Is Brooklyn Developer Chetrit Demolishing or Repairing Red Hook’s Historic Bowne Storehouse?

A man hacking away at the roof of the S.W. Bowne Storehouse on May 18. Photo via Brad Vogel

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Workers have been spotted at a historic grain warehouse in Red Hook in recent weeks, leading nearby residents to wonder if the owner, well-known real estate developer Meyer Chetrit, might be planning to demolish it. Last month, locals renewed a push to landmark the former S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse, located at 595-611 Smith Street, along with a slew of other buildings and proposed historic districts in the area.

Built in 1886, the unprotected brick warehouse is a remnant from a time when the warehouses of Red Hook and Gowanus were at the center of a thriving shipping industry that brought in, stored and shipped goods all over the world.

A worker recently removed part of the roof, Gowanus resident and preservationist Brad Vogel told Brownstoner. Workers emptied the structure last month, another reader separately told Brownstoner.

red hook 595 smith street

The roof on May 14. Photo by Susan De Vries

Earlier this year, owner Chetrit demolished three of four buildings on the property — non-historic one-story structures — the reader told Brownstoner. Then in late April and early May, workers removed debris and “wood beams” from inside the warehouse, according to the reader.

Employees of a nearby store said one of the workers told them “they are indeed going to level the entire property and build residential there,” according to the reader, who notes the area is currently zoned for industrial use.

There is no record of the Department of Buildings having issued a demolition permit for any of the buildings. In September 2017, Chetrit applied for a permit to demolish a one-story structure on the property, but that permit has not yet been issued, DOB records show. In any case, it would not apply to the Bowne Storehouse, which is four stories.

brooklyn architecture gowanus red hook 595 smith street

The building on May 14. Photo by Susan De Vries

The property has a history of complaints of poor maintenance, illegal dumping and dangerous conditions. In 2014, the DOB issued a full vacate order for the entire property because a wall on one of the structures was in danger of collapse. In 2016, the DOB received a complaint of “excessive debris throughout warehouse” and ordered the owner to “vacate warehouse for illegal dumping of 1500 cubic yards of combustible c and d debris and asbestos.”

On May 18, Vogel submitted a request for evaluation of the Bowne warehouse to the Landmark Preservation Commission, the first step in the landmarking process. Someone else had previously submitted a request in 2009, records show.

The property is part of a Gowanus Historic District that was declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, but not yet listed. (That designation would not prevent anyone from tearing down the building, although it would make the owner eligible for some hefty state and local tax credits for work on the building.)

The work comes at a time when the city is moving to rezone nearby Gowanus. City Planning today released a draft planning and land use framework study of Gowanus, a precursor to a rezoning proposal, but the study area does not include 595 Smith Street.

red hook 595 smith street

Photo by Brad Vogel

An LLC named CF Smith bought the property from a longtime owner in 2007 for $14.5 million, according to public records. Recent permit applications reveal the owner is Meyer Chetrit of the family that owns well-known real estate firm Chetrit Group.

Attempts to reach Chetrit for comment via email were not successful. Chetrit Group’s numerous projects in Brooklyn include the M500 hotel in Williamsburg, the supertall at 9 Dekalb in Downtown Brooklyn, and the revamp of Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn Heights.

red hook 595 smith street

Photo by Brad Vogel

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