East New York

Affordable-housing design for Empire State Dairy site gets the green light

August 14, 2019 Lore Croghan
The Empire State Dairy project’s revised design passed muster with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Rendering by Dattner Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

Bushburg Properties can now move forward with an affordable-housing development that will cantilever over a historic East New York dairy.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the go-ahead on Tuesday for the Empire State Dairy Company Buildings project at 2840 Atlantic Ave. 

Commissioners approved a revamped design that includes a new 14-story building and extensive restoration for century-plus-old brick industrial buildings. The dairy’s façade is adorned with unusual tile murals of Alpine cows and cowherds.  

These American majolica tile murals can be found on the front of the Empire State Dairy Company Buildings. Photo via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
These American majolica tile murals can be found on the front of the Empire State Dairy Company Buildings. Photo via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The initial version of Dattner Architects’ design failed to pass muster with the LPC at an April hearing. On that occasion, several commissioners objected to the new building’s pronounced cantilevers, meaning bits of the new building that overhang the landmarked dairy’s roof.

In its do-over, Dattner Architects made the new building’s cantilevers less conspicuous and strengthened its renovation plan for the dairy buildings. 

The plan includes the restoration of the unusual mosaics, which the American Encaustic Tiling Company designed.  

They’re located above the dairy’s front entrance. They depict a milkmaid, a man wearing lederhosen, some cows and Alpine scenery.

Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said at Tuesday’s meeting that the color palette of the new building was problematic. Façade materials include brick with a dark hue that’s called Hebron Brandywine and ultra-high performance concrete panels that are light gray. 

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A couple other commissioners agreed with her. 

According to city Buildings Department records, 336 apartments are planned for the project. Sholom Laine of Bushburg Properties said at the April hearing that 100 percent of the units will be affordable. 

The dairy property has frontage on Schenck Avenue, Atlantic Avenue and Barbey Street.

Empire State Dairy Company Buildings will be incorporated into an affordable-housing development. Rendering by Dattner Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Empire State Dairy Company Buildings will be incorporated into an affordable-housing development. Rendering by Dattner Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The designer of part of the landmarked dairy was distinguished Brooklyn architect of yesteryear Theobald Engelhardt. Part of it was designed by Milwaukee architect Otto Strack.

Empire State Dairy Company was the original occupant of the buildings. Borden Dairy Corp. — whose mascot is Elsie the Cow — later moved into the complex. 

Facing criticism

Public testimony was not allowed at Tuesday’s LPC meeting about the dairy project redesign. The agency’s procedural rules call for public testimony the first time an applicant presents an item to the commissioners but not during subsequent appearances.   

Nevertheless, grassroots group Preserving East New York’s founder Zulmilena Then submitted a letter about the dairy project to the LPC on Tuesday. 

This is a bird’s eye view of the revised Empire State Dairy design. Rendering by Dattner Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
This is a bird’s eye view of the revised Empire State Dairy design. Rendering by Dattner Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

In it, she applauded Dattner Architects’ restoration plans for the landmarked dairy buildings but said the new building’s cantilevers were overwhelming — even in their revised configuration.

“It feels as if the new structure is stepping over the existing buildings,” Then wrote.

The cantilevers are a “design gesture” that “disrespects the existing landmarked structures,” she wrote.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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