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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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