Demo a Go for Admirals Row
Supermarket will replace deteriorated but historic navy yard houses
Arecent announcement by the Mayor’s Office and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation confirmed the impending demolition of ten historic houses in the Yard known as Admirals Row. Built between 1858 and 1901, the Greek revival, Italianate, and French Second Empire–style houses were once grand residences for naval officers. Vacant since the 1970s, several of the houses have been attributed to Thomas U. Walter, the architect
of the U.S. Capitol Dome and the Treasury Building.
Along with the expansion of industrial space elsewhere in the Yard, a 60,000-square-foot supermarket and a 300-car parking lot are planned for the Admirals Row site. “A critical piece of Brooklyn’s history and New York’s architectural heritage is about to be sacrificed for a big box store and parking lot,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council (HDC). “It’s
a suburban project that’s incompatible with the urban fabric of the area.” Bankoff bemoaned the lack of public process or investigation of adaptive reuse for the houses. According to documents obtained by HDC, the demolition has been planned since the Giuliani Administration. “This is a radical situation. Why not consider a solution that’s akin to Kmart at Astor Place or Fairway in Red Hook, where big box retail was integrated into historic buildings?”
The Mayor’s Office maintains that the grocery store will meet the demand of
an underserved community, including residents of the adjacent New York City Housing Authority properties. In a statement issued on October 24, Mayor Bloomberg was quoted as saying, “This groundbreaking is another terrific example of our administration’s determination to strengthen the city’s industrial sector, which is a vital part of our economy. By helping to add hundreds of
new jobs at this world-class industrial park, the city is also strengthening the economic health of its surrounding neighborhoods.” A spokesman for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation told the Daily News that the buildings are too far gone for restoration to be economically feasible. From Flushing Avenue, the houses are visible through a scrim of weed trees, and
do seem to be in parlous condition: Doors hang loosely from hinges, ivy grows through open windows, and the roof appears to be crumbling.
Bankoff and other preservationists remain skeptical. “All the surrounding community organizations support the investigation of adaptive reuse options
for the Admirals Row properties,” he said. “You have to ask who this suburban development is really going to serve.”