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Abandoned NYC: 11 vacant locations ideal for a late night rave

Just imagine the possibilities

  • Scott Enman
  • 12 April 2018

Although Brooklyn is currently the epicenter of electronic dance music in New York, that title could slowly shift elsewhere.

The borough’s unique urban makeup of waterfront warehouses, factories and abandoned buildings provide extravagant, one-of-a-kind locations for raves, DIY events and after-hours parties, but the pervasive threats of gentrification and development jeopardize its label as a hub for underground music.

Many of the city’s vacant buildings sit on prime real estate, and therefore run the risk of disappearing before our eyes. These structures, beautiful yet frayed, are both relics of the city’s past and an inspiration for its future.

Included on this list are 11 endangered sites that could — with a little imagination — be given a new life through rave culture.

In addition to partying in remarkable settings, the aim is to raise awareness about each location's rich history, while also preserving a piece of New York’s industrial roots.

The Red Hook Grain Terminal has always maintained an air of mystery.

Vacant since 1965, this colossal building, a remnant of an era long gone, was used to wash, dry and store grain.

Little is known of the 12-story, 429-foot-long depot. Surrounded by a seemingly impenetrable concrete fence, few have breached its borders.

Nestled on the Brooklyn waterfront, the grain elevator has withstood the test of time, avoiding its long overdue demolition.

With high ceilings, long halls and thick columns lining the expansive ground floor, this fortress evokes images of London’s Printworks.

Several events, including Dirtybird Campout and Elements Music & Art Festival, have taken place outside this building, but never inside its walls.

[Photo credit: Eric Lee]

The Batcave, as it has come to be known, has hosted numerous punk rock parties, but never a DJ set.

Bordering the Gowanus Canal, considered one of the most polluted waterways in the country, the Batcave was formerly a Brooklyn Rapid Transit power station.

The red brick building, built in 1904 and decommissioned in the 1950s, housed a large squatter community for many years in the traditionally industrialized neighborhood of Gowanus.

With the structure’s top floor boasting floor-to-ceiling graffiti murals, roof access and amazing acoustics, this property has the potential to be Brooklyn’s Berghain.

[Photo credit: Jake Dobkin]

Dance among the graves of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Horace Greeley at Brooklyn’s most famous cemetery.

While many have toured this historic graveyard, few have ventured underground into the catacombs, where several clandestine concerts have taken place.

Built in the 1850s, the vaults provided an alternative funeral option for New Yorkers afraid of being buried alive.

With soundproof stonewalls, it’s only a matter of time before a proper party complete with lights and turntables is held here.

Suggested Booking: Life and Death featuring Mind Against (extended set)

[Photo credit: Steven Acres]

No, it’s not DC-10, but the expansive airplane hangars that clutter Floyd Bennett Field are strangely reminiscent of the infamous White Isle club.

As New York City's first municipal airport, the complex, located near Coney Island, was a hub for naval activities during World War II.

Although the hangars have been left to the elements for several decades, with a bit of work, they have the potential to host thousands for an all-night rager.

Suggested Booking: Circoloco Brooklyn

[Photo credit: Aaron Asis]

This location gives a whole new meaning to the underground.

Built in 1904, the intimate 18th Street subway station closed in 1948 once trains were extended from five to eight cars.

Although Union Square, one of the busiest sections of Manhattan, lies above this subterranean layer, few would know there’s a party going on beneath their feet.

With several levels of concrete separating the station from the outside world, the only noise complaints would come from the rats.

[Photo credit: Steve Duncan]

Roughly 2 million people visit Ellis Island each year to see the National Museum of Immigration, but only a select few have the privilege of exploring the island's abandoned hospital.

On the northern half of the isle sits an expansive compound of 29 derelict buildings that housed ailing immigrants.

Located in the heart of New York Harbor, just a stone’s throw away from the Statue of Liberty, this labyrinth of buildings offers breathtaking views of not only Lady Liberty herself, but the Lower Manhattan skyline as well.

As for decor, French photographer and artist JR has an installation throughout the hospital featuring life-size images of immigrants.

With an estimated 12 million people passing through Ellis Island's doors from 1892 to 1954, what better way to pay homage to our ancestors than through a techno soiree?

[Photo credit: Kate Enman]

Abandoned since 1963, the Glenwood Power Station provided electricity for trains heading north from Grand Central Station.

On the verge of being gutted, this colossal structure overlooks a 2,500-acre nature sanctuary along the Hudson River.

With enormous brick smokestacks reaching towards the heavens, this beautiful yet misunderstood artifact sits just minutes away from the Bronx.

Away from the city, though close enough to appreciate its skyline, this building provides some respite from the hustle and bustle of “The City That Never Sleeps.”

With water lapping against its sides, birds chirping in the rafters and paint peeling off its walls, this serene location would be perfect for an after party.

Suggested Booking: All Day I Dream featuring Lee Burridge (extended set)

[Photo credit: Aaron Asis]

This three-mile tunnel beneath Manhattan’s River Side Park is hidden from not only tourists, but some native New Yorkers as well.

Dubbed the Freedom Tunnel, this expansive hall once housed massive shantytowns along its tracks.

With few interruptions from the authorities, graffiti artists frequent here often to paint canvases in peace.

Offering provocative murals as a backdrop for the perfect live stream, this underpass is ideal for a raucous gathering.

[Photo credit: Steve Duncan]

This gorgeous abandoned subway station, built in 1904, boasts beautiful Romanesque Revival architecture, Guastavino tiles, skylights and functioning brass chandeliers.

Although no longer open to the public, this station is still used as a turning basin for the No. 6 train. One can see inside this magical place by remaining on a southbound No. 6 train past its last stop.

With electricity available and ample room to dance on the platform, this is easily one of the most stunning spots on this list.

[Photo credit: Steve Duncan]

Whoever said Manhattan is no longer relevant in New York’s house scene isn’t looking hard enough for unique venues.

These crypts, located underneath a landmarked church in Harlem, have hosted several classical and jazz musicians, but never a disc jockey.

With dim chandeliers casting shadows across round columns and stonewalls, this intimate adult playground is an ideal location for a Halloween party.

Suggested Booking: Get Perlonized featuring Zip

[Photo credit: Steven Acres]

How sweet it would be to throw a party inside Williamsburg’s most famous building.

The Domino Sugar Refinery, located on the East River not far from Mixmag’s Brooklyn office, has played host to several secret parties.

The space also served as the site for Kara Walker’s 2014 pop-up “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby,” a 35-foot-high sphinxlike sculpture made out of four tons of sugar.

With catwalks, rusted machinery and dozens of rooms to get lost in, this building could accommodate a festival of underground talent.

The refinery is set to be converted into a 380,000-square-foot office campus, but before then, why not throw a party within its confines as a last hurrah to one of Brooklyn’s last standing factories?

Suggested Booking: ANTS Brooklyn

[Photo credit: Paul Raphaelson]

For more, read about how Brooklyn became one of the world's best clubbing destinations and how afterparties are the beating heart of NYC nightlife.

Scott Enman is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter

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