Brooklyn Navy Yard Claims Another Developer Project Still Going Nowhere

Long Island based developer Ed Blumenfeld’s Blumenfeld Development Group has been yanked off Brooklyn’s Admiral’s Row project, just the latest in the series of stalls, scandals, controversies and natural disasters that continue to bedevil the $100 million project.

The ambitious design for the a six-acre industrially zoned site was set to transform the space, which has been pockmarked by dilapidated old naval buildings for decades. Plans called for a retail center and industrial park, featuring a 74, 000 square-foot supermarket as anchor for a modern shopping center along with more than 100, 000 square feet of industrial space.

Brooklyn Navy Yard  Claims Another Developer Project Still Going Nowhere screen print vimeo.com

                                                                                                      Today                                                                                                         Brooklyn’s Admiral’s Row project

The selection of the Blumenfeld Groups to take charge of the development and the subsequent plan were unveiled a year ago amid great fanfare. In announcing the arrangement, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called it “truly a win-win-win, ” notably for the thousands of local residents, many of them living without cars in subsidized housing projects, who have few groceries or other retail options.

But a year after the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development, which oversees the city-owned site, tapped Blumenfeld’s Group as builder they officially pulled him off the project; In a recently released statement, Navy Yard President and Chief Executive David Ehrenberg cited that Blumenfeld failed to meet its end of the contract, with little in the way of explanation or details.

But even at its inception Admiral’s Row was surrounded by conflict. As plans for the project were made public, a number of advocates for preserving historic buildings objected to tearing all nine of the historic old naval residences, all of which have been in a sorry state of disrepair for decades. One argument centered around the edifice known as the timber shed, which had once functioned as storage for the ships’ masts, which the last such structure remaining in the United States.

Ultimately the activists’ voices were largely drowned out by local families needing access to groceries and other consumer goods, along with their supporters.
Eventually a compromise was struck, with plans for the salvation and renovation of two of the buildings, with ultimate tear-downs the expected fate of the remaining seven.
“Am I sad to see the other buildings demolished? Yes, I think it’s going to be very upsetting, but I’m going to be very excited to see the restoration of the two buildings, ” Alex Herrera of the New York Landmarks Conservancy remarked at the time. “Before, there was no hope for anything, ” he added. “Now, at least we can have hope for those two buildings, and for the fact that the site won’t be this eyesore it’s been for so long.”

But that was by no means the end of the problems to beset Admiral’s Row. At first it was Aaron Malinsky’s PA Associates which had been selected to develop the site in 2010, a full two years before the Blumenfeld Group was tapped for the project. But the powers-that-be at the Navy Yard dismissed Malinsky after he was charged in a bribery scandal also implicating State Senator Carl Kruger. Though the charges against the developer were dropped and he was cleared of all accusations of wrongdoing, Malinsky’s hopes to complete the Admiral’s Row project was one substantial cost of the scandal.

Then a year ago the hopes of area residents that the eyesore of a site was finally going to be utilized were once again raised. The project was once again on track with family-run Blumenfeld Development Group coming complete with a New York pedigree, having both the East River Plaza in East Harlem and the Bulova Corporate Center and Bulova Retail Plaza in Queens to its credit.

But unforeseen forces of nature appear to have taken their toll on the project during 2013, according to company vice-president Brad Blumenfeld. His statement on the Admiral’s Row dismissal blames the failure to proceed on changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s preliminary revised flood zones in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and their impact on flood insurance premiums and construction costs.

As he put it: “Sandy has basically claimed one more victim.”

Any developer who attempts to tackle the project is of course certain to face the new costs and bureaucratic quicksand around compliance that stopped the Blumenfeld Group in its tracks. But, despite the multiple misfires, the upset conservationists, bribery scandal, crumbling old buildings, destructive acts of nature and the resulting high costs of doing business, Navy Yard President Ehrenberg refuses to accept defeat.

“We are still committed to Admiral’s Row being anchored by a supermarket that meets the community’s needs and an industrial facility that supports our core mission, ” he has gone on the record saying. “The city-approved site plan remains in place and we are evaluating our options for moving forward.”

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