B 35 tons 50' gasoline new Chantiers Equipment; Paris, France 1949 New York Port of Embarkation
Ohio Loco 4448 11/30/1944 std. G B-B 35 tons 50' gasoline new Chantiers Equipment; Paris, France 1949 New York Port of Embarkation
Ohio Loco 4449 12/01/1944 std. G B-B 35 tons 50' gasoline new Royal Dutch Blast Furnace & Steel Works;
Ymuiden, Holland
, 1949
New York Port of Embarkation
Ohio Loco 4450 12/06/1944 std. G B-B 35 tons 50' gasoline new Establissments H. Michelot; Paris, France 1949 New York Port of Embarkation


Military Railroads of the New York Metropolitan Area - Main Page

New York Navy Yard
Brooklyn, NY

Fort Hamilton|
Brooklyn, NY

Fleet Supply Base
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Army Terminal
Brooklyn, NY

Governors Island / Fort Jay
Manhattan, NY

Fort Wood / Bedloes Island
Manhattan, NY

Fort Schuyler
Bronx, NY

Fort Tilden
Queens, NY

Fort Wadsworth
Staten Island, NY

Fort Terry
Plum Island, NY

Fort Hancock
Sandy Hook, NJ





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