Ikea, the Graving Docks, and the US Army Corps of Engineers
Just a bit of an up-date... it looks like something is happening at the Ikea site. A visit to the area today reveals that the blue wooden construction wall now goes all the way from Halleck St to the end of the site, the length of about three blocks or so. The demolition appears to be handled by a local Red Hook company, Breeze Demolition. Despite that, there's definitely nothing happening at the Ikea Red Hook website. Its been registered as "temporarily unavailable" for some time now.
The movement on the demolition seems to have been triggered by the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to authorize Ikea's building related to the waterfront. Interestingly according to the Environment News Service, "Prior to construction IKEA is required to submit a detailed plan to the Corps and NYSHPO, showing how construction activities will be done in a manner that avoids impacts to the historic Graving Dock No. 2. The Corps and NYSHPO must approve that plan prior to initiating any construction." (This matches what I read on the actual news release from the Corps website, but for some reason the site won't come up today. Go figure.) I haven't seen anything from the Municpal Arts Society, or any of the other groups fighting for the protection of the Graving Dock, so I don't know if this represents a victory or not. It could be that as far as the Corps is concerned, filling in the Dock without actually destroying it represents an effort to "avoid impact".
On a side note, one way or the other, as far as I can tell this is all a little confused anyway. According to the history of the Todd Shipyards, Every Kind of Shipwork, by Bradford Mitchell, Graving Dock #2 was filled in back in 1976, and Graving Dock #1 was still active as of 1981 when the book was written. Mitchell's account of the docks is pretty thorough. Both Graving Docks were dug in 1866 by James Simpson. Simpson didn't own the docks at that point, but he eventually took over them over by sublease in 1884. Simpson was originally from Boston, and the docks were known as the "Boston Docks". The steam pumps that drained the docks were buried over in 1943. (They are probably still down there.) Graving Dock #2 was the site of the construction of whatever "Landing Craft, Infrantry" that were built in Red Hook for World War II. Only 24 were built here, and that was early in the program. These 24 were built here only because the New Jersey plant that was the main site was not yet up to full cabilities by 1944.
So there ya go... I'll post again in about 3 or 4 months.