Take a look at Gowanus buildings that activists want landmarked

May 22, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Development is percolating along the Gowanus Canal, as recently constructed apartment buildings 363 and 365 Bond St. indicate. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Preserve our industrial past!

That’s the rallying cry of the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition, an alliance of civic groups and neighborhood residents.

The coalition is calling for city landmark designation for numerous buildings in the neighborhood surrounding that poisonously polluted but much-loved federal Superfund site, the Gowanus Canal.

Despite the area’s daunting pollution, residential developers consider Gowanus a highly desirable place to build. Rezoning is expected to bring an onslaught of demolition and new construction.

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Coalition members say historically significant buildings should be landmarked ahead of Gowanus’ pending rezoning — not as an afterthought, as has been the case in rezoned areas such as East Harlem.

“We’re out here today to get out in front of those bulldozers — metaphorically speaking, we hope,” coalition member Brad Vogel said at a press conference Tuesday.


“A firestorm of rezoning is coming,” Historic Districts Council Executive Director Simeon Bankoff said.

Landmarking brings a measure of stability to neighborhoods because landlords cannot tear down buildings or alter their facades without the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s permission.

“We’ve got buildings that are worthy of saving, that’s for sure,” Friends & Residents of Greater Gowanus co-founder Linda Mariano said.

Yet, though residents gave the preservation agency requests for evaluation of Gowanus buildings in 2008 and 2016, the agency hasn’t responded, Mariano told the Brooklyn Eagle.

At the press conference, coalition members said they want to have a sit-down with the incoming Landmarks Preservation Commission chairman.

In April Meenakshi Srinivasan, the current chairwoman, announced her resignation, which will take effect on June 1. She plans to work in the private sector.

Tuesday’s press conference took place in front of the bridgekeeper’s house on the Union Street Bridge. The unusual glazed-brick structure, which was constructed in the middle of the 20th century, is on the list of buildings activists want landmarked.

What’s Up With the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse?

A Gowanus building that’s “imminently in danger” is the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse, Vogel said.

Workers are tearing the roof off the four-story brick warehouse at 595 Smith St., which was built in 1886.

“This has been going on for a week,” artist Ken Rush told the Eagle on Monday. “They came with pitchforks. It was hair-raising.”

Rush has had a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on at the Bowne warehouse because he has been sitting on the Hamilton Avenue Bridge’s sidewalk and painting a picture of the building.

The historic grain storehouse has belonged since 2007 to the Chetrit Group, city Finance Department records indicate.



Include Gowanus Station in a Historic District, Advocates Say

Coalition members recommend the creation of a five-building historic district at the head of the Gowanus Canal. The Gowanus Station at 234 Butler St. is one of the buildings that should be included in it, they say.

In December, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected requests from Vogel and Mariano to evaluate the building as a candidate for landmark designation.

The City Council recently approved the acquisition of the century-old Beaux-Arts building through eminent domain so the site can be used to build a combined sewage overflow retention tank for the Gowanus Canal. The building belongs to Salvatore Tagliavia.

In April, an Environmental Protection Agency project manager told the Eagle that possibly “a portion of the building could be preserved.”

Another building the activists say should be included in a head-of-canal historic district is the century-old former Brooklyn headquarters of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 233 Butler St. MacArthur Holdings bought the building for $9.5 million last year, Finance Department records indicate.

Another building that belongs in the small historic district is the R.G. Dun and Company Building at 239-257 Butler St., they suggest. It’s also a century old.

Landmarking Recommendations Include Factory Buildings and Rowhouses

There are several former factory buildings on the coalition’s list of Gowanus landmarking candidates.

Some are being used as artists’ studios — for instance, the National Packing Box Factory at 543 Union St. and the Old American Can Factory at 232 3rd St.

A former brass foundry at 452 Union St. that was constructed in 1889 is now an event venue called the Green Building.

Alex Donskoi is turning 421 Bond St., which is part of the Ice House and Brewing Complex, into a restaurant with rooftop seating, Patch.com has reported. The building stands on the Gowanus Canal’s shoreline.

The Norge Sailmakers Building at 170 Second Ave. is also a landmarking candidate.

The coalition recommends that 1880s rowhouses on 2nd Street on the Carroll Gardens side of the Gowanus Canal be deemed a historic district, as well as rowhouses on the north side of 12th Street between Third and Fourth avenues.

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