Federal preservationists: Navy Yard floats our boat

Naval maneuver! New maritime history museum looks forward and back
Photo by Paul Martinka

What’s new is old again.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard, where new arts and industrial facilities are opening at a rapid clip, has landed a berth on the National Register of Historic Places. The label is a boon for the already booming campus, cementing its importance to the country’s history and giving it access to federal tax credits that could help it continue to grow, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–New York) said.

“This is great news,” said Gillibrand, who pushed for the national listing. “Federal designation will help protect one of the country’s most storied naval districts while reinvigorating historic structures to help grow new businesses.”

Constructed in 1801, the Navy Yard served as an active shipbuilding operation for the military until 1966. At its peak during World War II the yard employed 70,000 people. The facility turned out the USS Arizona, which Japanese guns sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the USS Missouri, on the decks of which Land of the Rising Sun brass officially surrendered in 1945.

“The history here is just unbelievably rich,” said David Ehrenberg, president of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

The military halted its operations in the late 1960s and the city turned the docks over to private industry. Investments in recent years have made the place a hub for manufacturing and design companies. It also houses Steiner Studios, which opened in 2004 and has been steadily expanding since.

Altogether 330 companies employ 6,400 people in the complex, according to administrators.

The new designation means development projects at the Navy Yard will have easier access to federal tax credits. Certain restoration efforts already qualified for these incentives, but now geting them will be a cinch complex-wide, Navy Yard honchos said.

“In the past we had to go building by building to qualify,” said Ehrenberg. “This makes it easier for us to get access to a critical financial resource.”

The credits could home in handy. The compound is a hotbed for development right now, with ongoing construction projects totaling more than $624 million, according to the Navy Yard’s website.

One of those jobs is demolishing most of Admirals Row, a string of 11 derelict mansions built in the 19th century, and replacing it with a supermarket, which has drawn pushback from preservationists.

The new designation would not have saved the buildings, Ehrenberg said.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Not everything old can stay: The demolition of the historic Admirals Row mansions, one seen here from inside, will not be affected by the historic designation.
Photo by Hannah Frishberg