Admirals Row sunk

October 25, 2006 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Ruined Navy Yard homes set to be razed for market

Ten historic Brooklyn Navy Yard houses that once served as residences for naval officers and their families are set to be demolished – to make way for a supermarket.

The “Admirals Row” mansions are so badly deteriorated they cannot be saved, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. President and CEO Andrew Kimball said yesterday.

“The buildings are not preservable,” Kimball said after announcing a massive construction project, including the supermarket, in the Brooklyn waterfront’s industrial park.

“We have no option,” Kimball said of the decision to tear down the structures, which were built on Flushing Ave. between 1858 and 1901.

Officials maintain that preserving the homes – which they say would cost at least $30 million – is too expensive, and insisted the community would be better served by a supermarket.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed the mansions are not salvageable – but some preservationists disagreed.

“It’s definitely doable and worth doing,” said New York Landmarks Conservancy official Alex Herrera. “They’re really a part of Brooklyn and Brooklyn’s history.”

The row of once-elegant homes, with their grand staircases and spacious gardens, housed senior officers and their families until the 1970s, when the Navy moved out of the Navy Yard.

Some of them were designed by architect Thomas Walter, who designed Washington’s Capitol building dome.

After years of neglect by the federal government, trees have grown inside the mansions and up through their roofs. In 2004, a fire badly damaged one home.

At the press conference, local elected officials and Mayor Bloomberg backed the plan for a supermarket, saying the 10,000 residents in three nearby city-run housing projects desperately need access to fresh produce.

“A crucial community resource must take priority over preservation at Admirals Row,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Even so, one local preservationist said the historic homes didn’t need to be destroyed to put in a supermarket.

“Look at the Red Hook Fairway” supermarket, said Gary Hattem, of the Historic Wallabout Association. “That was done in the context of a historic building, and it’s serving fresh produce.”

Hattem charged Navy Yard officials with “a failure of imagination.”

Construction of a planned 60,000- square-foot supermarket and 300-car parking lot on Flushing Ave., at Navy St. won’t begin anytime soon. The property still belongs to the federal government, which is negotiating to transfer it to the city.

In addition to a supermarket, plans call for seven buildings to be constructed at the Navy Yard site over three years, eventually expanding its industrial capacity by nearly 50%.

Originally published on October 25, 2006

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