Landmark status removed from vacant land

360 Third Avenue, Brooklyn. Image: Courtesy of LPC

Boundaries around landmarked building reduced to provide buffer for Whole Foods development. On January 24, 2012, Landmarks reduced the landmarked site boundaries of the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company Building at the corner of Third Avenue and 3rd Street near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. The dilapidated Coignet Building was built in 1872 as a freestanding building, and is believed to the City’s first concrete structure. Landmarks designated the building in June 2006. 3 CityLand 110 (Aug. 15, 2006). The designation included the building’s entire tax lot.

Whole Foods, which owns the Coignet Building and the rest of the block, requested that Landmarks reduce the building’s landmarked site boundary from approximately 125 feet to 55 feet along Third Avenue and from 55 feet to 40 feet along 3rd Street. The modification will accommodate the proposed development of Whole Foods on the otherwise vacant block.

Whole Foods plans to build a 58,000 sq.ft. supermarket with a 20,000 sq.ft. hydroponic greenhouse, and will also restore the landmarked structure. The supermarket will be wrapped around the Coignet Building. Whole Food’s proposal would leave a fivefoot buffer zone along the building’s interior lot and twelve-foot buffers near the building’s Third Avenue and 3rd Street frontages. Whole Foods asked for the modification after discovering that Landmarks would need to review its plans because the store would intrude on the landmarked lot. When Landmarks calendared the proposal in November 2011, Chair Robert B. Tierney characterized the action as “a housekeeping change,” and said it would not impact the building itself.

At a hearing on December 20, Wachtel Masyr’s Jerald Johnson, representing Whole Foods, explained that there had been a misunderstanding at the time of designation. Johnson explained that prior to Whole Food’s purchase of the block, the previous owners began the process of merging and subdivided the block’s various tax lots. This included creating a smaller tentative tax lot occupied by the Coignet Building. According to Johnson, at the time of designation Whole Foods did not raise any objections because it was unaware that the designation included the full tax lot and not the smaller tentative lot.

Preservationist groups and residents argued that leaving only a five-foot buffer would be inappropriate. The Historic District Council’s Simeon Bankoff, speaking as a local resident, claimed that a five-foot buffer zone would allow Whole Foods to engulf the building and detract from the landmark. The Society for the Architecture of the City’s Christabel Gough called the modification “a serious planning and design failure.”

When Landmarks met in January, Chair Tierney said he was comfortable with the proposal, and pointed out that for approximately forty years the Coignet Building had been sandwiched between two warehouses that covered the building’s side facades. Landmarks unanimously approved the modification.

LPC: New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company Building, 360 Third Ave., Brooklyn (LP-2202) (Jan. 24, 2012).

CITYLAND Comment: Whole Foods applied to BSA for a use variance to develop the supermarket. BSA is scheduled to vote on the application on February 28, 2012.

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