The Desertification of Williamsburg

August 31, 2010 -

The landscape of Williamsburg, Brooklyn has been radically transformed in the last decade. Located at the epicenter of New York City's recent development boom, the neighborhood saw countless industrial buildings and row houses torn down by developers. In their place, dozens of luxury condominium towers were constructed, permanently altering the skyline. By July 2009, however, "The Billyburg Bust" was reported by New York Magazine, which wrote that the area was "littered with half-built shells of a vanished boom." Like any gold rush, the aftermath of the frenzied push to develop Williamsburg has left permanent scars on the land.

Williamsburg has the highest concentration of stalled development sites in New York City, according to a 2010 report in The Real Deal. This has been the case since at least July 2009, when The New York Post described it as "ground zero in the growing scourge of stalled construction," with more stalled projects then The Bronx, Staten Island or Queens. The number of abandoned projects in Williamsburg has soared since 2009, according to the Brooklyn Paper, which reported in June 2010 that "Brooklyn is pockmarked by a disproportionate number of abandoned development sites compared with the rest of the city... North Brooklyn has been hardest hit." Currently, Williamsburg's stalled projects range from empty condominium towers and unfinished steel frames to huge holes in the ground and vast open fields.

These wide open spaces are remarkable for a neighborhood where land once sold at a premium. Several are the size of city blocks. Baked by the arid summer sun, they have become mini deserts, or are covered by fields of weeds. Hidden inside are abandoned cars, mountains of rubble, abandoned building foundations. Some fields have been converted to illegal parking lots, according to The Real Deal. Others are neighborhood dog runs, makeshift parks, and secret drinking spots littered with empty bottles. These huge swaths of empty land, like the hundreds of other empty lots throughout the city, are reminders of the overly ambitious push to redevelop New York City during the first part of the Bloomberg Era. Like the empty lots of The Gowanus, Far Rockaway, Brighton Beach, The Hole and countless other neighborhoods scarred by failed development schemes, these reminders will be with us for years to come.

Fallow Land - Union and N.10th

Dry Empty Hole - S.4th near Bedford

Foundations and Field - Kent and S.8th

Dunham Field - Dunham and Broadway

Screw Rent - Dunham and Broadway

Abandoned Car - Union and N.10th

Fences Down - Broadway and Wythe

Abandoned Foundations - Kent and S.8th

Trapped Dirt Mountain - Union and Withers

Boulders, Condo, Row Houses - N.7th near Roebling

Frost Field - Frost and Union

Domino Field - Kent and S.4th

Kent Avenue Powerhouse Desert - Kent and Division

Sunset Park: S & S Machinery

August 26, 2010 -

Cincinnati grinder. Lansing chucker. Everett manual chop saw. Bliss horn press. The blunt poetics of industry are hidden in Sunset Park, inside an unmarked warehouse. This is the inventory storeroom for S & S Machinery, which was established in 1938 and claims to have "sold over 100,000 machines." Inside, hundreds of pieces of heavy equipment are lined up in orderly rows, a veritable museum of 1900's industry. The S & S collection is a constantly changing gallery - new machines are often acquired from plant closures around the country and then refurbished, sold and shipped out, frequently to developing nations. In this way, the S & S warehouse remains a dynamic, evocative illustration of American industrial history.

For more photo essays from Brooklyn's Sunset Park please visit Bush Terminal (2007), the Brooklyn Army Terminal (2008), the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (2009), Empire Electric (2009) and the 68th Police Precinct (2011). S & S Machinery is available as a film location through East of Hollywood NY.

Heavy Industry


Grey and Black

Steel Wheel


Dynamic Shapes

Control Grid

Tool Supply

Empty Storeroom

Dark Wood

The External Counterpulsation System

Empty Office

Machine Tangle