Officers’ Row: Let’s Have Our Cake and Eat It Too

For an event that was whose main purpose seemed to be to present the destruction of Officers’ row as a fait accompli, last night’s public hearing had just the opposite effect. A study by the Army Corps of Engineers of the structural integrity of the ten nineteenth century houses was made available for the public to view last night for the first time, and even a cursory look had everyone we spoke to questioning the BNYDC‘s position that the houses are not worth saving; what’s more, there were some creative ideas for alternative designs floated during the public milling-about period that would enable the preservation of Officers’ Row while still providing a large on-site supermarket.

Unbeknownst to us, the 7 o’clock public event was preceeded by a 6:15 press conference where a number of politicians (including Marty Markowitz and Letitia James, above) and Navy Yard officials voiced their support for the creation of a supermarket on the site and did their best to parrot the party line that it is economically unfeasible to save Officers’ Row in the process. To wit:

Hakeem Jeffries:“While historic preservation of this site is a respectable goal, it appears that the deterioration of Admiral’s Row has been so extensive over the years that rehabilitation of the site would be extremely cost prohibitive.”

David Yassky: “After intensive study, responsible preservation entities at every level have concluded that these structures cannot be preserved without a prohibitively high financial commitment.”

Albert Vann: “I am very much in favor of preserving the rich heritage of historical buildings in Brooklyn, but not at the expense of meeting the needs of the people of Brooklyn for fresh produce and jobs.

If it sounds like they’re all reading from the same script, they are. (For some reason we were erroneously sent an email from the BNYDC soliciting support letters and providing the same talking points that appear in all the submissions.) The problem with the political rhetoric like the quotation from Council Member Vann, in our view, is that it frames the issue as an either-or proposition, and in so doing tries to press familiar class and race buttons that do nothing to further meaningful discussion. This tactic tries to equate an interest in preserving the existing structures with wanting to deprive lower-income people of fresh vegetables. The truth is that this is not an either-or issue. No one on the preservation side of the debate that we’ve talked to is against building a supermarket. If you were a resident of one of the nearby projects, however, that’s certainly the impression you’d get from listening to the public leaders.

The Army Corps of Engineers study that was available for review last night (though not for distribution) put the cost of restoring the ten buildings at about $25 million, significantly less than what the BNYDC has been telling people; what’s more, according to one of the engineers manning the tables, eight of the ten houses are still structurally sound. Additionally, even a back-of-the-envelope sketch like the one above from Pratt’s Brent Porter shows that there may be much more creative solutions that let the community have its cake and eat it too. The BNYDC has done a commendable job at restoring and adaptively reusing much of the rest of the Navy Yard to date and has even more impressive plans for the future; unfortunately, we don’t think that means it should get a free pass to tear Officers’ Row down without a transparent and public process of evaluation. This could be an opportunity to do something really exciting with the six acres of land (and one that takes into consideration factors like what kind of market options may present themselves on nearby Myrtle Avenue). How about a design competition? How about soliciting private funds to lessen any extra burden of preservation? This is too important to let short-term political and economic expediency be the only factors in a decision-making process.

Update: It was just brought to our attention that in his letter yesterday to local, state and federal authorities, Navy Yard president Andrew Kimball did qualify his unambiguous position about a lack of preservation restrictions on the transfer by saying that the renderings that have been circulating are not set in stone:

BNYDC will work with local leaders to organize a design charette with the community in early 2008 to obtain input on the design criteria that should be included in a the Request for Proposal that BNYDC intends to issue shortly thereafter. BNYDC will follow the model established by HPD on the Brig site for community input on the RFP process.

Officers’ Row Preservation Coming to a Contentious Head [Brownstoner]
For Officer’s Row, Supermarket All But Certain [Brownstoner]
Photo of James and Markowitz by Adrian Kinloch.


0 Comment

  • Cost prohibitive. Enough said. Everything can’t be saved people. Knock them down and lets move on.

  • The Navy Yard put a ludicrous price tag on this job because they don’t want it done. Period. This job can be done for a lot less.

  • Good grief knock the old moldy rotten things down and put something useful in its place. I swear you people would have wanted to save the old brewry and brothels in five points and put a nice gazebo out beside collect pond with the bloated pig carcasses floating by (but only if it met the existing dimensions and color schemes of the 1600’s). New York has never been about preserving the past which is what made it the great place it is. If the LPC had been in place we wouldn’t have any of the skyline we have now, just a bunch of old buildings from the 1600’s.

  • in response to a completely unrelated question, an air force lieutenant colonel told me, ‘eight of ten buildings are architecturally sound.’ it was like he just had to get that off his chest, no matter what i was talking about.

  • I really like the idea on that sketch! Sometimes people need to break out of conventional wisdom.

  • I agree. No one cared about these buildins for the past 30 years, so why bother now? Give the residents of the Farragut Houses a decent grocery store and be done with it!

  • Oh, ok, Anon 9:59. The residents of the Farragut Houses deserve to spend their money at a grocery store, but they aren’t good enough to have attractive historic buildings to look at every day?

  • I’d bang Letitia (even with that hair color)

  • “New York has never been about preserving the past which is what made it the great place it is.”

    You obviously don’t know NY history. What a retarded comment.

  • I’m sure they’d prefer fresh fruits and vegetables nearby over a line of decrepit buildings any day of the week.

  • People – You STILL don’t get it.

    IT IS NOT AN EITHER OR. Read the article.

  • Why does this have to be an “either/or” situation? Certainly a creative architect/developer could put in a market and somehow preserve, at least in part, Admiral’s Row. Certainly the sketch shows that.

  • Creating a shopping district with the feel of a residential neighborhood is worthwhile. Creating public space with the feel of a residential neighborhood is good for the city.

  • If they put in a grocery store, they should have to fix up the buildings. There should be a public benefit if they are going to get the land for free and get to build a grocery store where they can make money.

  • Great post Brownstoner. All we need now is to in bold identify who the proposed developer of the supermarket is and then show their ties to Marty, Yassky and Jefferies.

    Enough is enough. Time for the corrupt slush fund to be shut down. Then we can move forward with historic sensitive development that incorporates the needs of the community. Don’t let them fool you — both can be accomplished. Marty, David and Hakeem, please sit down and let the community speak. Your time is up.

  • build a f*cking grocery store ON the public housing land..its already a giant waste of space

    if admirals row goes down to make way for a finefare, it will be a dark day for brooklyn

  • restore them then have a lottery for farragut houses families – the winners can move in.

  • Restoring the houses is one thing, using them and maintaining them later is another. I think the houses can certainly be restored/rebuilt but I have not heard anyone or any credible organization say that they wanted to use the buildings for any specific purpose.
    Without a purpose in life, the buildings are useless -and doomed. That is the real problem here, more than the physical condition, which is bad but fixable.
    If these were privately held houses in a historic district, someone would buy them, fix them up and turn them back to housing. But they cannot be sold to the private sector.
    Better to pull the plug, I see no adaptive use or continued life for these structures. A shame. But then, the neighborhood is full of privately held historic houses. Better to concentrate on those and to expand landmark protection than to obseess over these six or so public buildings.

  • “restore them then have a lottery for farragut houses families – the winners can move in.”

    which oil-rich totalitarian country do you live in?

  • hey lets tear down the brooklyn bridge while we’re at it…and build much needed parking spaces for farrugut residents

    what, you dont think low income people should be allowed to drive?

  • Anon 10:27, did you bother looking at the rendering or reading the article above? The houses would be part of the grocery store.

  • i think we should tear down one hanson place and build a super super stop & shop for neary by housing project residents. if you dont agree then you’re a racist

  • how bout we tear down the ghetto farragut houses, and in its place build a market for nearby residents of vinegar hill, dumbo, and fort greene

  • I think it would be better to tear down the houses than to see them become part somehow of a grocery store. That really is gross.
    It is not preservation. It is Taxidermy.

  • why not build a market underground, like the whole foods at columbus circle and preserve the ground level houses + greenspace

  • I’ve seen the interiors of these buildings. I’ve personally restored buildings that were in worse shape than they are, and it didn’t cost anywhere near what they are suggesting this would cost. I’m sure there are a number of Brownstoner readers that are developers or have undertaken a serious renovation that could fix up these buildings for a lot less than $25 million.

    The Army Corps of Engineers believes it would cost $550 – $650 a square foot in hard costs to restore these buildings. I’m not aware of any renovation in Brooklyn that has cost so much.

  • but Shahn, did you use $600 hammers for your renovations???

  • I’m sure a private developer doesn’t have the overhead that either the Army Corp. of Engineers or the Navy Yard does and could do this for less. But a private developer will never touch these buildings, because only the Navy Yard or the City of New York will be able to do the work, and they are both bloated beaurocracys.

  • Hey Shahn whats up with that last dump you took on – Broken Angel? Been awfully quiet on that one

  • I have a sawzall that cost $350. Does that count?

  • Nice rant, 10:22. There is no proposed developer. The developer will be selected by a request for proposals. Oh, wait, now you’ll tell me that process will just be a sham cover for selecting the corrupt developer that with “ties to Marty, Yassky and Jefferies.”

    Hey, speaking of the developer, 10:58 is also incorrect. The request for proposals will select a private developer. You know, there are real issues associated with the Navy Yard’s proposal that don’t need to be muddied up with absurdities.

  • The rendering shown up there reminds me alot of drawings that I used to see hanging on the walls at architecture school. They were pretty pictures, and thought provoking, but if probed a little deeper, you realized that they have no basis or grounding in physical or financial realities. Architecture students and professors are famous for these kinds of theoretical exercises which help young designers flex their architectural muscles. However, once you leave the ivory tower, you realize that that kind of configuration would never work for several reasons:
    1) There’s no parking shown in that drawing. As much as I’d like to believe that this supermarket could survive based solely on people taking transit, it’s not gonna happen.
    2) In order to fit both a supermarket and the keep the houses, you’d have to get rid of a newly planned industrial building that the Navy Yard has been showing on their renderings that were published on brownstoner a while ago. The Navy Yard is a mission-driven organization dedicated to creating and preserving space for industrial businesses. They are proposing this site as a retail development as a benefit to the community. They’d really rather uses all the land for industrial. SO basically a scheme that asks the Navy Yard to dedicate even more land to retal and get rid of the retail will be dead in the water.
    3) And finally, the profit that a supermarket will generate will no be nearly enough to support the additional $25 million to renovate the houses. (incidentally, I seem to remember the Navy Yard floating a $30 million number a while back, so I don’t see why you say that the Army’s $25 million is so far off) And the specialty retail proposed for those house will not come close to being able to justify those high renovation costs either. Do you really belive that anyone is going to want to open a high end boutique or fancy bakery across the street from a public housing project with like 50% unemployment. This is not smith street or Fifth ave. It’s not even Myrtle Ave or Dekalb. There are plenty of locations in surrounding neighborhoods that would be more likely to support that kind of retail. No smart retailer would open those kind of stores.

    Don’t get suckered in to believing nonsense from people who don’t know what they are talking about just because they are showing you pretty pictures. Do some research on your own. Talk to people who understand construction costs, historic preservation and the financial realities of building, owning and operating a retail establishment. It just doesn’t work.


  • Wait Ella are you saying that Shahn Anderson the “savior” of Broken Angel doesnt know what he’s talking about. I mean he saved the architecture and created housing AND made a profit…..

    Oh wait, the architecture was taken down????? There is no housing????? The unfinished project is losing value by the second???

    Oh in that case – Ella I guess your right.

  • Preservation 101:
    There are compatible adaptive uses
    and incompatible adaptive uses.

    Splicing a row of nineteenth century houses somehow onto the side of a giant supermarket is an incompatible adaptive reuse. It would not meet the Fed’s standards set forth in the “Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for Historic Preservation”, the bible for these sorts of things.

    a consiltant

  • Cake will be worthless once atlantic yards is built

  • Ella,

    1. There is an existing parking lot on the 7 acre site that is not being used at all. That is where the parking will go.

    2. The site is 7 acres. There is room for Admirals Row, parking, and the industrial buildings.

    3. You can pay market rate to renovated the houses, or you can pay $25 or $30 million. If they send out an RFP for the job, the numbers will be far less than $30 million unless it is handed off to a political crony that will spend $5 million on the houses and pocket the difference.

    It takes a little creativity to do a project like this well, but there are ample amounts of it available in the community. The numbers do work, and the project will work if given the chance.

  • Anon 11:40, it’s no surprise that you don’t have the balls to put your name behind your posting.

    Broken Angel is under renovation. It had some structural issues not terribly unlike those in some of the Admirals Row houses. I believe that these houses can be repaired because I’ve done a lot of repair of seemingly hopeless 1800’s buildings.

    As far as Broken Angel is concerned, there will be housing as planned, and the architecture that had to be removed due to the fire code is being replaced by new architecture that is up to the building code.

  • Shahn – like Broken Angel – that has worked out well hasnt it!!!

    Face it your credibility is shot

  • Shahn – “under renovation” – doesnt that imply that work is being done? I havent seen any work being done on site in months


  • We’ve been complewtely overhauling a building that many people thought was not salvageable for 9 months and you think that it’s a failure due to the progress of it’s renovation? Clearly you aren’t a developer. People spend years on projects and still have them be successful.

    If you want to talk about credibility, please don’t cower behind a “guest” tag on a message board. It makes you look silly.

  • Are you talking about the same building 12:18? go look inside.

  • Can we talk about Admiral Row please, and not Broken Angel? I don’t see how the two are related.

  • Shahn – clearing out debris don’t qualify as ‘renovation’; and yes some projects do take years but this isnt the WTC & 9mo in without a bit of steel going in doesnt bode well in a declining market does it???

    Here’s a bet, I’ll bet you no one live on that site before 2011. And sorry but aint no way that a 4 yr development project at that size can be successful unless your bailed out by rising housing costs (which aint looking to promising now)

    Look all the power to you for taking on work – but please dont come here and try to make it sound like there is some simple and profitable way to save every old building – there isnt and it is certainly looking like Broken Angel isnt going to be the shinning example – despite your similar pronouncements back in 2006.

  • Leave Shahn alone and get a life!

    Meanwhile, why not restore JUST the facades of Admiral’s Row? This way the streetscape and historical context would not be entirely lost. Rebuild the interiors as office spaces for local businesses, art groups, non-profits etc (office space in the Navy Yard proper is pretty much unattainable currently). Market rate rentals. Diversify and further strengthen the economic base of the Navy Yard. Maybe even add a couple of cafes/restaurants. This would be the European solution — and, when it comes to multi-use adaptive redevelopments of urban areas, we sure could benefit from taking a page out of their book.

  • 12:37 – actually that isnt just a European solution – I think I saw the same sort of thing in Disney World – love it!!!

  • Anon 12:35 you have no idea what you are talking about. I had no involvement with Broken Angel until January of 2007, and was not a part owner of it until mid-February. Rebuilding a building that was significantly damaged from a fire in 1975 is not a small job, and Broken angel is 2 to 3 times the size of any of the Admirals Row buildings. Just because I haven’t shown YOU blog photos of work doesn’t mean work hasn’t been happening. Would you like to come over and count the pieces of steel that have been put in so far?

    I’d take you up on your bet, and even put a sizable amount of money on it, but I know you are full of shit.

  • How does a $1000 sound? just provide me an email address and Ill send you the contact info

  • Shahn,
    The parking lot you are referring to is not public parking and could not be used for the supermarket becuase it is used by the NYPD for their car impound lot. You can’t mix public parking and towed-car parking for very obvious reasons. And once you factor in the space taken up by the houses (if you chose to save them) and the footprint of the supermarket, there is no space left on the site for a public parking lot. Statements like that go along way in eroding your credibility with people who are actually living in the world of facts, as opposed to the your world of lofty promises that you have no ability to follow through on. Good luck with Broken Angel. I really do hope you succeed on that. But until you actually do succeed, please don’t use that as an example. For all we know that project could wind up being exactly the type of disaster that many people here are projecting your plan for Admirals row to be.

    And Guest 12:37 – the problem with that European solution is that would require a significant amount of subsidy in order to make financial sense. The revenue stream that could be generated from the office and retail would not support the renovation costs. Upper floor office space in the Yard is currently about $20/SF retail space over there could probably get around $15/SF. Those rents do not support a whole lot of construction costs. That was the first option the navy yard looked at, and it was so far from working that they abandoned it.


  • hey, put the supermarket on some of the unused FAR that is part of the Sand Street Houses and use the Admiral Row restoration as part of a 7 acre peoples park. Yes, or carve up the site in two and if you must put the supermkt there.
    Anyway, this all needs to go out to a more public review process before the party line gets jammed down the public’s throats. Seems like the navy yard just wants to build buildings as if its benchmarks/goals/aims are defined that way. more sf=success.
    but again, bury the supermkt or parking lot at Sand Street public housing and leave some above ground access. This would be great for the area. Or better yet, level the high rises and put back in low rise humane human housing there and let the residents enjoy some decent architecture.

  • why not invest the restoration money into preserving just 3 or 5 of the houses in a magnificent way? That way we can leave a nice trace of the past, we can have a touristic site for the supermarket location, which is along a beautiful future NYC DOT bike route, we can provide educational and recreational opportunities for the neighbors. With patience and thought, one could really have ones cake and the restored admirals row as well.

  • this site wuld be perfect for walmart
    they can call it wallaboutmart

  • The Farragut Houses will be worthless once AY is built…

  • That parking lot has nothing to do with the Tow Pound Ella. The pound is to the West. The lot is to the East.

  • Ella, have you seen the proposed plan that the Navy Yard Development Corporation has been bandying about? The rendering has a huge parking lot where Admirals Row is now, a four story industrial building, a three story 200 x 100 grocery story and a one story building that is approximately 200 x 200. There is a lot of room on the site for parking, for industrial space, and for a grocery store. If they removed the one story 200 x 200 foot building and moved that industrial space onto the four story industrial building, there would be ample room for everything.

    Good development is not just about profit. It’s also about the best use for a property, and the best thing for the community.

  • Ella, you are the same person who argued for the destruction of the houses when this topic first came up on Brownstoner, and claimed to be somehow “in the know”, as you stated you had seen them close up, and knew this, knew that, blah, blah. At the time we pegged you as an employee or associate of the powers that be, and from your last posts on the subject, it looks like that still is probable.

    You, and those who agree with you, still have given no credence to any imaginative ideas that have come forth from outside. Shahn Anderson, someone who can walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, as well as Brent Porter, and others, have offered alternatives or educated opinions, but no one is listening, because just tearing the houses down in cheap and easy.

    Why not have a contest for the best idea, incorporating adaptive use. Why not identify those buildings that are the most sound, and open up the field to ideas to incorporate both the market and history? It doesn’t have to be either/or. Challenge the Pratt architectural community to come up with something. Attach school credit as well as mucho press and cachet to it. I’d certainly work to get a high profile project like that on my resume. Open it up to other schools, or even people on the street.

    Challenge organizations to come up with the best use of the restored space – would it be best for not for profit groups? A museum? Maybe a restoration/preservation program where people could learn how to restore historic buildings, and then be skilled tradespeople who could command decent pay.

    There are so many good ideas out here. This is a chance to provide the community with a needed supermarket/shopping, and public space. A chance to save some important pieces of NYC and Navy/military history. If done right, this could be a project that attracts the attention of the country.

    That’s if it’s done at all. It’s a shame the process has gotten short shrift and a political write off. Too bad most politicos think there cannot be a solution that can combine historic preservation and the necessary everyday growth of the city. Too bad the city doesn’t seem to want to try.


  • Shahn,

    Yes, I’ve seen the drawing. The lot you are talking about is not on land that is part of Admirals Row. It’s a lot that is land that is currently part of the tow pound that the navy yard is planning on reclaiming by shrinking the tow pound. That lot will be for parking for the users of the surrounding industrial buildings. The industrial buildings (and the lot) are within the Navy Yard’s security fence with limited access. The supermarket will be outside of the fence so that it will be accesible to the public. Two developments on different sides of a security fence can’t share a parking lot. Also, even if you could somehow manage to get them to share that lot, it’s not big enough to provide parking for both uses. The supermarket will require parking for about 150 cars – more than can fit into that lot.

    I agree that good development is not just about profit. But if you are expecting a private for profit entity to do the development, you need to ensure that they will make a profit, otherwise it will never actually happen.

  • Development concepts are all well and good and I look forward to a lively conversation about the best way to develop this area. In order for the conversation to be meaningful, however, I look forward to seeing the pro forma associated with the various development schemes. Yeah, that’s right, getting the numbers to work is part of development. It isn’t just a matter of identifying which scheme you prefer.

  • Development concepts are all well and good and I look forward to a lively conversation about the best way to develop this area. In order for the conversation to be meaningful, however, I look forward to seeing the pro forma associated with the various development schemes. Yeah, that’s right, getting the numbers to work is part of development. It isn’t just a matter of identifying which scheme you prefer.

  • Preservationista –
    If it were close, and the numbers were just bareley not working, then yes, I agree with you – the process should be opened up to see if anyone could come up with an interesting way to make it pencil. But the numbers are so far from working that opening it up is really just a waste of time. You may not be going anywhere, so you can wait – but the people who work in and for the City are very attuned to the political cycles. If they don’t get this done before the Mayor’s term is over and they are out of there. The whole process you are describing is a recipe for a whole lot of hubbub which will result in absolutely nothing happening.

    You are too focused on the design, and not once in your post to you offer any ideas of how to fund those designs. Don’t you get it by now? The greatest design in the world doesn’t mean squat without a plan to make it work financially. Nothing you’ve proposed makes any financial sense and you’re nuts if you think that any Pratt architecture professor is going to come close to proposing something that will work financially.


  • Absolutely nothing happening sounds great to me!

    Why doesn’t anyone see the value in haunted houses?

    There’s alot of space in those new developments on myrtle for a supermarket. There’s space on york street for another. Yes, there is also plenty of space to build within whitman and farragut as well.

    There is NO imminent need for a supermarket here, and even if there was, there are plenty of other places to put it.

    The development of this space will lead to further justification to privatize our tow lots… and a wealth of other kickback and skimming-off-the-top opportunities.

    Can we just build something else in williamsburg? You people won’t be happy until every nook and cranny is a mall?

  • Ella, you tried that one before, too. If there are plans for supermarkets and parking lots afoot, then there is money lined up. Why is everyone so afraid of good design, or a good idea coming from outside of the cabal that is hell bent on razing the Row and building the store and parking lot? What are you afraid of?

    I am not privy to the inner machinations of the Yard, it’s development wing, or the City. But it seems to me that some creative thinking could conceivibly work towards saving money, and making available funds go farther while meeting the twin goals of saving history, and providing necessary services. Since building a supermarket or mall is the function of private funding, the money is there, and the city has the wherewithal to chip in when they want to – see AY above.

    Here’s what you do – have a contest for the best mixed use proposal, with at least rudimentary renderings, ala the contest for the 9/11 memorial.

    When the final design is voted on and a winner chosen, put together a team of architects, planners, designers, etc to come up with the final plans, models, etc, etc.

    Since Pratt is right there, set up a program with them in conjunction with the Navy Yard and the city to design a curriculum where preservation techniques are taught and the Row is the workshop. Give college credit for hands on restoration. Open it up to interested civilians, especially local minority y

  • Ella, you tried that one before, too. If there are plans for supermarkets and parking lots afoot, then there is money lined up. Why is everyone so afraid of good design, or a good idea coming from outside of the cabal that is hell bent on razing the Row and building the store and parking lot? What are you afraid of?

    I am not privy to the inner machinations of the Yard, it’s development wing, or the City. But it seems to me that some creative thinking could conceivibly work towards saving money, and making available funds go farther while meeting the twin goals of saving history, and providing necessary services. Since building a supermarket or mall is the function of private funding, the money is there, and the city has the wherewithal to chip in when they want to – see AY above.

    Here’s what you do – have a contest for the best mixed use proposal, with at least rudimentary renderings, ala the contest for the 9/11 memorial.

    When the final design is voted on and a winner chosen, put together a team of architects, planners, designers, etc to come up with the final plans, models, etc, etc.

    Since Pratt is right there, set up a program with them in conjunction with the Navy Yard and the city to design a curriculum where preservation techniques are taught and the Row is the workshop. Give college credit for hands on restoration. Open it up to interested civilians, especially local minority youth, and teach valuable skills while getting the job done. If Pratt isn’t interested, call Columbia U. They have an Historic Preservation program already in place.

    Just as St.John’s Cathedral was a workshop for stone masons, the Row could serve a similar function. College credit = interested and cheap workers=training skilled workers and employing community members=saving money.

    The supermarket gets built, portions of the Row are saved and reused as per the winning design. The city looks good, the developers look good, the community gets a market, and perhaps a museum, or community center, or whatever public use is deemed the winner.

    Ok, I’m sure I left out some important steps, but what’s wrong with the basic premise?

  • Sorry, accidentally hit enter before finishing, sorry for the double post.


  • How much public money would the city be spending to save these houses (as opposed to monies from the private sector)?

    That’s the bottom line for me — beyond a certain point you have to ask if this is the best use of city funds.

  • What’s wrong with the basic premise? Just about everything. Once again you haven’t spent even one sentence about how it will get funded, other than saying that you’re sure that someone will figure it out somehow. Well what I’m trying to tell you is that the people who’s responsibility it is to figure it out (BNYDC) are trying very clearly to tell you that they’ve tried and they can’t figure it out. It’s not a matter of just stretching some budgets here or there. The numbers are of by orders or magnitude.

    Just because there are plans afoot doesn’t mean that money is lined up. Just because there are other sites in the neighborhood that “could” fit a supermarket doesn’t mean they are going to. Those sites can also support a whole lot of other uses, and chances are they will support those uses instead.

    I’ll tell you what the “cabal” is afraid of. They are afraid of bad ideas with no chnace in hell of working, and all their time being wasted, and then a new administration comes in and they are replaced without getting anything accomplished. And then a new admin comes in and starts over again from scratch and all their time is wasted again because people like Shahn try to sell them pipe dreams, and this cycle repeats itself till the houses just fall down by themselves and then we can get on with it.

    What does the Navy Yard have to gain from knocking down these houses? Obviously they don’t have an anti-preservation agenda. A short stroll around the yard will show you that they’ve spent millions over the past several years preserving the 19-th century warehouses in the yard, and they’ve already announced several initiatives to preserve more historic buildings in the yard (The hospital, Building 1, building 92, and the Sands Street Gate, to name a few). So obviously, if they thought they could save this one, they would. They just don’t think it’s doable, and don’t want to waste the time to prove it to you, when they’ve already proven it to themselves.

  • Excuse me, but it is not my job to tell the Navy Yard how to fund its projects. If they want to hire me to pursue it, I will be more than happy to do so.

    Are you trying to tell me they’ve put up all this hype about a supermarket with parking lot, which necessitates the tearing down of the Row, and they don’t have funding, or developers lined up? Please. There’s also a nearby bridge for sale.

    Like AY, when alternative possiblities for a site are proposed, the powers in charge poo-poo them, and dismiss them without even really considering them, because they have a vested interest in doing what they want to do. The same is true here. Frankly, I don’t understand why the Navy Yard does’t want to even save one of the houses, as they have shown a distinct preservationist streak.

    I would like to think that maybe they are in a rock/hard place position with perhaps the city dangling something over their heads that they feel is more important than the Row. If so, then just be honest enough to say so. I can live with that a lot easier than a blithe dismissal of any good ideas by one of their unofficial flacks. You telling me they’ve tried, and just can’t do it doesn’t cut it.


  • Shahn-

    Your languarge on this site should be a testimonial to your credibility. Don’t buy from Shahn. You’re not’re in brownstoner land.

  • Oh, I see. It’s not your job to tell them how to fund their projects, but it IS your job to tell them what those projects should be? Whatever preservationista. I’m starting to think that arguing with you has no point since you are now making some really silly arguments.

    And again, I’m telling you that the funding for this has to come from the private sector developer who they will chose to build the supermarket. No developer has been chosen and the navy yard has committed to an open RFP to do so. WHat the Navy Yard has done is some basic market research to understand what kind of financial obstacles the respondents will face and to get a feeling for what those proposals will look like, and it’s pretty clear from that research that if they require the preservation of the Row as one of the prerequisites of the RFP they will get zero feasible responses. All they will get is some pie in the sky response from shahn. ANd when they reject for being crazy, they will take a load of crap from people who don’t know what they are talking about – like you.

  • Your view is limited. Funding can come from anywhere. Atlantic Yards funding is coming from a developer but with huge incentives from the government (who knows, more than 500 million?).

    Why can’t the government help preserve this? Or why can’t a non-profit organization also help? Why can’t it be a consortium?

    Your view is single minded… and biased towards a developer’s interest.

    Don’t sell people short.

  • You show me a non-profit that con afford to help to the tune of tens of millions of dollars and I’ll show you a non-profit that that is turning one hell of a profit.

    Atlantic yards is the biggest development site in the City. Comparisons to AY are absurd. THe projects are of completely different scales.

    I’m not saying that government can’t help preserve this. WHat I’m saying (for like the 5th time) is that the appropriate sources have already been approached, and they have refused to help preserve this. That’s how the Navy Yard’s current plans came about. First they figured out how much it would cost to preserve the houses. Then they went to all of the sources that could do that and got turned away, and then came up with the current plan.

    What I’m trying to tell you is that funding has been very hard to find. WHen you say “funding can come from anywhere” without trying to tell us where there are realistically places for funds to come from, you don’t really counter my argument at all.

    – Ella

  • For those who have questioned Shahn Christian Andersen, you should consider his points valid and that the pragmatic issues raised in restoring the Admiral’s Row Houses stem from official cost projections of $ 600 to $ 800 per sq. ft. A gut rehab in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill or Ft. Greene costs considerably less. A more appropriate figure if a private entrepeneur takes over the redevelopment of an individual house or houses — say, one house for a bake shop in conjunction with the huge adjacent low cost typical grocery store, a building where the production of baked goods could be accommodated entirely within that building while also providing opportunities for local people to be employed and kids to work there after school — then the cost might be around $ 200 per sq. ft. Why not have both the big grocery outlet as well as specialty food shops? Even poor people need bread, and certainly any of us could help bake bread. As to the person who is speaking in behalf of the Federal Preservation guidelines, are you kidding? There is no attention to official landmarking with these houses! Certainly the very best thinking about preservation techniques and materials would hopefully be a part of the project, but how could anyone think that even the Bush administration would justify tearing down historic housing fabric in conjunction with a place where Thomas Jefferson launched a ship nearby within the Navy Yard precinct? Indeed, the very best design competition is in order. My little five minute sketch (not exactly on the back of an envelope but close) was viciously attacked by one of the officers of the Navy Yard. I explained it takes a lot of work to produce a typical computerized rendering and that indeed we would work on a bigger “bird’s eye” image which will show how the existing parking can be incorporated and expanded. But the saddest thing about all this dialogue is the sudden realization that even Leticia James has been bowled over by political forces who go against the most basic grain of public-private dialogue in our city. These jaded people (but not Tish) have become super confident because they think they have won at Atlantic Yards. Surely we as citizens, politicians and both public and private developers can come together to indeed find an acceptable way to integrate the historic houses with a new supermarket; i.e. “have our cake and eat it too!” Brent Porter, Architect; and Associate Professor C.C.E., School of Architecture, Pratt Institute

  • First, the feds can REQUIRE that the buildings be saved. Then the city and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. don’t want them. Fine.

    The thing is that the city and BNYDC could be more creative about the financing than the feds can be. This Old House, HGTV, Habitat for Humanity for apartments over the stores, etc. First the will has to be there and the feds can provide it.

    Historic preservation increases property values. I don’t know why Bloomberg & Co. haven’t figured that out. It’s greener too because all those bricks don’t go to a landfill to be replaced with somethng shoddier.

    Some cities that know the value of unique historic properties have re-built buildings from the ground up and have seen them reinvigorate the neighborhood.