City Council Greenlights Demolition of Historic Gowanus Station Despite Locals’ Vigil to Save It

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A small crowd gathered in front of the Gowanus Station, a Beaux-Arts brick industrial building on Butler Street, for a candlelight vigil Tuesday night to save the building before it is taken in eminent domain by the city.

The City Council was set to vote on the proposal, from New York’s Department of Environmental Protection, Wednesday.

“We’re looking to send a clear message to DEP and the EPA,” said Gowanus resident Brad Vogel. “[This building] is part of the identity of Gowanus, and it’s a functioning building. It’s not just sitting here vacant.”

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Gowanus Station owner Salvatore Tagliavia

The Beaux-Arts brick industrial building at 234 Butler Street was built by the city in 1913 as a pumping station for the canal, and is now privately owned. It is in danger of being demolished to make way for an underground sewage storage tank, depending on which of several EPA proposals to clean up the contaminated canal, a Superfund site, goes forward.

“We need to stand up and we need to fight,” said Linda Mariano, a neighborhood resident who cofounded community organization FROGG, or Friends and Residents of the Greater Gowanus.

The EPA initially suggested that the larger of the two CSO tanks — they will absorb sewer-system overflow during storms to reduce (but not eliminate) the amount of raw sewage flowing into the waterway — would be placed under Thomas Greene Park at 225 Nevins Street.

In December, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected pleas from Gowanus residents to landmark the building.

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“I think this building has more detail than some already individually designated landmarks in the city,” Vogel told Brownstoner when asked about the LPC’s decision. “It’s hard for me to believe that this doesn’t rise to the level of a landmark.”

Also present was the owner of the building, Salvatore Tagliavia, who said that after the City Council vote the DEP could take the building within 60 days and that he is losing hope.

The next day, Wednesday afternoon, the City Council voted 49 to 1 to select and acquire the site (as well as neighboring lots at 242 and 270 Nevins Street) through eminent domain. Local Council Member Stephen Levin voted yes; Brad Lander was marked absent. The single no vote came from Kalman Yeger, who represents David Greenfield’s former areas in southern Brooklyn, including Sheepshead Bay, Kensington, Midwood, Bensonhurst and Borough Park.

Vogel added Tuesday that one of their last chances to save the building is to lean on the EPA, who will ultimately make the final decision on the building’s fate.

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