The Slow Death of Admiral’s Row

If you were traveling down Flushing Ave around 1904, this was what you would have seen:

Jump forward in time to 2009, and this is what remains:

Admirals Row 01

Admiral’s Row is a series of dilapidated yet gorgeous Second Empire-style mansions once used to house officers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Some of them date back to the Civil War. Left to decay since the 1970’s, these beautiful buildings are in desperate need of rehabilitation.

But fuck that – wouldn’t you rather tear these down and have a supermarket with an enormous parking lot?

Admirals Row 02

Admirals Row 03

That’s the issue on the table in an on-going city battle that is both tedious and complicated. The tentative plan is that the National Guard will hand over the property to the city, who will in turn give it to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that oversees the Navy Yard restructuring. Then everything will be bulldozed and the supermarket and parking lot built.

Admirals Row 04

Admirals Row 05

While the Navy Yard says they are damaged beyond repair, both the National Guard (owners) and the Parks Department consider them to not only be excellent candidates for rehabilitation, but also meet the requirements for placement on the Historic Register. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is a firm believer that the world will be better off with a Super Stop and Shop in their place, and has been lobbying for their demolition.

Admirals Row 06

If the buildings are beyond repair, then they have to go. Fine.

But if there is any opportunity to save them and integrate them into the redevelopment plans, that option cannot be ignored, no matter how many parking spaces the new supermarket loses. I’m not against the commercial re-development of the grounds; in fact, I fully support it. There’s no point in having wasted land that doesn’t serve the community in some way.

But to demolish instead of integrate is ignoring the lessons learned by so many lost treasures. I mean, the new Penn Station is much better off than the old one, right?

I wrote a while back that, though I used to enjoy exploring abandoned properties as a kid, I now find it to be stomach-churning. Taking the time to walk down Flushing and look at these once cherished properties is like morbidly watching a beautiful creature wither and die.

I drive past these on an almost daily basis, and every day, I wonder if it’s the last time I’m going to see them. Today, I decided that I should probably take a few pictures before they go for good. These certainly aren’t some sort of secret New York artifact or quirk, but hidden behind the overgrown vines and trees, it’s easy to forget they exist. And once you’ve done that, they might as well crumble altogether.

Admirals Row 08

Admirals Row 07

As I was writing about this, I came across a haunting line from a New York Times editorial written after the demolition of Penn Station:

“Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves…We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.”

I’ll keep you posted.


More info:

National Guard: Section 106 Review Status for Admiral’s Row
NY Times: A Call To Preserve Admiral’s Row
NY Times: Amid Weed And Rust, A Ruins Seeks A Second Act
Fort Greene Association: Help Save Admiral’s Row!
Brooklyn’s Other Museum of Brooklyn: Admiral’s Row
The Officer’s Row Project: LINK

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  1. first, i really enjoy reading your blog.
    second, it is too bad to see such beautiful old buildings decay.
    greetings from vienna: Orlando

  2. Well said.. what happened to Penn Station is such a huge loss.. you’d think it would be a lesson learned right?!

  3. Again you have made me cry…If there is any reason to wish for money renovation of these and other beautiful buildings there would be it.

  4. Beautiful Things, aren’t they?
    Be a darn shame to see architecture like that go to waste.

  5. That quote about ‘tin-can architecture’ is a particularly poignant one. It was used to great effect in the Ric Burns’ New York documentary when they were describing the Penn Station desecration. It’s as true today as it was then and is well worth remembering.

  6. This sort of thing seems to go on all around the world. I likewise feel saddened when I see good architecture lost.
    The theme of individuals gaining in the short term, at the long term expense of a society as a whole has played out many times over mankind’s history.
    No doubt a small number of individuals stand to make a tidy profit, whilst the wider community is left to bear the long-term loss & cost of a built environment diminished in quality and robbed of historic significance.
    Those buildings don’t look beyond rescue.

  7. what a sad situation. i wonder if the flagging economy might scrap or postpone the supermarket development plans long enough for someone to come forward and save these lovely buildings.

  8. If you can, please keep us posted on the status of these wonderfully evocative buildings. In the meantime, Marty Markowitz needs a boot up his ass.

  9. Thank you for the beautiful pictures.

    Everytime I drive by Admiral’s Row I can’t help but picture in my mind they way they used to be. I can imagine the children playing and the families living there, and it takes me back to a special place. Restoring them would be so nice to see.

    If I were to see a supermarket in it’s place, it would just be sad. As if Marty Markowitz would actually shop in that neighborhood. I don’t think so.

    And again, thanks again for these lovely pictures. I enjoyed your blog.

  10. This just breaks my heart. Seriously, a stop and shop? I wish i could save these building…. and many more that you have posted about.

    I absolutely love your site. Just found it last night and I have been reading through it for hours!

    Keep up the good work!


  12. There was a great scene in Mad Men about the demo of the old Penn Station where Paul Kinsey likened the tearing down of the old station to the Romans tearing down the Coliseum to build their outhouses. Sterling Cooper was pitching to get the business of Madison Square Garden which they did not get after Paul’s tirade. Please keep shooting these abandoned treasures, this Tennessee girl can’t get enough of historic NY!

  13. Is it possible to shoot in these places? Has the city closed them down or is it possible to get permits for a project? Any ideas?

  14. I was retrieving my car from the damn tow yard, and walked across this. So ran across it completely spooked. It’s was still amazing is a freaky yet very interesting way. Would love tosee it again.

    From Louisiana

  15. Enjoyed walking through these houses, all filled of debris and holes in the floor. Has anyone died in any of these houses? One of the houses was badly burnt in the attic.