Red Hook

Red Hook activists fight to save historic factory from UPS demolition

May 23, 2019 Lore Croghan
Carolina Salguero of PortSide NewYork is involved in a campaign to save the historic Lidgerwood Building from demolition. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Red Hook community activists are protesting the scheduled demolition of the Lidgerwood Building, a 19th-century factory that lives on the neighborhood’s historic industrial waterfront.

Delivery giant UPS bought the red-painted factory at 202 Coffey St. last year, and local residents say that the company’s plan to knock it down would be a terrible blow to the neighborhood.

“We want to make them see there’s a way to combine serving e-commerce and the future and repurposing the past,” Carolina Salguero, who’s involved in efforts to save the eye-catching building, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“The quest to save the Lidgerwood Building really is bigger than Brooklyn,” said Salguero, the founder and president of PortSide NewYork. The waterway-centric nonprofit operates a museum and floating cultural center on a decommissioned oil tanker called the Mary A. Whalen.

“Red Hook was significant for 100 years for its maritime and industrial production and innovation,” Salguero said. “The Lidgerwood Building is a symbol of that.

“Sometimes historic buildings are ugly carbuncles,” she added. “In this case, it’s a very handsome building. It’s a win-win.”

A sense of history

The former foundry, which was constructed in the 1880s, winds up in tourists’ Instagram feeds because it’s located right across the street from Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier. The recreation area is a prime vantage point to view the Statue of Liberty.

This 2018 photo shows the Lidgerwood Building in happier times. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
This 2018 photo shows the Lidgerwood Building in happier times. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

The park is surrounded by the Lidgerwood Building and other 19th-century warehouses.

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“You have this sense of time, of history when you are there,” Salguero told the Eagle. “If the Lidgerwood Building is torn down, it would totally ruin that sense of time and place.”

A petition signed by more than 1,670 people asks UPS to leave the Valentino Park-facing exterior of the Lidgerwood Building intact — and instead develop the north side of the property.

Salguero spoke to two UPS staff members she met at an event last week and asked one of them to forward an email to the executive in charge of 202 Coffey St. She hasn’t heard from the executive, but hypothesizes that the local UPS real estate team might not have the authority to call off the demolition — so she’s going to email an appeal to the company’s CEO, David Abney.

Last week, PortSide tweeted an invite to UPS executives to meet with the Red Hook community and discuss a proposal to save the building’s facade. UPS did not respond.

A word from UPS

UPS might be open to dialogue about the historic property, a statement from a company spokesperson suggested.

“UPS is in contact with the appropriate authorities and is aware of requests from neighborhood groups,” the spokesperson told the Eagle. “We are taking them under consideration.”

The historic factory originally belonged to the Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company.

It made equipment that was used to construct the Panama Canal and the Croton Falls Reservoir’s main dam “and more mundanely but still importantly — dock building,” says a posting on Red Hook WaterStories, which is PortSide’s digital guide to the neighborhood’s past and present.

In recent years, 202 Coffey St. was rented out for movie, TV and photo shoots — in fact, fans of “Gotham” and “Boardwalk Empire” may recognize it.

The Lidgerwood Building is not landmarked. If it were, it couldn’t be demolished without the approval of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

There’s now a construction fence around the Lidgerwood Building. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
There’s now a construction fence around the Lidgerwood Building. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Community Board 6 recently sent LPC Chairperson Sarah Carroll a letter asking the commission to evaluate whether the Lidgerwood Building should be put on the agency’s calendar to be considered for landmark designation.

A request the LPC received to evaluate the building is currently under review, preservation agency spokeswoman Zodet Negron told the Eagle.

Mammoth development site

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, told the Eagle that “it’s a shame when a historic building as characteristic of its community as this one is thoughtlessly destroyed.

“It is difficult to believe that UPS cannot find an adaptive reuse for such an iconic Red Hook structure,” he said.

The Lidgerwood Building is part of a huge waterfront development site UPS bought in two separate transactions last year.

In January 2018, the company purchased the Lidgerwood Building for $37.25 million from a development firm from Milan called Est4te Four, city Finance Department records show.

In December of that same year, UPS paid industrial landlord Sitex Group $303 million for a cluster of industrial buildings surrounding 202 Coffey St., according to city records. Sitex Group had bought the buildings from Est4te Four for $105 million in 2017.

Here’s another glimpse of the historic Lidgerwood Building, tucked behind a construction fence. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Here’s another glimpse of the historic Lidgerwood Building, tucked behind a construction fence. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The developer from Milan had planned to build a cutting-edge office campus called Red Hook Innovation Studios and include the Lidgerwood Building in it.

The Buildings Department approved demolition applications

In March, the Buildings Department approved UPS’s application to demolish 202 Coffey St. But the agency has not yet issued a demolition permit, online records show.

On May 16, the agency issued a permit for UPS to remove the building’s sprinkler system, which is a step in dismantling the property.

Nevertheless, Salguero feels hopeful UPS will listen to Red Hook residents’ concerns and ultimately decide to preserve the building’s facade.

“UPS is a customer-service company,” she said. “It matters to them what people think.”

The Buildings Department has also approved UPS’s demolition applications for two buildings adjacent to the Lidgerwood Building, namely 300 Coffey St. and 217 Wolcott St.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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