Photo of the Week: A Kennedy at the Navy Yard!

Robert F. Kennedy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard , 1964, v1988.37.25; The Anthony M. Costanzo Brooklyn Navy Yard collection, ARC.023; Brooklyn Historical Society.

In  October of 1964 Robert F. Kennedy visited  Brooklyn Navy Yard. Earlier that year Kennedy had resigned from his position as U.S. Attorney General to pursue a seat in the Senate. During this time, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara proposed to cut $1 billion from the Navy yards system nationwide, stating before the Appropriations Committee that he was convinced the system had excess capacity. The Navy Yard in Brooklyn was under threat of layoffs and possible closure at the time. MacNamara’s proposal sparked a public outcry in Brooklyn, and workers mobilized demonstrations to protest. This image is at one of the rallies at Brooklyn Navy Yard, as Robert F. Kennedy prepared to address the crowd.

A large rally was also held at Madison Square Garden on October 4, 1964. Some 15,000 Navy Yard workers and their families attended.  Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Kenneth Keating both  appeared at the rally at Madison Square Garden, despite  the fact that they were both running for the same NY senate seat that year. Both were committed to keeping the Navy Yard open, a place that employed 9,771 workers in 1964 and generated an estimated $1.25 billion in business [Weimer, Robert (1964) They Made Our Mightiest Ships Fit For Battle. Newsday .]  Kennedy defeated Keating in the senate election of 1964.

Despite Kennedy’s best efforts, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara closed Brooklyn Navy Yard along with over 90 other military bases and installations in 1966. At the time of its closing, the Brooklyn Navy Yard employed more than 9,000 workers.  It was the oldest continually active industrial plant in New York State, having operated since its 1801 opening.  In 1967, Brooklyn Navy Yard was acquired by the City of New York and converted for private commercial use.

Anthony Costanzo was employed by the Navy as a Public Information Officer for the U.S. Department of the Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in its declining years of the 1960s. He held this position until the decommissioning of the Navy Yard in 1966. The Anthony M. Costanzo Brooklyn Navy Yard collection was donated to the Brooklyn Historical Society in 1987.

Interested in seeing more photographs from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery which includes a selection of our images.  To search our entire collection of images, visit BHS Othmer Library Wed-Fri 1:00-5:00 p.m.

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