Gowanus Landmarking Coalition Gets Support From Councilman Menchaca To Help Save Historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse Along The Gowanus Canal

Council Member Menchaca at press conference today
Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council

Since 1886, the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse at 595 Smith Street has been standing at the edge between Red Hook and Gowanus, on the shores of the Gowanus Canal. It is a vestige of the neighborhood’s history and of its once-thriving shipping industry.

The building is of such historic import that it was declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as part of a Gowanus Historic District in 2017.

The Gowanus Landmarking Coalition  has also asked the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission [LPC] to declare  the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse as a landmark.
Though it has stood empty for several decades, the solid brick warehouse could easily be repurposed for a number of  adaptive re-uses to serve future generations in Red Hook/Gowanus.

Repurposing the building is obviously not the plan of real estate developer Meyer Chetrit. His firm Chetrit Group wants to rezone the site from manufacturing to residential and plans on building apartment buildings.  The warehouse, therefore is in the way and seems to be in danger of being demolished.

In May 2018, local residents reported illegal demolition work on the site. In June 2018, a fire broke out in the night, burning a good portion of the roof.
Though the NYC Fire Department deemed  the fire suspicious and is still investigating it as arson, the NYC Buildings Department inexplicably issued a full demolition permit for the structure in February 2019.  A stop-work order was imposed by the Buildings Department in March, but crews were seen violating it this past week.

This morning at 9 AM, the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition, PortSide New York, and community members in Red Hook and Gowanus held a press conference opposing demolition of the historic warehouse. They were joined bu Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

From a press release issued by the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition:

Many questions wreathe the site surrounding the building. The site is currently zoned for manufacturing and it is not clear what the owner intends to build on the site. Nor is it clear why demolition of one historic building is necessary on such a large site. It is also not clear who started the 2018 fire; the investigation remains ongoing.

The building was deemed eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2011, and the Society for Industrial Archaeology formally requested that the building be landmarked by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission a decade ago in 2009. Speakers at the press conference will highlight examples of adaptive reuse along the endangered historic Brooklyn waterfront that could serve as models for a repurposed Bowne Storehouse. It is still possible to retain an example of the community’s maritime heritage and activate it with zoning-appropriate, water-dependent m-zone and maritime uses.”

Council Member Menchaca agreed and made the following statement:

As of yesterday afternoon, the Department of Buildings says their borough attorney is commencing a process to issue a criminal court summons based on repeated violations
We are still trying to get clarity on what that enforcement timeline looks like. Until then, we must not relent until demolition stops and preservation commences.
The FDNY asserted last year that the fire appeared to be intentionally set. And despite stop work orders, demo crews have been active. This is highly suspicious.
The FDNY must be allowed to complete its investigation. But it has also been several months since it started. We cannot wait to preserve a building of such historic importance.
The SW Bowne Warehouse is part of the IBZ and should remain an industrial and manufacturing property.
I pledge to do everything possible to preserve this building and ask that my elected colleagues join us. I applaud my fellow neighbors and the media for acting quickly to show proof of continued demolition.

Your activism is what keeps elected officials like myself accountable and on the right side of issues.”

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