Pieces of Gowanus Station’s facade will be incorporated in sewage facility, EPA announces

Advocates fought for 234 Butler St.'s preservation

February 22, 2019 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Pieces of the Gowanus Station Building will be dismantled and reassembled at a new sewage facility, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Friday.

Over the past couple years, community activists have staged protests against the planned demolition of Gowanus Station, which is located at 234 Butler St. at the north head of the Gowanus Canal.

A group called the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition campaigned for the century-old, Beaux Arts-style Butler Street building to be included in a city-designated historic district — and therefore protected from demolition.

Gowanus Station’s Nevins Street facade and 25 to 30 feet of its Butler Street facade will be dismantled and reconstructed “to the extent practicable,” the EPA said.

The walls will be incorporated into a headhouse building that will be constructed on the property as the above-ground portion of a combined sewer overflow storage tank.

A terra-cotta pediment on the historic building’s Nevins Street facade is inscribed with the words “Gowanus Station.” The terra-cotta sign will be preserved and incorporated into the new headhouse building.

‘Good-faith effort’

The EPA has drafted a memorandum of agreement with the New York State Historic Preservation Office about preserving the Gowanus Station’s two walls.

In a statement, EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez said the agreement “represents a good-faith effort to balance the community’s input with our obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act and Superfund goal of revitalizing one of the nation’s most seriously contaminated waterbodies.”

“Preservationists know that a promise to tear down and rebuild a historic building does not mean that it will actually happen, that it will be done well, or that it will have any authenticity,” a Gowanus Landmarking Coalition spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle.

This is the Gowanus Canal behind the Gowanus Station Building.

The spokesperson said the EPA “failed to make the right decision” and blamed city agencies for allowing “a classic Gowanus building” to be dismantled.

“If the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission had stepped in, we would not be at this juncture,” the spokesperson added. “If the Department of Environmental Protection had not failed to consider the building’s value as a National Register-eligible site from the outset, we would not be at this juncture. If the Environmental Protection Agency had insisted that DEP back down from its fait accompli, we would not be at this juncture.”

The city Department of Environmental Protection plans to build the sewage facility as part of a mammoth project to clean up the dangerously polluted Gowanus Canal.

The 1.8-mile canal is a federal Superfund site. The EPA finalized its waterway cleanup plan in 2013.

According to a court order filed in city Finance Department records, the City of New York took title to the Gowanus Station Building and two other properties through eminent domain in September 2018.

Follow Brooklyn Eagle reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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