Admiral’s Row in the Navy Stockyard

admirals rowThe fence surrounding the abandoned Navy Stockyard is old and fancy, with wrought iron bars topped in vicious looking spearpoints. Good. The fancier a fence is, the easier it is to scale, and those spears, while deadly if they’re being thrust at you by a living foe, are trivial to sidestep when they’re stationary. The wrought iron bars provide excellent handholds. Not even five seconds and we’re over.

The Admiral’s Row is a series of old townhouses, built, as their name implies, for Navy Admirals. Long since abandoned, yet still next to a functioning Navy yard, they must surely make a very enticing target for New York’s urban explorers. There isn’t any graffiti, though, which is a bad sign. Normally places like this would be covered in it. Something must be keeping people out.

We’re walking through the unbearably crunchy leaves that tell of the turning to autumn when suddenly we spot him – a Navy police officer, walking down a path, and about to turn either towards us or away. We dive for cover, and I take off my hat, shielding my face with it: she does the same with her scarf. We stay still, scarcely breathing, hoping he’ll turn away. No such luck: he’s headed right towards us. He’s got a sizable sidearm at his, well, side.

We stay put, trusting stealth over speed. He’s still fifty meters away; we can probably make it to the fence and back over before he catches us if we have to, but that would mean giving up on exploring this beauty before we even began. He gets to the gate separating the active Navy yard from the inactive, and closes it, then locks it shut. I can’t tell which side of it he’s on: did he just lock us out, or lock us in with him?

Our luck holds: he locked us out, and he turns around and heads back from whence he came.

We wait another five minutes after he’s disappeared, just to be safe. We’re burning daylight.

The actual Admiral’s Row itself is somewhat disappointing. The houses in it are identical, and honestly, less impressive than the haunted house I’m living in at the moment. But there’s another building on the campus, and it’s a big one.

A massive C shaped building with all the floors intact, there are only two entrances: a hole leading into the basement, and climbing a tree to get into the second story. Allison can climb the tree, but I can’t (a bit too heavy and a bit too scared), so we go in through the basement. photo 3(1)

It’s a good thing we brought flashlights, because unlike the Armory this place doesn’t have electricity, and unlike the Agora building, there aren’t any big holes in it, so it’s quite dark inside. The only light getting in is through the windows, and there aren’t a lot of those in the basement.

We explore the basement and the lower levels quickly, looking for a way up to the roof, the crown jewel of nearly every abandoned building. We soon find a crumbling staircase that leads us up to a creaky wooden attic, which has a hatch leading out to the roof. The roof is a combination of tin and black tar, which provides good traction, but buckles ominously underfoot. We make our way towards a tower on the other side of the roof – it’s as good a destination as any – and are halfway across when we are suddenly set upon by birds!

Seagulls dart and swoop, making their horrible racket. I don’t know if we’ve disturbed a nest or they’re expecting food or what, but they’re on us viciously, and we can hardly fight back for fear of sliding off the roof. And then, as quick as they appeared, they’re gone. I never found out why.

photo 1We make it to the shelter of the tower, but now that the birds are gone, we decide to enjoy the unobstructed view of the city instead. It’s sunset, and I’ve never seen New York from this angle. We watch the sun going down, sharing a bottle of water, and then switch our flashlights back on to make the now more perilous journey back in the dark. We make it down, and to the fence, and back over, dirty, a bit banged up, and full of adrenaline, but safe and free.


The first photo is from the New York Times. The rest of the photos are by Allison. All my photos disappeared when my phone broke, because icloud didn’t back any of them up despite claiming it did.

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