The city wants to build a much-needed supermarket bigger than the Red Hook Fairway in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but preservationists are deriding the announcement as premature given the many bureaucratic hoops to come for the long-stalled project.
Nonetheless, Navy Yard CEO Andrew Kimball predicted that construction will begin on the football field-sized Shop Rite supermarket in late 2011 or early 2012 — a project that enjoys broad support from elected officials and neighbors.
The plan for the major overhaul also includes the renovation of a run-down row house and dilapidated timber shed from the Navy Yard’s days as a military outpost — a move that seeks to appease preservationists who insisted the structures were of significant historical value.
But one preservationist leading the fight to save the so-called “Admirals Row” bristled at the city’s announcement.
“It’s to some degree disrespectful, and clouds what should be an objective environmental review process,” said Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council.
Bankoff said that the site still was subject to an alphabet soup of lengthy public review processes involving public hearings on how the site will be used, as well how it is zoned. He said that contamination on the site could delay the project as well.
But Kimball sought to portray the proposal as a compromise meant to accommodate history buffs and while bringing a valuable resource — fresh food — to surrounding neighborhoods that desperately need it.
“In order to strike a compromise and deliver something positive for the community,” explained Kimball, “We’ve selected [a developer] that is prepared to build all of the site and rebuild those two buildings.”
But the cost of that plan is nine of the houses on Admirals Row, which were built in the late 19th century for senior Navy officers. Currently, the row houses are in dreadful condition due to years of federal neglect.
The “timber shed” building, which is marked for preservation, may actually not be salvageable, said Bankoff.
In addition to the Shop Rite, another block of commercial space about half the size of the supermarket will host a mix of local and chain businesses concentrated around the corner of Flushing Avenue and Navy Street.
Kimball added that one of the real achievements of the city’s plan was the industrial space — four times larger than the supermarket itself — that will be built atop the grocery store. This would give a major boost to one of the few remaining areas in the city with a large amount of industrial jobs. Altogether, the site should create 500 new jobs, along with 450 construction jobs.
This showdown over preserving the row houses vs. the surrounding neighborhoods’ need for access to fresh produce and other food has been festering like the rotting wood on Admirals Row since at least 2007.
Kimball said that construction can’t begin until at least 2011 because of the complications involved in transferring title of the property from the federal government to the city.
He added that the new supermarket plan should help stimulate the process.
But Bankoff insisted that construction would already be underway if the Navy Yard had just been more favorable towards preservation.
“It’s never been an issue of a supermarket vs. preservation. That is a fallacy,” Bankoff said. “It’s close to a seven-acre site. There is plenty of room for a supermarket, an industrial building, and those [historic] buildings to be reused for community purposes.”