Brooklyn Navy Yard: From WWII warships to Hollywood on the East River

Story highlights

  • Brooklyn Navy Yard has been transformed from disused site into hub of commercial activity
  • Location now houses one of the largest film studios outside of Hollywood

(CNN)It's seen a rapacious Leonardo DiCaprio rip-off the gullible, Sarah Jessica Parker ponder sweet amor and an air-headed Brad Pitt harbor intentions of blackmailing a CIA agent -- all just a bridge away from the madness of Manhattan.

In the old times, Brooklyn's historic Navy Yard would be lucky to attract the stars of the silver screen to a USO show.
Today, its home to one of the largest film studios outside of Hollywood.
    The "Wolf of Wall Street", "Sex and the City Two" and "Burn After Reading" are just a few of the major motion pictures shot at Steiner Studios in recent times.
    More than 40 feature length and TV productions were filmed here in the last year alone.
    Studio chairman, Doug Steiner, opened the site just over 10 years ago.
    "It was really awful looking with wild dogs -- literally wild dogs -- roaming the streets here," Steiner said.
    "I liked the industrial landscape a lot and the opportunity. To me Brooklyn was a great opportunity waiting to happen because of the proximity to Manhattan."

    Sixties decline

    At its peak during World War II, the Brooklyn Navy Yard employed some 70,000 people. But the 1.2 square kilometer site fell into steep decline in the 1960s when the sailors moved out.
    Today, the yard is a vastly different place -- and not just because of the Hollywood A-listers strutting around.
    A non-profit corporation has been regenerating the location with the aim of creating new employment opportunities since the turn of the century.
    From navy yard to waterfront film studio
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    Steiner studios was one of the first tenants but others have followed.
    One former warehouse represents the corporation's biggest project to date, with more than 90,000 square meters of space up for grabs and the potential creation of 3,000 new jobs.
    "I think our influence on Brooklyn in general has been quite substantial," said David Ehrenberg, CEO of the Brooklyn Naval Yard Development Corporation.
    "We were the first entity that started investing substantially back into these old buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront.
    "And to some extent (we) proved a concept -- that manufacturing and industrial and creative companies would want to take root in Brooklyn," Ehrenberg said.

    The creative class

    Being at the forefront of these wider trends has helped attract a new type of workforce to the area.
    Steiner says housing prices within half a kilometer have risen up to ten times. Some 1,500 people already work at the studio, which is set on a path of rapid expansion.
    It is benefiting from the explosion in demand for high quality content across mobile devices - and Steiner sees it as part of a wider trend.
    "Old media has always been based in New York City and continues to be based (here), film and television has been anchored in LA and high-tech has always been in northern California," Steiner said.
    "But I think right now we're seeing everything coming together in New York."