Gowanus Historic District Shelved, Not Nixed


The New York State Preservation Office has decided not to move forward with a plan to designate the Gowanus Canal area as a state and national historic district. The designation, which has been in the works for about a decade, was shelved after the state received a substantial number of notarized letters from property owners objecting to it, as The New York Daily News reported last week.

However, contrary to what that article implied, it is still possible the area could one day be designated if residents favor it. A member of pro-designation community group FROGG, who asked not to be named, told us the letters came in because another community group went door to door with a notary and gave misleading information to homeowners about the designation and wrote letters on the spot.

At issue is whether or not designation would in any way hinder development or restrict what homeowners could do with their property. The state preservation office said it won’t. “It’s honorific,” said the FROGG member.

Whatever Federal review might be necessary is already required because the Gowanus Canal Historic District has already been deemed eligible for designation. Official designation would let owners get tax credits if they voluntarily seek to restore or redevelop their properties in the area. Above, part of the site in the area where Lightstone is building a development as it looked in September.

Click through to the jump to see the letter the Preservation Office sent to Gowanus area residents about the matter. The “fact sheet” to which the letter refers is a post we ran in March.

Update: A letter sent out to residents by community group Gowanus Canal Commmunity Development Corp. opposing designation can be viewed on the website of the Gowanus Alliance.

Re: Gowanus Canal Historic District


As you may know, review of the Gowanus Canal Historic District by the New York State Board for Historic Preservation, scheduled for March 13, 2014, was postponed in order to allow the City of New York time to study the proposal and prepare comments.

Over the past two months, we have received a substantial number of objections from property owners and we have perceived a high degree of concern about the potential effects of the listing among neighborhood residents. Although the National Register is a benign program that provides honor and some financial incentives for preservation without placing undue restrictions on owners of private property, the New York State Historic Preservation Office values and respects the rights of property owners. Therefore, we have decided not to pursue listing the district at this time.

I have enclosed a fact sheet, originally published in The Brownstoner, which addresses misunderstandings and misinformation about the National Register. The SHPO will be happy to continue working with property owners who wish to pursue listing of individual buildings in order to take advantage of tax credits. Unfortunately, not all buildings in the district will meet the criteria for individual listing; please consult with us for specific information about whether or not a building will qualify before you begin a project.

If you have further questions about this letter or about the National Register, please feel free to contact Kathleen LaFrank, National Register Coordinator, at 518.237.8643 x 3261.


Ruth L. Pierpont
Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation
New York State Preservation Office

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