Gowanus

City bars ‘unsafe’ demolition at S.W. Bowne building in Red Hook

July 1, 2019 Lore Croghan
A demolition crew tore down a significant chunk of the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse in recent days before a Stop Work Order was issued. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The city has called a halt to demolition — again — at a historic Gowanus Canal-side industrial building that activists have been trying to save.

On Thursday, June 27, the city Buildings Department slapped Red Hook’s S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse at 595 Smith St. with a Full Stop Work Order because of “unsafe demolition,” online records indicate.

The agency shut down the site following an inspection made in response to a complaint by a member of the public through the city’s 311 system, Department of Buildings spokesperson Andrew Rudansky told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“During the inspection, DOB found that the work-site scaffold was missing required guard rails and scaffold stacking pins,” he said. (Stacking pins are metal pieces used to put scaffolding frames together.)

“We also determined that the power lines adjacent to the site lacked proper protection from the demolition work,” Rudansky explained.

“DOB will continue to monitor the site for compliance with this Stop Work Order and all required safety regulations,” he added.

This is a view through a construction fence of bare beams on the south end of the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
This is a view through a construction fence of bare beams on the south end of the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Before the tear-down can resume at 595 Smith St., the problems Rudansky enumerated must be remedied. Then the Buildings Department must reinspect the site and rescind the Stop Work Order.

The Chetrit Group, which owns the Bowne building, did not respond to a request from the Eagle for comment about the demolition process.

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Last week, a demolition crew was able to take down a significant portion of a wall on the south end of the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse even though the Stop Work Order shortened its time on the job.

The brick-and-timber warehouse was constructed by entrepreneur Samuel Winter Bowne in the 1880s. It has played a vital role in the industrial history of the Gowanus Canal.

Preservation advocates led by the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition started campaigning last year to win city landmark designation for the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse, but were unsuccessful.

As the Eagle previously reported, there was a hiatus in the demolition from March through early May because of an earlier Stop Work Order. The Chetrit Group had gotten a demolition permit for the historic property in February.

This is what the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse looked like in May 2018, before a fire damaged the south side of the property. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
This is what the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse looked like in May 2018, before a fire damaged the south side of the property. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Executives at the real estate firm told City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca during his first term in office that they wanted to build residential towers on the site. The Chetrit Group acquired the Bowne building in 2007 in a $14.5 million purchase of a package of properties, city Finance Department records indicate.

A June 2018 two-alarm fire damaged the south half of the Bowne building’s roof and fourth floor. Earlier this year, an FDNY spokesperson told the Eagle that the “incendiary fire” was “deliberately set.”

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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