Bethlehem Steel Company’s Staten Island Yard
World War II brought a massive expansion in shipbuilding, and The Bethlehem Steel Staten Island Shipyard was responsible for producing 44 ships, 39 of which were completed during the war years. There were also landing craft, cargo ships and tugs produced at the yard during this period. The shipbuilding yard was located near the tip of Staten Island, within sight of the Bayonne Bridge. This yard held the record for the fastest keel-laying to launch, producing minelayer/destroyer vessel Shea, in only 144 days, and also held the record for keel laying to launch for three destroyers, each being completed in only 261 days.
Founded in 1895, as the Port Richmond Iron Works, the Staten Island Yard was originally a machine shop that was consolidated in 1989 with a nearby shipbuilding firm, the Burlee Drydock Company. The company was named the Staten Island Shipbuilding Company. In 1916, the yard began constructing steel ships when the owners bought a foundry to expand their enterprise. The company shifted from its location at Port Richmond to Staten Island in 1925, and in 1929 it was consolidated with five other yards, now operating under the name the United Drydocks Company, then becoming United Shipyards Inc. in 1938, and sold to Bethlehem Steel that same year.
World War II Era
During the World War II era, the yard substantially expanded with the help of $6 million provided by the U.S. Navy, gaining the capacity to build vessel up to 516 feet, and able to perform repairs on even larger vessels, added thousands of personnel from the Staten Island area and beyond, with up to 12,000 working the yard to support the war effort and the ongoing demand for ships. Personnel were working around the clock, with a 24-hour schedule to speed production. The company hired and trained thousands, both men and women, as sheet metal workers, welders, painters, electricians, pipefitters, machinists and other trades.
During this era, the yard built 47 destroyers, 75 landing craft, 5 cargo vessels and 3 tugs. After the war ended, demand for shipbuilding was heavily scaled back, and the shipyard continued to operate, building the Staten Island Ferry between the years of 1950 – 1951, the fastest ferry of its generation, capable of carrying 700 more passengers than the prior ferries. The company then reverted to building tugs and barges, finally ending operations completely in 1960. The yard is now the site of May Ship Repair, that has recently begun constructing barges at the former location of the Staten Island Shipyard.
Asbestos Exposure at the Bethlehem Steel Company Yard.
Asbestos was used throughout the ships built and repaired at the yard. When ships were being constructed and overhauled in Staten Island, asbestos-containing equipment such as boilers, turbines, pumps and valves was installed and repaired. The yard also had numerous shops where asbestos-containing equipment was repaired. Thousands of civilian employees and Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard.
Many occupations were at risk for exposure, but also that several occupations in particular were at risk, including:
- Equipment and automotive mechanics
- Pipe coverers and insulators
Asbestos disease can take decades to develop and workers who were exposed in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s may only now be diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis.
If you or a loved one worked at Bethlehem Steel Company and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, Belluck & Fox can help. We’ve helped many yard workers and their families recover significant compensation for asbestos disease and we can help you too.
Learn how we protect the legal rights of Navy yard workers by scheduling a free case review.
The following is a list of ships constructed or repaired at Bethlehem Steel’s Staten Island shipyard. This list includes Destroyers, Cutters, Cruisers, Battleships, Frigates, Gunboats, Torpedo Boats and Carriers.
USS Charles J. Badger DD-657
USS Charles R. Ware DD-865
USS Colahan DD-658
USS Cherokee ATF-66
USS Cone DD-866
USS Daly DD-519
USS Damato DD-871
USS Farenholt DD-491
USS Fechteler DD-870
USS Forrest Royal DD-872
USS Frank E. Evans DD-754
USS Gushing DD-797
USS Halsey Powell DD-686
USS Harold J. Ellison DD-864
USS Harry E. Hubbard DD-748
USS Henry A. Wiley DD-749 (DM-29, MMD-29)
USS Isherwood DD-520
USS J. William Ditter DD-751
USS John A. Bole DD-755
USS John R. Pierce DD-753
USS Kimberly DD-521
USS Luce DD-522
USS Meade DD-602
USS Monssen DD-798
USS Murphy DD-603
USS Navajo ATF-64
USS Parker DD-604
USS Picking DD-685
USS Robert A. Owens DD-854
USS Samuel N. Moore DD-747
SS Alcoa Pathfinder C1-B-89
SS Alcoa Prospector C1-B-90
SS Cape Cod C1-B-92
SS Cape Neddick C1-B-91
SS Stella Lykes C1-B-93
- Destroyer History Foundation: Bethlehem Steel Shipyard
- Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945: Pacific/Indian Oceans
- National Association of Destroyer Veterans: Bethlehem Steel Company’s Staten Island Shipyard
- Ship Building History: Bethlehem Steel Company, Staten Island, NY
- A Maritime History of New York: 1941 to the Present
- Staten Island’s North Shore: Mariner’s Harbor History
- The Morning Call: Forging America, The History of Bethlehem Steel
- Global Security: Mariner’s Harbor, Staten Island