As Gowanus Rezoning Looms, City Designates Five Industrial Buildings as Historic Landmarks

The Montauk Paint Manufacturing Company Building. Photo via Landmarks Preservation Commission

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This morning, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously in favor of landmarking five separate industrial buildings in Gowanus.

Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy made note of the local community, “who have worked not only in concert with [the LPC] to landmark these buildings, but who have been advocating for this part of Brooklyn — a small niche — to preserve it, revitalize it, rebuild it and really create a place that enhances the connectivity between important neighborhoods in Brooklyn.”

Those buildings include: the Gowanus Pumping Station and Gate House at 196 Butler Street; the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company Central Power Station Engine House at 153 2nd Street, better known as the Batcave; the Montauk Paint Manufacturing Company Building at 170 2nd Avenue; the ASPCA Rogers Memorial Building at 233 Butler Street; and the Somers Brothers Tinware Factory (later American Can Company) at 238-246 3rd Street.

brooklyn architecture 233 butler street gowanus

The ASPCA at 233 Butler Street. Photo by Susan De Vries

The five are among the buildings the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition has been pushing to landmark ahead of a proposed rezoning of the area. They were calendared by the commission in June. At a public hearing at the LPC in September, residents were happy about the then-proposed designations but said they felt more needs to be done.

Lurking behind their concern is the proposed rezoning of the neighborhood. In January 2019, a Draft Zoning Proposal was released to the public that laid out the city’s plans for the development of the area, including moves to allow higher density mixed-use development around Thomas Greene Playground and 3rd Avenue, as well as facilitate public access and apartments along the polluted Gowanus Canal.

batcave

The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company Central Power Station Engine House in 2018

Opposed by many longtime residents, the proposed rezoning calls for apartment towers as tall as 30 stories, which has the potential to utterly transform the character of the low-rise, industrial neighborhood, home to artists and industry. Meanwhile, the area has problems with flooding and sewage overflow, and a Superfund cleanup of the toxic canal has been in the works for years.

“Some of us have advocated for landmarking for more than a decade, and our Coalition has worked together for several years now in response to the city’s proposed rezoning,” Linda Mariano, cofounder of the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition, wrote in an emailed statement. “It is our hope that many more historic buildings in Gowanus will be landmarked, as they are certainly worthy.”

[Photos by Susan De Vries]

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