Scott Witter, arguably the most ardent defender of the 10 run-down mansions in the Brooklyn Navy Yard known as “Admirals Row,” drove his beat-up brown Beamer from the Brooklyn Museum to City Hall last week to promote Tuesday’s widely unheralded public hearing about the fate the old residences.
“Mayor Moo Moo, you maroon!” read the blue-lettered, white sign affixed to the top of Witter’s ancient BMW. “Landmark Admirals Row!” (The sign also included helpful information about the location and time of the meeting.)
In pursuit of preservation, Witter drove his creaky car to the limit, roaming through Park Slope, and around and around Grand Army Plaza, to Borough Hall, and even risking the trip to Manhattan to personally hand out Admirals Row leaflets.
Witter has made it his mission to draw public attention to the fate of the 150-year-old buildings, whose broken upper windows peek out at Flushing Avenue from above the Navy Yard’s red brick wall.
He wants as many supporters of the Row as possible to turn out for next Tuesday’s meeting, the public’s only opportunity to voice its opinion about the fate of the Row before the federal government formally hands the property over to the city.
The Navy Yard Development Corporation, the quasi-governmental agency that administers the former shipyard on behalf of the city, claims the buildings, which used to house the families of Navy officers, are too run down to be saved and plans to tear down the mansions to build a supermarket that is highly sought after by residents of the area.
At a town hall meeting in DUMBO on Wednesday night, Navy Yard CEO Andrew Kimball called preservationists’ efforts “a misdirection of energy at best.”
“The vast majority of the community wants a supermarket,” said Kimball. “We’re not interested in the site if we have to reuse the homes.”
After the meeting, Kimball’s staff handed out talking points to those interested in defending the Navy Yard plan at the upcoming meeting.
“You can only preserve that which is preservable,” read the corporation’s talking points.
But preservationists, including Witter, say that the city can and should retain the houses as historical artifacts.
“Buildings have to be pretty far gone to be beyond saving,” Roger Lang, of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, recently told The Brooklyn Paper. “But that’s not an economic calculation, that’s an emotional and physical one.”
Admirals Row public hearing. PS 307 (209 York St., at Gold Street in DUMBO), Dec. 11, 7 pm. Call (718) 907-5900 for info.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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