Five long years ago, in a somewhat vastly different Brooklyn, the Navy Yards Development Corporation pushed through a plan to demolish a stand of Civil War-era homes that have been hidden for decades behind a brightly painted red wall a cannonball’s throw from the BQE. This is, or was, Admiral’s Row, where naval officers bunked in half-a-dozen buildings back when the Navy Yards was still navy yards.
The Yards DC argued that the homes were far too neglected and decrepit to be re-purposed, so they decided to tear them down and replace them with a new retail and industrial hub, which would include a sizable supermarket. Preservationists fought vociferously against the plan, arguing that the buildings were not only of architectural but also historical significance as some of the few remaining relics of the original Navy Yards. They put forward a strong argument for an alternative plan that would have saved all six buildings, behind which the retail would have been built, but, at least according to the Yards DC, that was economically unfeasible.
Strong opposition to the preservationists came from the community, particularly from residents of the swaths of public housing nearby who argued that the need for fresh groceries trumped the need for old buildings. Not that the two were mutually exclusive, but it is true there are few good supermarkets in the area. In the end, two of the buildings, the Timber House and one of the homes, were determined to be salvageable.
The silver lining to this architectural tragedy appeared today, when Brownstoner got its hands on some renderings of the new Navy Yards complex, designed by local firm Greenberg Farrow. At least the Yards has picked a good firm to design what looks far better than your average strip mall. When coupled with the redevelopment work already underway at Building 92, plus the expansive greening efforts within the existing Navy Yards, this is turning into a striking little pocket of design, one hidden in the least expected of places. (Well, maybe it’s not a total surprise, considering many of the Yard’s current occupants are architects and other artisans.)