Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adaptive Reuse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

The Tenement Museum is the perfect example of “adaptive reuse,” a term that describes the preservation of old buildings and structures for new purposes.  The apartments of 97 Orchard Street have been restored from ruin to their current function as a museum that tells the true stories of immigrants who lived there between 1863 and 1935.  Other examples in Manhattan include The High Line, a defunct elevated railway that has been redesigned as a beautiful public park, and the Victorian-Gothic style Jefferson Market Library, a former courthouse that the City converted to a public library branch in the 1960s.

Across the East River in Brooklyn is another exciting example of adaptive reuse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  The navy yard, which was established in 1801 by the U.S. Navy, is today a 300-acre industrial park home to over 240 businesses.  On a recent bus tour hosted by the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC), and Urban Oyster, I learned about the history of the navy yard and its revitalization as a model of sustainable industry.  The BNYDC, which manages the site for the City of New York, is leading this effort.  Capsys is one tenant that builds environmentally-sensitive modular units to construct affordable housing, hotels, and assisted-living facilities.  Surroundart, a fine arts company, is located in the Perry Building, the country’s first multi-story industrial building with Gold LEED certification.

The Perry Building
As Andrew Kimball, President of the BNYDC, explained in a recent Metropolis magazine article, “We’ve demonstrated here that urban manufacturing is back...It doesn’t look anything like the days of the smokestacks. It tends to be small-scale, with very nimble businesses that tap into the creative class...”

The Paymaster Building (built 1899),
whose windows reflect the wind turbines across the street.
The BNYDC continues to adaptively reuse the yard.  It is expanding its capacity to meet the demand for industrial space, turning massive, currently inoperative warehouses into a sustainable manufacturing center.  The BNYDC is also planning to update the former Naval Hospital Annex, whose hospital and surgeon’s house are both national landmarks, for use as media campus in connection with the production company Steiner Studios.  There is discussion of creating a memorial park at the annex as part of the Brooklyn Greenway, a 14-mile path that will run from Sunset Park to Greenpoint.  Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at Building 92, a visitor’s center and exhibition space that will examine "the past, present, and future of the BNY and its relationship with the community,” is scheduled to open in the renovated 1857 Marine Commandant’s home in late 2011.

However, historic preservation questions remain.  Developers plan to demolish nine of the eleven dilapidated, but historically-significant, Naval Officers’ Quarters on a six-acre site called Admiral's Row, managed by the National Guard, to build a ShopRite supermarket and a retail center.  (Admiral’s Row is not yet owned by the City, a transaction that would need to take place before redevelopment.)  This $60 million project will provide access to affordable, healthy food and jobs for residents in nearby public housing projects, though preservationists want to protect all of the existing buildings.

While we wait to see the outcome of these contentious issues, I encourage everyone to visit the site.  Tenement Museum members can get 10% off all Urban Oyster tours.

-Posted by Penny

1 comment:

  1. If anyone is interested in a lost part of history inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1968-1987 please vist
    Great pictures inside the Yard when Seatrain Shipbuilding built the largest ships ever to be built inside the Yard!


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