With a large, and potentially contentious, public hearing about the future of Officers’ (or Admirals’, if you likeand while we’re at it, why can’t anyone agree on where the apostrophe should go or whether it’s needed at all?) Row slated for Tuesday and the transfer from the Army Corps of Engineers to the city likely to follow in the coming months, the debate seems to be shifting from not whether to put a supermarket on the site but whether it’s possible to save at least some of the 19th Century houses from the wrecking ball in the process. The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp has made its position pretty clear: We’re doing tons of adaptive reuse elsewhere around the Navy Yard but the Federal Government has let Officers’ Row deteriorate to such a point that it’s no longer economically feasible or practical to restore it.
One prominent group of preservationists in the area is circulating a statement that, according to an email from Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development, attempts to “thread the Jane Jacobsian needle between ‘save every single house’ and ‘knock em down & build the supermarket that public housing residents need.’” Can a compromise be reached that finesses the “problematic polarization…of the related preservation-vs-interests-of-low-income-residents”?
A position statement circulated by heads of the Historic Wallabout Association (but not yet officially endorsed by its members) proposes that preservationists take the following tack:
1) Support the transfer from federal to city control;
2) Support the use of the site as a supermarket;
3) Prioritize adaptive re-use and restoration in whole, or in part, of Officers’ Row to allow for benefits to the local community including food as well as job placement and training;
4) Try to minimize the need for a large parking lot while emphasizing public transportation options.
The proposal calls on the Feds to require as a term of the transfer that the city (which in turn is planning on leasing the property to the Navy Yard) appoint a task force of “local stakeholders” to arrive at a plan that meets these objectives.
In today’s Brooklyn Eagle, however, Navy Yard president Andrew Kimball said such a requirement would be a deal killer: We’re not interested in the site if there’s restrictions put on to rebuild from the ground up. Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, another group pushing for the preservation of the houses, ain’t buying it. He is really positing that a public agency does not wish to live up to its obligations â€¦ to look at mitigating the demolition of intact historic structures with public funds.
One thing we haven’t heard enter the discourse is how the large-scale development on nearby Myrtle Avenue might mitigate the need for a supermarket at all in the Officers’ Row location. Presumably John Catsimatidis, the supermarket magnate who’s building the biggest development on that stretch, isn’t going leave his tenants with no place to buy groceries. The possibility of a market there should be part of the discussion, we’d think. Another thought: The anti-driving stance of the Wallabout proposal sounds nice on paper, but if the Navy Yard has any chance of landing a tenant like Fairway, it’s going to have to have parking in order to attract shoppers from beyond the nearby housing projects. Without it, the best you’re going to do is a Met Food. The hearing will be held Tuesday, December 11th, from 7 to 9 pm at PS 307, 209 York Street.
Navy Yard Doesn’t Want Admiral’s Row if Forced To Preserve [Brooklyn Eagle]
For Officer’s Row, Supermarket All But Certain [Brownstoner]
Photo from the Officer’s Row Project [NY Times]