FIVE SITES CALENDARED!
As of 6.25.19 five historic Gowanus buildings have been calendared for potential designation as individual landmarks!
the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel Pump House and Gate House (2 buildings) at 196 Butler Street;
the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) Central Powerhouse at 153 2nd Street;
the Old American Can Factory (3 buildings) at 238-246 3rd Street;
the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Building at 223-237 Butler Street;
and the Norge Sailmakers Corporation Building at 170-172 2nd Avenue.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
PACIFIC BRANCH LIBRARY
PACIFIC BRANCH, BPL, BROOKLYN
25 Fourth Avenue
Raymond F. Almirall, 1903
Brooklyn’s first Carnegie library, the Pacific Branch (named for its location at Pacific Street) was heralded upon completion for its dignified Beaux Arts design. The interior of the building, which has retained its original two-story stacks, was also praised for its light, air and efficient use of space. The building’s brick façades feature prominent limestone trim, including keystones above the arched door and window openings and oversized torches and swags supporting the cornice. The building has had a difficult history, including early damage in 1914 during the construction of the nearby subway, as well as a number of fires. Murals completed in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration graced the second floor for a number of years, but are no longer extant. Despite widespread support, the branch is not a designated city landmark. In 2013, it was under threat of being sold to a developer, but public outcry and political pressure led the BPL to reconsider these plans.
WHO WE ARE
Gowanus Landmarking Coalition
The Gowanus Landmarking Coalition is a group of Gowanus residents, neighborhood organizations, local businesses, and city-wide organizations who have come together to advocate for city landmark designation for key historical, architectural, and cultural sites in Gowanus prior to neighborhood rezoning. We seek to ensure that Gowanus retains an authentic sense of place - and remains capable of telling its own many-layered story.
The Coalition arose in the summer of 2017 during the course of the Gowanus Places Study put on by the NYC Department of City Planning. Across the span of 2018, the Coalition continued to grow, releasing lists of landmarks for designation, holding press conferences and vigils, and meeting with neighborhood, borough, and city officials regarding the need for landmarking. In 2019, we continue to push public officials to act in Gowanus before it is too late to save the touchstone buildings and districts that impart unique neighborhood character.
Members of the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition include, but are not limited to:
Gowanus resident Brad Vogel
Organizations that are not officially part of the Coalition but who have submitted their own lists of proposed Gowanus landmarks to the Landmarks Preservation Commission:
Municipal Art Society
New York Landmarks Conservancy
GOWANUS STATION, 234 BUTLER ST
GOWANUS FLUSHING TUNNEL PUMP HOUSE, 209 DOUGLASS STREET
The pumping house was constructed as part of the flushing system of the canal. It is still in use today, and the exterior remains largely intact despite the removal and reconstruction of much of the original equipment during the 1990s.
ASPCA MEMORIAL BUILDING AND HORSE TROUGH, 233 BUTLER STREET
Renwick, Aspinwall & Tucker, 1913
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opened its Brooklyn headquarters here in 1913. The organization was formerly located in a basement at 114 Lawrence Street, and this building on Butler Street was the result of generous donations by wealthy philanthropists, including the Bowdoin and Schermerhorn families. When it was completed, it was larger than the Manhattan location and had a formal lobby and reception space. The roof design even included a terrace that functioned as a dog run. The ASPCA occupied this space until 1979, and the building has since been a musical-instrument repair shop.
R.G. DUN AND COMPANY BUILDING, 239-57 BUTLER STREET/206 NEVINS STREET
This four story factory was commissioned by Robert Graham Dun and completed by the Moyer Engineering and Construction Company in 1914. This reinforced concrete structure features decorative, blue terra-cotta detailing which contrasts with the overall gray-colored concrete materiality. The printing industry faded from this building in the 1960s and the use shifted to the manufacturing of plastic products. Subsequently, the building remained vacant for many years but has recently been zoned for residential use.
AMERICAN CAN FACTORY, 232 3RD STREET
Within a year of its opening, this factory was producing 1,800 tin boxes per week and within a decade grew to be a company with more than 150 employees. Oil, pumped from iron tank boats on the Gowanus Canal, powered the factory. The company sold this location to the American Can Company in 1901. Today the building retains a functional use as spaces for designers, artists and manufacturers. Visually, it is a testament to Gowanus’ industrial past and its ability to adapt to serve current production needs. Sonic Youth recorded its first three albums at this complex, and Brian Eno recorded his On Land record there in 1981.
BROOKLYN RAPID TRANSIT POWERHOUSE, 322 3RD AVENUE
This massive eight-story Romanesque Revival style building served as the powerhouse for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Corporation, or BRT. The BRT owned every steam railroad, elevated line and streetcar in Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century, and this enormous building burned coal to generate electricity for all of the trains. Coal was fed from the canal bank via a coal elevator to a cement tunnel connecting the coal pit and the larger boiler building. The currently vacant building, the only remnant of what originally was an extensive complex, is under threat by neglect and abandonment.
S.W. BOWNE GRAIN STOREHOUSE, 595-611 SMITH STREET
From roughly 1850 through the 1880s, over 300 storehouses erupted along Brooklyn's shores. This building is a rare remnant. The storehouse typology was created to store bulk raw materials, like grain, as opposed to warehouses which housed manufactured and/or finished products, or wares. Today, most of these storehouses have been lost along the waterfront. Its unusual gable-ended design and roof is a departure from other storehouses, which were usually flat-roofed. Despite the fire, the building retains a high degree of architectural integrity, including its original fire shutters and star-ended tensile tile rods, and still visually reads as a 19th century industrial giant.
UNION STREET BRIDGE CONTROL TOWER
NATIONAL PACKING BOX COMPANY, 543 UNION STREET
James A. Dyckeman commissioned architect Robert Dixon to construct this industrial building for his box factory. Eventually the business increased and became a five building complex. A portion of this building burned in 1932, and by 1936, Dyckeman’s company was bankrupt. Other industries that have operated here include brass and cabinet manufacturing. The building is still in use today and is currently home to Proteus Gowanus, an interdisciplinary gallery and reading room. Housed within Proteus is Gowanus Hall, a museum dedicated to the history of the canal itself.
NORGE SAILMAKERS BUILDING, 170 2ND AVENUE
T.H. ROULSTON, INC. BUILDINGS, 70-124 9TH STREET
Thomas Roulston was the son of an Irish immigrant who was a grocery-clerk-turned-owner in Brooklyn. By 1888, Roulston owned three groceries, and this lot was purchased for the construction of a large grocery warehouse. The building served as the central warehouse for the Roulston company, which grew to more than 300 stores in the five boroughs. The building and the business were sold after his death in 1951 by his son. All of the buildings in this complex were built at the same time and are Renaissance Revival in style with corbeled cornices and segmentally arched windows.
4TH STREET BREWERY AND ICEHOUSE COMPLEX, 401-421 BOND STREET
The earliest company known to have occupied this complex was the Empire City Hygeia Ice Company in 1904. Two years later a six-story building was also constructed, serving the Leonard Michel Brewing Company and containing a brewhouse, ice storage and freezing tanks. By 1939 the entire complex was occupied by the Ebling Brewing Company, but since 1950 the complex has not been affiliated with beer or brewing.
THE GREEN BUILDING, 450-460 UNION STREET
This site has hosted a variety of industry since the Gowanus first began to operate shortly after the Civil War and is reflective of how long industry has characterized the area. It was previously home to Thomas Paulson & Son, a brass foundry. In 2002, plans were made to demolish the building and replace it with a luxury residential tower. After much community outcry and two years of discussion with the Board of Standards and Appeals, the site was not granted a residential rezoning and the building was saved. The building is being reused as an event space and serves as a symbol of the Gowanus community’s determination to preserve its industrial heritage.
2ND STREET HISTORIC DISTRICT
These brick rowhouses contain a high degree of historic integrity, such as original wood cornices, sandstone lintels and sills, and ornate cast-iron gates and fences. This row is especially interesting because the houses rise only two stories, as opposed to the three and a half that is typical of the neighborhood.
HEAD-OF-CANAL HISTORIC DISTRICT
Gowanus Landmarking Coalition Launches Website Ahead of Rezoning
February 6, 2019
GOWANUS - The Gowanus Landmarking Coalition unveiled its new website today in advance of tonight’s public meeting regarding the city’s Gowanus rezoning plan.
The website can be found at: www.gowanuslandmarks.org
The new site highlights the Coalition’s priority list of fifteen sites and small districts in Gowanus that warrant official designation by the City of New York.
Having waited more than two years for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to conclude its study of potential Gowanus landmarks for designation, the Coalition continues to press public officials to designate and protect critical sites before rezoning arrives in the neighborhood.
“We’ve seen this before in recent city-led neighborhood rezonings,” said Coalition member and Gowanus resident Brad Vogel, “Landmarking has been left as something of an afterthought in places like East Harlem, Inwood, and East New York when it needs to happen prior to the major changes that come with city-led rezonings. We hope the city will take a better course here in Gowanus.”
Some groups in the Coalition have been advocating for landmark designation in Gowanus for more than a decade. And during that time, several quintessentially Gowanus sites, like the Burns Brothers Coal Pockets, have been lost to demolition.
“We invite community members to sign our petition found at the new Coalition website,” said Kelly Carroll of the Historic Districts Council. “Gowanus should not be left with a paltry 3 or 4 designated landmarks when the rezoning dust settles. Telling the full story of this neighborhood’s industrial and maritime heritage requires more than a dozen sites. Our Coalition priority list is a good start.”
The Coalition, comprised of city-wide, neighborhood, and historical groups, continues to meet with elected officials and city agencies to advocate for landmark designation.
“Historic interpretation signage in the neighborhood as proposed by the city sounds nice. But first we need to save the buildings that still exist and give Gowanus a real sense of place,” said Linda Mariano of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus. “We ask our public officials to do right by Gowanus and landmark the important buildings shown on our website as soon as possible.”
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
HISTORIC DISTRICTS COUNCIL ACTION ALERT
Landmark Gowanus Before Rezoning
In September 2016, the City of New York announced that the Gowanus neighborhood would be rezoned. Under the de Blasio administration, neighborhoods throughout the city have been rezoned to encourage higher-density, residential development. To help incorporate the historic buildings of the community into this plan, the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition was formed. Composed of representatives from the Park Slope Civic Council, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, The Old Stone House, the Carroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development, and the Historic Districts Council and interested residents, the coalition actively participated in City Planning’s Public Realm Working Group, which met throughout 2017.
Drawing on over a decade’s worth of research, surveys, and studies of the built fabric of the Gowanus neighborhood, the coalition made a formal presentation to the Public Realm Working Group and submitted official recommendations to the City Planning Commission (CPC) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for historic buildings that merit protection. Our goal is to get the City to acknowledge and protect more historic buildings than in previous rezonings, such as East New York where only one building was designated as a landmark, or East Harlem, where only three buildings were protected.
On June 4, 2018, the CPC released its draft framework for the Gowanus rezoning. After examining the document, we became confident that the scale of the proposed zoning will endanger many of Gowanus’ historic buildings, especially those that are low-rise. The Coalition continues to advocate for the selected buildings and sites through press events, meetings with our elected officials, and community outreach, but to date, the LPC has not acted to preserve one site in Gowanus since 2006, when the agency designated the Coignet Stone Building. The Gowanus rezoning is imminent. To this end, we ask you to send a letter requesting landmarking for Gowanus’ stand-out buildings to LPC’s Chair Sarah Carroll and Councilmember Brad Lander, who represents the bulk of the area.
For more information visit https://hdc.org/policy/action-alert-landmark-gowanus-before-rezoning/
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PUBLIC DESIGN COMMISSION
November 11, 2018
We write on behalf of the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition. We are deeply concerned about the design put forward by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Retention Tank Construction associated with the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, New York. We understand the Public Design Commission will consider the project at its November 14th public hearing.
First and foremost, it is our firm belief that a better design than what DEP will present to you…is still very much possible. Since the spring of 2017, we have publicly called for a tank site design that would not destroy the historic Gowanus Station at 234 Butler Street (at the corner of Butler and Nevins), a National Register-eligible historic resource. An improved overall design would, at the very least, incorporate the east and north facades of Gowanus Station in place.
Gowanus Station, constructed in 1914, is a striking Beaux Arts structure on the periphery of the very large tank site that covers two full city blocks. The two-story brick building features an elaborate pediment resplendent with terra cotta sculptural detail. Significantly, it is the only building in the Gowanus area that has the word “Gowanus” emblazoned on it. The overall structure, which features bluestone water tables, decorative scrollwork over window openings, and quoins, is an embodiment of the overall streetscape “feel” that readily identifies the Gowanus neighborhood. It currently houses not only a business but also two community arts groups. It exudes a sense of place that is of value to the neighborhood, even inspiring a candlelight vigil to save it from destruction. It is an example of good design, especially for what was originally a municipal building that served as a yard and outpost for building out water and sewer infrastructure in the newly-consolidated Brooklyn, thereby tying in even further with the overriding theme of the neighborhood’s history: a place of interaction between humankind and the water.
DEP, to date, has not shown the public any design that calls for retaining the building in place on the tank site. Nor has it shown the public any design that calls for retaining in place the east façade and a large portion of the north façade, as contemplated in a draft Memorandum of Agreement between the EPA and NY SHPO. Even though DEP knew in spring of 2017 that members of the community publicly opposed demolishing Gowanus Station (submitting input at and following a scoping session), its plans for the tank sent to EPA in late June of 2017 did not include ANY retention of the building.
At present, DEP’s plan calls for moving only the pediment of Gowanus Station and rebuilding it later along Butler Street. This is not an acceptable alternative to retaining the facades in place at the corner of Butler and Nevins since: 1) it is not authentic to the structure, site or vision of the architect, 2) the pediment and its new base may never be constructed, 3) situating the pediment on the proposed new site would place it in a less prominent position, 4) the headhouse design should respect what is already in place and of value to the community rather than being seen as a sort of nettlesome impurity in a new design, and 5) DEP was on notice as to the building’s value and should have designed its facility to avoid demolishing Gowanus Station at the outset but did not do so; DEP should not be allowed to demolish it now as a sort of self-generated fait accompli, even if it now costs DEP more to retain the facades.
We seek your help, as we hope the Public Design Commission will be a strong voice calling for a project design that respects our Gowanus neighborhood. The authentic old and the respectful new can co-exist in this project. This is also a matter of some urgency: a Memorandum of Agreement, required pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, has yet to be signed for DEP’s tank project outlining how the adverse effects to historic resources will be avoided or mitigated. The City has, in the meantime, acquired the Gowanus Station property via eminent domain as of November 1, and there is a significant risk that the building may be demolished before a signed MOA is in place. This raises serious questions about whether the proposed demolition will comply with federal law.
In addition to the question of the legality of this potential demolition, there is also strong support from the community to save this building and incorporate it into the tank headhouse design. When DEP submitted its designs for the site preparation and demolition to EPA on June 30, 2017, it had been made very much aware of the value of Gowanus Station to the community, and the community’s request that the building be spared. DEP, however, did not appear to undertake additional historic preservation analysis as a result of the community input until NY SHPO reached out months later.
In summary, we ask that you consider these facts:
1. A federally-required MOA for the CSO tank design proposal has yet to be signed. The draft of this document called for retaining the facades of Gowanus Station in place.
2. The historic and aesthetic importance of retaining the Gowanus Station, along with the community’s desire to keep it, has long been documented and conveyed to DEP.
3. Our concerns with the tank site design have not been addressed, either through retention of Gowanus Station or through incorporating aspects of the building authentically into the proposed tank design.
4. PDC can and should insist on a more creative design requiring retention of the Gowanus Station facades.
We implore you to intervene to ensure a design responsive to community requests and interests, one that leaves - at a minimum - the facades of this valuable landmark, Gowanus Station, intact. Please request, in the meantime, that DEP refrain from demolishing Gowanus Station so as to preserve PDC’s meaningful ability to consider all options.
Gowanus Landmarking Coalition
Gowanus Landmarking Coalition
Gowanus Landmarking Coalition
Park Slope Civic Council
Old Stone House
Historic Districts Council
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Boerum Hill Association
Carroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development
Spoke the Hub
Friends of Carroll Park
12th Street Association