Historic Gowanus Buildings Deserve Landmark Status

Letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission

July 16, 2018

Fred Bland, Interim Chair
Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007

Re: Potential Landmarks in Gowanus, Brooklyn

Dear Chair Bland,

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) believes that several historic buildings in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn are eligible for individual landmark designation. Many of these properties retain their historic industrial character, and contribute to the importance of the cultural and economic history of Brooklyn and New York City.

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Gowanus Canal
The Gowanus Canal. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Anahita Rouzbeh. Modifications: photo cropped and made black and white.

When the Department of City Planning first announced in 2008 that Gowanus would be rezoned, MAS expressed concern that the plan did not do enough to support existing manufacturing businesses and promote new job growth. Furthermore, the proposal incentivized medium- to high- density residential buildings along the northern portion of the Canal, in an area that lies in a flood plain, and has historical environmental contamination and unabated Combined Sewage Overflows (CSO). Additionally, we asserted that preservation of the built fabric had the potential not only to maintain the historic character, but to help protect industry and affordable housing.

In 2009, MAS advocated for the nomination of the Gowanus Canal as a National Register historic district, along with several adjoining buildings and structures (provided below). MAS also recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission consider designating the canal as a scenic landmark. The canal’s historic industrial landscape includes elements ranging from industrial buildings situated along the canal and the bridges crossing the canal to the sometimes-overlooked elements like the canal itself and its shape, bulkheads, basins, and edges.

During our historic resource survey, MAS identified 78 buildings as contributing to a National Register district, 18 of which overlap with those promoted by The Gowanus Coalition to Designate Gowanus Landmarks Before Expected Rezoning:

  • 323 3rd Avenue: Former Brooklyn Rapid Transit Power House
  • 195-99 Douglas Street, Pumping House
  • 258 Creamer Street, S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse
  • Culver Viaduct, 9th Street over Gowanus Canal
  • Union Street Bridge
  • ASPCA Memorial Building and Horse Trough, 233 Butler Street
  • R.G. Dun and Company Building, 239-57 Butler Street/206 Nevins Street
  • National Packing Box Company, 543 Union Street
  • American Can Factory, 232 3rd Street
  • Tile Works Building, 130 3rd Street
  • Eureka Garage, 638-44 Degraw Street
  • The News Brooklyn Garage, 209-215 3rd Avenue
  • T.H. Roulston, Inc. Buildings, 70-124 9th Street
  • Norge Sailmakers Building, 170 2nd Avenue
  • 4th Street Brewery and Icehouse Complex, 401-421 Bond Street
  • Gowanus Station, 234 Butler Street
  • Warehouse with Decorative Paving, 129-131 8th Street
  • Brooklyn Rapid Transit Powerhouse, 322 3rd Avenue

We are grateful to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for taking action designating the Coignet Stone building in 2012. However, many of the buildings that we identified as significant remain unprotected. We urge LPC to consider the designation of these important buildings, representing the historic industrial character of Gowanus.

Yours truly,

Elizabeth Goldstein
Elizabeth Goldstein
The Municipal Art Society of New York


Hon. Marisa Lago, Chair, City Planning Commission
Hon. Brad Lander, New York City Council Member, District 39
Sayar Lonial, Chair, Brooklyn Community Board 6

Help us continue our preservation advocacy for all New Yorkers.