James gets in middle of ‘Row’

The Brooklyn Paper
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Councilwoman Letitia James now says “some” of the tumbledown, historic houses in the Brooklyn Navy Yard should be saved, though she still supports the city’s plan to tear down the rotting Admirals Row to build a much-needed supermarket.

But James, who in the past was squarely on the side of the city’s plan which called for razing all 10 structures, hasn’t gotten too sentimental about the dilapidated buildings, many of which served as homes for high-ranking naval officials.

“They should be demolished — not all of them, but most of them,” she told The Brooklyn Paper.

James’s new position puts her in the crossfire between preservationists, who want to restore and reuse all the edifices along Flushing Avenue near Navy Street, and the city and neighborhood groups who want to knock them down and fill a dire need for a grocery store and a 300-car parking lot.

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

The National Guard wants to sell the land, and according to local law, must give the city first dibs. But because of the houses’ historic significance, the Guard must also go through an arduous public comment and historic review process.

The new call from James, a week before that formal public review begins with what is expected to be a boisterous public meeting at Borough Hall, is a departure from her earlier statements and a concessions to preservationists who want to save the federally owned buildings, some of which predate the Civil War, but which have fallen into disrepair.

Some of activists trying to save the Row will offer their own olive-branch at Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s possible to have your cake and eat it, too,” said Brent Porter, an architect and professor at Pratt Institute, who has created a design that would save the 10 historic buildings for commercial and community uses, while still providing a new “big box” for a supermarket. However, his plan eliminated much of the parking.

The city, which owns most of the Navy Yard, has said that the crumbling Admirals Row buildings would be too expensive to salvage and will not pay for their restoration.

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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