The National Guard Bureau, the Federal agency charged with evaluating the historical importance and preservability of Admiral’s Row, held its fifth consulting meeting yesterday in downtown Manhattan with three dozen or so representatives of preservation groups, city agencies and other interested parties. As you may recall, almost a year ago the National Guard Bureau announced that only the Timber Shed and Building B would be preserved, a plan that the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. has structured its recent RFP for development of industrial and supermarket space on the six-acre plot around. According to Kristin Leahy, Cultural Resources Program Manager, Building B was a no-brainer: It’s the oldest and best preserved of the residences and will be the least expensive to restore. (The National Guard, which has only been in the driver’s seat since 2007, was unable to tell us which Federal agency bore the responsibility for allowing the buildings to fall into such bad shape.) The Timber Shed was picked for its historical significance alone (it’s the last of its kind still standing in the U.S.), and recent inspections by engineers have revealed it to be in even worse shape than initially assumed.
We were alarmed to learn that the recent findings about the building’s structural condition have re-opened the question of whether the shed will be preserved and restored to its original form or, alarmingly, whether it will instead be disassembled and replaced with “something with the same footprint that is similar in type and feel,” according to Leahy. “That’s still up for debate.” Earlier this week, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. president Andrew Kimball said ground would not be broken until late next year. Before that occurs, according to Leahy, a three things have to happen on the Feds’ end: 1) The Army Corps of Engineers has to conduct another appraisal of the site’s market value; 2) Building B needs to be stabilized and protected from the elements; 3) A decision regarding the preservation of the Timber Shed (to restore exactly or to rebuild a similar building) needs to be reached. Once those three things are done, the city will have to make its decision on whether it wants to buy the property with whatever strings it comes attached with; the city is also free to do its own appraisal and try to bargain on price. If for some reason the city ended up passing (which seems unlikely at this point), the property would have to go through the lengthy GSA disposal process.