Meet the new ‘Row’

Architecture students at Pratt Institute have put forward an alternative to tearing down the historic Admirals Row houses at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The plan calls for preserving the houses and still building a big box store.
Gordon LaPlante / Brent M. Porter and Associates

A Pratt Institute architect and his students say they have come up with a way to preserve a row of decrepit, historic buildings in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, yet still allow the city to go ahead with a plan to create a big-box supermarket.

“You can have your cake and it eat, too,” said the architect, Brent Porter, showing off a design that preserves the 10 buildings of the so-called Admirals Row, visible along Flushing Avenue near Navy Street, yet still leaves room for a supermarket and a parking lot, though one that’s smaller than the one the city wants to build.

Porter’s designs calls for knocking down the wall around the site, restoring the damaged houses for commercial and community use, and placing a large supermarket deeper inside this section of the Navy Yard on old parade grounds.

Unfortunately, Porter did not put a pricetag on his plan. The cost of restoring the 150-year-old Row would no doubt be the sticking point. Navy Yard President Andrew Kimball said earlier this year that the main problem with saving such historic homes was simply the high cost.

“You can rebuild anything,” he told The Brooklyn Paper last year. “It’s just a question of price.”

Nonetheless, Porter’s plan is emerging as the main alternatives to the city’s plan to flatten the Row for the supermarket and a 300-car parking lot.

That plan can’t happen until the Admirals Row gets out of its current bureaucratic limbo. The National Guards wants to sell all the houses to the Navy Yard, but must first conduct a thorough public comment and review process because of the houses’ historic significance.

That public review continues with what is expected to be a boisterous public meeting at Borough Hall on Tuesday night.

Ed Brown, the tenants’ association president at the Ingersoll Houses, will certainly be speaking at that hearing — and he’ll be testifying in favor of the Navy Yard plan.

“Our people don’t have a local place to shop,” Brown told The Brooklyn Paper. “We have a lot of seniors and to have them travel a big distance to shop is disrespectful. When [the Navy Yard] approached me about removing the [Admirals Row] houses to make room for a supermarket, it made sense to me.”

Stepping into the crossfire between preservationists, and the city and neighborhood groups, is Letitia James who has repositioned herself by saying she thinks “some” rather than none of the Row houses should be saved, The Brooklyn Paper reported on Tuesday.

“They should be demolished — not all of them, but most of them,” she said.

The councilwoman also says the city needs to reduce the size of the proposed parking lot.

National Guard meeting on Admirals Row. Borough Hall (209 Joralemon St., between Adams and Court streets in Downtown), July 22, 7 pm. Call Lt. Col. Mike Milord at (703) 607-2780 for info.

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