17 May 2010

Nothing But Sad News For Admiral's Row

From today's NY Times:

FOR three years, some of the most powerful forces in New York real estate — including the federal and city governments, developers, preservationists and community advocates — have fought over the fate of a cluster of historically significant turn-of-the-last-century houses known as Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Last month, the parties finally arrived at a compromise that seemed to strike a balance between preservation and development, in a $60 million project that would add a large supermarket to an underserved neighborhood, while also salvaging some buildings of deep architectural and cultural significance.
But it now appears that those historic buildings may be in such precarious condition that they cannot be saved.
“This is one of the worst cases I have ever seen in terms of neglect,” said Alex Herrera, the director of the technical services center at the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “It is a disgrace.”
For more than three decades, Admiral’s Row, like much of the nearby industrial waterfront, was largely left to rot. Further complicating matters was the fact that even though much of the 300-acre site was turned over to New York City in 1966, 10 former officers’ homes and a timber shed that was once used to repair masts of large sailing vessels remained under the control of the federal government....
And now the delicate compromise, having been reached, is under threat. The federal government agreed to sell the city the land to develop as long as it met certain conditions. Because the timber shed and the homes on the site are eligible for placement on theNational Register of Historic Places, the government required that the shed and one of the homes be restored and useable. Last month, after protracted debate, negotiators accepted a proposal from PA Developers of Manhattan to build a supermarket — serving the 15,000 residents who live in three public housing projects bordering the yards — along with new retail stores and an additional 125,000 square feet of industrial space.
But after the bid was accepted, Kristin Leahy, the cultural resources manager for the National Guard Bureau, the federal agency that controls the site, said engineers had found that the historic structures, particularly the timber shed, might be beyond repair. “We hired these engineers with tools to stabilize the buildings,” she said, “and that is when they came back and said we had a problem.”

Funny how, when you let historic buildings rot for nearly half a century, they tend to be unresponsive to fixer-upper efforts. This affair has been riddled with cynicism from the start. I don't think any of the involved parties—the Federal Government, the City, the developers—ever for a second considered seriously the idea of saving any of these buildings.

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