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Passengers in cars zooming by on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York City who catch a glimpse of an abandoned 20-acre tract covered with weeds might think nothing ever was there and very little can be done with this ancient parcel.

They would be wrong on both counts.

Nestled in the midst of these grassy hills are the crumbling ruins of Greek Revival mansions and Second Empire structures once part of the bustling 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Among the historic structures in a state of decay is the mansion that was the home of Dr. E.R. Squibb, who built the first still for making pure anesthetic ether, and a naval hospital where Confederate soldiers were jailed during the Civil War. There also are the remains of long-unused tennis courts and a morgue.

These ghosts at what is known as the Naval Annex Historic Campus soon will be supplanted by a 21st-century media hub.

The nonprofit Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. and private developer Douglas Steiner recently reached an agreement (contingent on city, state and federal financing) to convert the old medical complex into a media, technology and film hub. Steiner, who owns an adjacent property housing his Steiner Studios movie and television production facilities, plans to create a media center on a 50-acre lot on the campus.

The $400-million project will use the nine historic buildings on the site and create five new structures that will yield 328,000 square feet of space for media companies and academic programs. About 100,000 square feet of new stages for film and TV also are planned, including what is said to be the first underwater stage in the country and the first back lot on the East Coast to feature a New York City streetscape. [This last factoid was highlighted during the uproar over the discovery earlier this year that J-Lo's TV commercial--which showed Jenny sentimentally returning to her roots in "The Bronx"--actually was filmed in Los Angeles].

The developers estimate the project will create 7,600 new jobs, including 2,500 direct jobs, 1,500 indirect jobs and 2,600 construction jobs. Unfortunately, even if government funding materializes, these jobs won’t be created in a New York minute: according to The New York Times, the developers say they expect it will take 12 years to fully build the new hub.

Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. As they say in Noo Yawk, you got a problem with that?

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