Owner Demolishes Red Hook’s Historic Bowne Warehouse After Arson Fire (Photos)

Photo by Susan De Vries

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Demolition continues at the historic Bowne Warehouse, which burned in an arson fire in June. One wall remains standing at the site, a local resident told Brownstoner this morning.

The day before the fire, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca had notified the owner, well-known real estate developer Meyer Chetrit, that a group of local preservationists had requested the councilman’s support to landmark the building. In May, locals had complained of seeing workers on the site apparently removing portions of the building although an application for a demolition permit had not yet been granted by the city.

bowne warehouse

Chetrit Group or members of the Chetrit family are behind Brooklyn’s supertall at 9 Dekalb, Hotel Bossert, the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, and a hotel-apartment complex with Hotel Indigo at 500 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg.

The fire department concluded its investigation without identifying a culprit.

bowne warehouse

Menchaca said in September he is considering introducing legislation that would prevent owners from demolishing a property when it is under investigation for arson or being considered for landmark designation, Curbed reported at the time.

Built in 1886 and located at 595-611 Smith Street in Red Hook, the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse 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. 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.

bowne warehouse

A few blocks away in Gowanus, the city is proposing to rezone the industrial area to make way for high-rise housing — a move that could potentially increase the value of nearby property as well.

The property had 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.”

bowne warehouse

In recent years, it seems the owner demolished some 20th century buildings on the property without a permit, aerial photographs and DOB records appear to show.

When Brownstoner passed by the site and took these photos in late October, only one wall of the 1886 storehouse remained. A small 20th century brick warehouse building appeared to still be standing on the property.

bowne warehouse

bowne warehouse

bowne warehouse

bowne warehouse

bowne warehouse

[Photos by Susan De Vries]

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