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Thread: Brooklyn Navy Yard Development

  1. #31
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    Oct 2002


    A Museum of Stuff, but Also of a Mission to Still the Wrecking Ball


    Scott Witter is trying to halt the city’s plan to raze most of Admiral’s Row, a string of old residences at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

    The museum in the private house near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway announces itself in blue letters spelled out in painter’s masking tape.
    “Don’t let Pirate Mike steal our heritage,” reads the sign, above a row of illustrations of gorgeous brick-fronted mansions and the legend “Landmark Admiral’s Row.”

    Not much more information is forthcoming until Tuesday nights, when Scott Witter sets a piece of slate on the doorstep of 109 Hall Street that says “B.O.M.B. Open” in the same blue tape and Brooklyn’s Other Museum of Brooklyn stirs to life once more.

    Thirteen blocks away, Admiral’s Row, the string of 19th-century Italianate officers’ quarters on the edge of the Brooklyn Navy Yard — to which Mr. Witter’s museum is a discordant but impassioned love song — crumbles on.

    The museum and the mansions lie in opposite corners of Wallabout, a sliver of a semi-industrial neighborhood wedged between Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and the Navy Yard. But while the museum — a collection of somewhat random artifacts including porcelain smoking pipes dug from a nearby backyard and an almost-drivable 1920 Briggs & Stratton Flyer — remains oddly vital, Admiral’s Row is just about out of time.

    The city, which owns the rest of the Navy Yard and is in the process of acquiring Admiral’s Row from the National Guard, says the houses, occupied until the 1970s, would cost too much to rebuild — $20 million or more. On Oct. 19, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation will collect proposals from developers interested in knocking down 9 of the 11 buildings on the row and building a jumbo supermarket (badly needed in the neighborhood), plus more commercial space and a parking lot.

    This makes Mr. Witter, a 61-year-old architect, pack rat, gadfly and preservationist who lives next door to the museum, upset, to say the least.
    “The government has had the responsibility to maintain these buildings up to military standard, which they haven’t,” he said the other day, standing on Flushing Avenue outside the wire-topped fence that is as close as civilians are allowed to Admiral’s Row. “For 30 years, they’ve been derelict in their duties.”

    He is hardly a lone voice. The Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Historic Districts Council have all pleaded with the city to save Admiral’s Row. A Pratt architecture professor, Brent Porter, has released a model showing how the 6.5-acre site could be redeveloped without knocking down the residences. A 2008 report commissioned by the Army Corps of Engineers found the superstructures of the Admiral’s Row houses to be generally “sound, level and plumb.”

    None of which cuts much ice with the Navy Yard Development Corporation. If the federal government required the Admiral’s Row buildings to be rebuilt as a condition of transfer, the Navy Yard’s chief executive, Andrew Kimball, wrote in 2007, “neither the city nor the B.N.Y.D.C. are interested in acquiring and developing the site.”

    Late last month, Mr. Witter, in his ever-present skull-and-crossbones ball cap adorned with a full set of Admiral’s Row pins, led a stroll along Flushing. He paused in front of Building C, once a mansard-roofed beauty joined to its neighbor, now hardly more than a three-story ivy trellis.

    “This is the latest fiasco on the row,” Mr. Witter said. After a partial collapse earlier this year, he said, “the Fire Department came in and disassembled the thing to the ground.”

    He went down the line — Building H, the only limestone structure and fairly intact-looking; Building D, circa 1851, possibly built by Thomas Walter, designer of the United States Capitol dome; Building I, maple sapling sprouting from its smashed porch steps — doomed, doomed, doomed.

    Only the yard commander’s residence, with its grand ballroom and gardens, and the 1838 timber shed are to escape the wrecking ball. A few blocks east, though, the Marine Corps commandant’s residence is being turned into a Navy Yard museum. Mr. Kimball has said it might have an exhibit about Admiral’s Row.

    For now, there is Mr. Witter’s museum, a five-year-old movable smorgasbord, now on the second floor of a sturdy 1876 wood-frame house with severely weathered shingles. It is open Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.

    On Sept. 22, Mr. Witter opened promptly at 7:23 and launched into a guided tour, beginning with the metal practice bomb in the stairwell that he found in the Utah desert and that gave his museum its Gertrude Steinesque name.

    He moved on to the Flyer, a bare-bones motorcar that looks like a sled on wheels with a gasoline engine mounted on the back. “I flipped this on my dad’s lawn,” recalled Mr. Witter, who grew up outside Binghamton. The two seats of the Flyer were occupied by a poster of the local city councilwoman, Letitia James, who supports the city’s plan, and a Mickey Mouse head wearing a rat mask that is Mr. Witter’s symbol for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

    At 7:37, a guest arrived: Freddy DeChirico, 49, a retired handyman.
    “Do you want a beer, Freddy?” Mr. Witter asked, leaning over a bathtub stocked with Budweiser. “Sure,” Mr. DeChirico replied.

    “Sometimes I tell people, ‘I’m going to the museum,’ and they say, ‘What museum?’ and I say, ‘Brooklyn’s Other Museum,’ ” Mr. DeChirico said as he sat down next to Mr. Witter’s companion, Karen Polack. “People don’t know what I’m talking about.”

    Mr. Witter offered an explanation of his curatorial philosophy.

    “The museum is dedicated to landmarking and preserving Admiral’s Row and the sane development of Brooklyn,” he said. “But the stuff in the museum is just the stuff in the museum.”

    Later, as Mr. Witter stood on Hall Street in front of the house, another semiregular, Richard Cooper, wandered by.

    “Any women up there?” he asked. “Karen,” Mr. Witter replied, referring to his partner. “She’s taken,” Mr. Cooper noted.

    The conversation turned, as it often does, to Admiral’s Row. Mr. Witter was asked if his basement might someday hold pieces of it.

    Mr. Witter leveled his gaze. “They’re not going to demolish it,” he said.

  2. #32


    I think it looks beautiful as ruins. Just leave them alone. Knock down and replace all those public housing complexes around the site instead.

  3. #33


    That would be an indescribably good idea ... meaning that it would be politically untenable

    I fundamentally don't understand 3 things about this project:

    1. What is wrong with the Pratt plan to salvage the houses and build the market within them? Why isn't it being taken seriously?

    2. Why does this supermarket need a parking lot? Especially if it is being built specifically for the people in the nearby housing projects who can easily walk here, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense ... and when you consider that this is being built in downtown Brooklyn, and not Westchester County, and that the parking lot's construction would necessitate the destruction of one of the more significant historic sites in Brooklyn, I'm at a loss.

    3. Why don't they just put a market in the ground floor or yard of one or a number of the housing project buildings? As it is, the ground floors of these buildings are generally unused and 70% of the territory of these projects are unused lawns and/or parking lots. The use of space is extremely inefficient, and there is ample unused space to certainly accommodate a market or markets. Moreover, putting in a market would also open the projects up to non-residents; whereas, at present they're literally a gated community.

    I get the sense that something borderline-fishy is at play ... maybe the Mafia has infiltrated more than just the NYC DOB?

  4. #34
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    ^ No, I think it's just stupidity on the part of the people running this city that's all.

  5. #35


    Looks like the state is willing to spend $15M to build a visitors center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard (for what sort of visitors, I don't know), but won't spend $20M to save Admirals Row. I hope the visitors enjoy their tour of the new C-Town parking lot...

    Ground To Be Broken This Month for Navy Yard’s New Exhibit/Visitor Centerby Linda Collins (, published online 10-12-2009

    Plaza Construction Will Oversee Project, Beyer Blinder Belle Will Design it By Linda Collins
    Brooklyn Daily Eagle

    BROOKLYN NAVY YARD — Ground will be broken this month for the planned restoration and addition to the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s historic exhibition and visitor center.

    The project, estimated to cost $16.5 million, involves the restoration of Building 92, a three-story mid-1800s brick building and former Marine Commandant’s House plus the construction of a new addition — both with an expected completion date of February 2011. Plaza Construction has been tapped as construction manager for the center, to be called BNYC92; Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners and Workshop/APD have been named the design architects. LEED Platinum certification will be sought, according to Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of the Navy Yard Development Corp.

    The Manhattan-based firm will oversee the restoration of the existing 9,500-square-foot building, as well as the construction of a 23,500-square-foot addition, which will comprise several multi-purpose rooms and future tenant space.

    When complete, the 33,000-square-foot BNYC92 will become the official exhibition/visitor center, housing displays and artifacts that tell the story of the 200-year history of the Yard from inception to present day.

    The Brooklyn Eagle reported in September that $15 million, over three years, in capital funds had been secured by Brooklyn state Senators John Sampson, Velmanette Montgomery and Daniel Squadron for the redevelopment of two facilities at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, creating nearly 300 “green-collar” jobs — including this one and the adaptive reuse of three connected former World War II-era machine shops to create a 220,000-square-foot complex to be called the Green Manufacturing Center.

    “Thanks to the leadership of the state Senate majority, particularly Conference Leader Sampson, the green transformation of the Navy Yard will be accelerated,” said Kimball at the time of that announcement.

    Saying he was “thrilled” to be tapped for “this high-profile project,” Michael Winship, senior project manager at Plaza Construction, said, “It’s rewarding to work on an historic preservation project that commemorates such a famous landmark.

    “The challenge is to seamlessly combine existing 200-year old architecture with a new 21st century addition, retaining the same authentic ambiance, but offering modern amenities.” Reportedly the sixth largest contractor in the New York region, Plaza was ranked by Engineering News Record in 2008 as 51 out of the nation’s top 400 contractors. The firm has offices in Manhattan and Miami (operating under the name KM Plaza).

  6. #36
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    Make It Green

    State invests in sustainable manufacturing in Brooklyn

    A rendering of the new green manufacturing center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard,
    designed by Cybul Partnership.

    As development touched nearly every corner of the city in the last real estate boom, the manufacturing sector, which traditionally takes up a lot of space and yields low rents, was increasingly pinched. With the downturn, the rate of encroachment on industrial areas has slowed, allowing for a green reincarnation of an industry not usually known for being clean.

    In late October, New York State gave manufacturing in Brooklyn a push in the right direction by chipping in to help build a 220,000 square foot Green Manufacturing Center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and to outfit an expansion of the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg with green technology.

    The Navy Yard center will be built on the foundations of three old machine shop facilities recycling some of the existing structure. The building will get a new skin and roof, outfitted with one of the city’s largest solar arrays.

    Tenants will be able to rent spaces ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 square feet. “Most of our tenants are currently in spaces under 5,000 square feet,” said Andrew Kimball, executive director of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “This space will give those tenants the opportunity to grow and expand.”

    Possible tenants could include a carpet and electronic waste recycling facilities and green building product manufacturers. Kimball sees the growth of green manufacturing as directly tied to new sustainability regulations.

    “As the city requires the greening of buildings and more clean energy, there are huge business opportunities in this area,” he said. The state is providing nearly $16 million for the project.

    Amy Anderson, a project manager for the New York Industrial Retention Network (NYIRN), is encouraged by the state’s support. “The symbol that it represents is very important. It shows the state’s investment in green manufacturing and technology,” she said. “It’s a growing subsector. The demand is real.” The design industry is a driving force for the growth of green manufacturing, she noted, particularly in the area of locally sourced interior finishes.

    The center is the latest push in an ongoing process to make the Yard a sustainable industrial park, including infrastructure improvements like wind powered street lights, porous paving to prevent run-off, and a smaller building with the city’s first building-integrated wind turbines.

    “We’re trying to green everything at the Navy Yard,” he said. “We want to exceed city standards and have all of our new buildings meet at least LEED Silver standards, which we think will, overtime, command better rents.”

    Cybul Partnership of Edgewater, N.J. is designing the project, which is expected to be complete in late 2011. Two other LEED certified manufacturing buildings are also in the pipeline at the Yard.

    Meanwhile at the Brooklyn Brewery, owner Steve Hindy has been a vocal advocate for the importance of manufacturing in the city and has written editorials on the subject. And while the Brooklyn Brewery has been looking to expand in the borough for years, he had been unable to find space for reasonable rents. (The Brewery is paying approximately $15 per square foot, which is more than many industrial businesses can pay.)

    As the economy softened, Hindy was able to negotiate a fifteen-year lease in three buildings at that rate, including 13,000 additional square feet of space. “We’re thrilled that it’s worked out this way. A year ago it didn’t seem possible,” Hindy told AN. “Our first preference was always to stay in the neighborhood.” As encouragement, the state is giving the Brewery a $800,000 grant, which will allow the company to build a waste grain recycling facility and a solar water heaters. The additional space, which is being designed by Fradkin & McAlpine Associates, will allow the facility to produce more than 50,000 barrels a year up from 8,000.

    While both projects are good news for green manufacturing in the city, the sector is still highly threatened, according to NYIRN. The advocacy group believes the city should do more to preserve and develop private industrial space. “The Brooklyn Navy Yard is an ideal model, but it’s not necessarily practical for the city to buy up all the industrial zones,” Anderson said.

    “There have been a lot of rezonings recently, and the city has been permitting too many commercial uses in industrial zones. Mixed use is great in many areas, but it drives up rents in industrial zones and drives out industry.”

    Hindy agrees that landlords often hold out for commercial tenants who are able to pay higher rents. “Though I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion that industrial tenants would be clamoring to fill those spaces,” he added.

  7. #37


    Of all the places to build a supermarket. Why are our politicians idiots? It seems that the people that run this city feel that buildings are just enormous cash registers and filing cabinets.

    Proposals Sought to Transform Admiral’s Row
    October 2009

    The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation has issued a Request for Proposals to develop a six-acre site, known as Admiral’s Row, and turn it into a neighborhood retail center attached to a supermarket on the western edge of the yard.

    The RFPs are looking to find developers interested in building the retail center that will include a large format supermarket of no less than 40,000 sq ft and an additional 20,000 sq ft of neighborhood retail space. According to the RFP, ideal development of the site would also include a minimum of 40,000 sq ft on an upper floor to accommodate light industrial uses and could include additional upper floor commercial uses.

    “In addition to the rapidly growing surrounding communities, nearly 40,000 residents live within a ten-minute walk of the site and 5,000 people work at the Navy Yard everyday providing a built in consumer base for the retail center,” said Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, which manages the 300-acre industrial park on behalf of the City. “Our goal is to put this property back to productive use by providing a unique opportunity for developers with the capacity and track record of establishing supermarkets and community-oriented retail that will serve the community and create local jobs.”

    The development of Admiral’s Row will build on the BNYDC’s commitment to sustainable infrastructure investments and new green buildings while continuing the expansion currently underway at the Brooklyn Navy Yard- the largest growth since WWII adding over 1.5 million sq ft of new space and 2,000 jobs over the next two years with the help of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Administration and the $200 million in city capital funding they allocated.

    All responses to the RFP are due back October 19, 2009

  8. #38


    So tremendously wasteful. The many, many housing projects in the area (Admirals Row is the only nice thing around) have parking lots, grassy lots and other unused/underused space in abundance, including their ground floors. That the only things of historical or architectural merit should be destroyed given for this supermarket given all that unused space around -- and that they should be destroyed for a parking lot in Downtown Brooklyn -- is a crime.

    The absolute waste and needlessness of this should not be forgotten. I hope we all recognize, and remember, this city's politicians for what they are -- hopelessly nearsighted, incompetent, and pointless.

  9. #39
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Brooklyn Greenway to Create Small Park in Navy Yard

    This is pretty cool. We received an email yesterday from the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative with information about a Request for Qualifications the non-profit had put out with the Regional Plan Association to identify designers for a small park it is planning to build along the Greenway on the site of the old Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital, one of several "open space nodes" planned along the Greenway route. This RFQ is the first we've heard of this particular project—and, if completed, would represent the first reuse of the Hospital site that we are aware of. The park space is already spec'd out at 1.7 acres at the Southeast corner of the Hospital site, along Williamsburg Street West between Flushing and Kent Avenues. (You can check out a video we made of the Naval Hospital back in 2007 if you'd like to learn more.) The deadline for submissions is March 12th, but interested parties must submit a Notice of Intent to Respond by Monday. The briefing book is available here.

  10. #40

  11. #41
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    The Struggle to Preserve the Brooklyn Navy Yard


    The historic buildings on Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, like the one at left, are badly in need of restoration

    FOR three years, some of the most powerful forces in New York real estate — including the federal and city governments, developers, preservationists and community advocates — have fought over the fate of a cluster of historically significant turn-of-the-last-century houses known as Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

    Last month, the parties finally arrived at a compromise that seemed to strike a balance between preservation and development, in a $60 million project that would add a large supermarket to an underserved neighborhood, while also salvaging some buildings of deep architectural and cultural significance.

    But it now appears that those historic buildings may be in such precarious condition that they cannot be saved.

    “This is one of the worst cases I have ever seen in terms of neglect,” said Alex Herrera, the director of the technical services center at the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “It is a disgrace.”

    For more than three decades, Admiral’s Row, like much of the nearby industrial waterfront, was largely left to rot. Further complicating matters was the fact that even though much of the 300-acre site was turned over to New York City in 1966, 10 former officers’ homes and a timber shed that was once used to repair masts of large sailing vessels remained under the control of the federal government.

    For decades, both sites languished.

    The roofs on some of the old naval officers’ homes, built from 1864 to 1901, collapsed long ago as weeds and vines took up residence. Meanwhile the storied Navy Yard — where 11,000 Colonial patriots lost their lives aboard British prison ships during the Revolution; where the Union outfitted ships to battle the Confederacy; and where the Navy established its radio command center for the North Atlantic Fleet during World War II — became synonymous with corruption and urban blight.

    “The Navy Yards really had a solid 30 years of public neglect,” said Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University.

    That began to change in 2002 when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pledged $250 million in city money to embark on the largest expansion of the yard since the 1940s.

    Andrew H. Kimball, the president of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, which manages the yard, said that although his core mission was to bring jobs to the city, the corporation had worked hard to preserve the historical character of the yards.

    “I don’t think you will find another industrial park in the country with a full-time archivist,” Mr. Kimball said. Contrasting the project with others in neighboring Dumbo and Williamsburg, where the shell of an industrial building is saved even as it is converted to luxury condominiums, Mr. Kimball said the corporation was interested in living preservation, in which function is maintained along with form.

    He pointed to the $31 million renovation of the 220,000-square-foot U-shaped factory built in 1899 and used as a machine shop in World War II as an example of repurposing a historical structure for a modern use. Unused for more than 50 years, it will become a green manufacturing center, creating hundreds of jobs in a growing industry, he said.

    In all, some 40 preservation projects — including the creation of a public museum — costing more than $200 million are under way or planned. There are now 5,000 people working in the yard, and the corporation’s profit from tenant rent has grown to $7.7 million last year, from $700,000 in 2001.

    But for all the progress in the yard, Admiral’s Row has continued to crumble.

    “This six-acre site has been by far the most complex development site I have had to deal with in my five years here,” Mr. Kimball said.

    And now the delicate compromise, having been reached, is under threat. The federal government agreed to sell the city the land to develop as long as it met certain conditions. Because the timber shed and the homes on the site are eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places, the government required that the shed and one of the homes be restored and useable. Last month, after protracted debate, negotiators accepted a proposal from PA Developers of Manhattan to build a supermarket — serving the 15,000 residents who live in three public housing projects bordering the yards — along with new retail stores and an additional 125,000 square feet of industrial space.

    But after the bid was accepted, Kristin Leahy, the cultural resources manager for the National Guard Bureau, the federal agency that controls the site, said engineers had found that the historic structures, particularly the timber shed, might be beyond repair.

    “We hired these engineers with tools to stabilize the buildings,” she said, “and that is when they came back and said we had a problem.”

    One proposal at a subsequent meeting last month was to deconstruct the building and then incorporate the salvaged pieces into a new structure. But Mr. Herrera of the Landmarks Conservancy said that deconstruction was another word for demolition.

    “What I don’t like is this attitude of ‘We can’t save it,’ without even really trying,” he said. “What we are really disappointed in is that during this whole process, nothing has been done to protect the buildings.”

    Ms. Leahy said she could not explain why federal authorities had let the property basically decay for decades, except to cite confusion over issues of ownership and control.
    Another analysis of the site by the National Guard Bureau, which still controls the site, should be complete in coming weeks, she said; all options will then be on the table again.

    As Mr. Kimball explained, “This is the last, best hope to do something positive on this site.”

  12. #42
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    Sands Street Gate, Before and After

    The Sands Street Gate entrance to the Brooklyn Navy Yard was built in 1901 and, according to the new book Images from America: Fort Greene by Howard Pitsch, restored in 1937. The photo above shows what it looks like today, after the removal last year of the wooden barn-like structure that enclosed the gate houses for years. To see what the structure looked like originally, click through to the comments section.

  13. #43
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    A Look at the Future Admiral's Row: Supermarket, Stores and More

    December 10, 2010, by Joey Arak

    Following a heated controversy, the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Admiral's Row was mostly marked for death to make way for new commercial development, including a Shop Rite supermarket and parking lot. (Two of the historic, crumbling buildings are being preserved, hopefully.) Now Brownstoner has snagged new renderings of the proposed redevelopment, including the restored Timber Shed and "Building B," the reconstructed Sands Street Gate and, of course, all the new buildings. Is everything shipshape?

    BREAKING: Admiral's Row Renderings Released [Brownstoner]

  14. #44
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    NYC Museum To Display Navy Yard's 200-Year History


    NEW YORK — For more than a century, tens of thousands worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, building some of the nation's most storied warships – sailing frigates, Civil War ironclads, gunboats, sloops and 20th-century warships and submarines. The yard's sprawling hospital treated soldiers from the 1860s through World War II.

    Now, more than four decades after the largest-scale shutdown of any military facility in U.S. history, the Navy Yard is coming to life again.

    Today, the 300-acre facility hums as a vibrant industrial park with the Steiner Studios, the largest film and television complex outside Hollywood, and hundreds of other businesses. A $25.5 million museum and visitor's center under construction, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at Building 92, will highlight the shipyard's 210-year history with blueprints, maps, photos and vintage tools.

    The navy yard once boasted its own power plant and radio station, more than 300 buildings and six dry docks where more than 160 ships were built, spanning 15 conflicts from the War of 1812 to the first Gulf War.

    Beginning in 1801, only authorized personnel were allowed inside the site, on an East River inlet across from Lower Manhattan. Today, access is restricted to people who work there and to occasional paid tours. But when the museum opens on Veteran's Day in November, the yard will be open to the public for the first time.

    The Associated Press recently toured the three-story museum site, housed in a restored 1857 home of the former Marine commandant designed by Thomas U. Walter, an architect of the U.S. Capitol.

    For seven years, the museum's archivist, Daniella Romano, has been poring over more than 41,000 blueprints, photos, drawings, maps, and studying the yard's artifacts, including a bell and 22,500-pound anchor from the USS Austin.

    "We are tapping into this extraordinary history of industry, innovation and creativity," she said. "The name is a national icon. But the real significance of the site was almost forgotten or only known to a very few."

    Among the ships built or commissioned at the yard were the USS Monitor (1862), the Union's first ironclad ship; the USS Maine (1895), which exploded in Havana Harbor and precipitated the Spanish-American War; the USS Arizona (1915), which went down in the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor; and the USS Missouri (1944), where the treaty ending World War II was signed.

  15. #45


    Is it just me, or is it almost perverse that Andrew Kimball and Co. are spending tens of millions building history museums to the Navy Yard ... while simultaneously embarking on a plan to raze its most historic structures -- Admirals Row -- in favor of a parking lot.

    Is that not outrageous? Where is the city on this one?

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