Landmarks Holds Public Hearing On Gowanus Canal Designations

Somers Brothers Tinware Factory Building Image Credit: Landmarks

Gowanus community wants Landmarks to continue designating sites before rezoning. On September 24, 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing to designate five buildings in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn as individual landmarks. The five proposed buildings are the Gowanus Flushing Tunnel Pumping Station and Gate House, the Somers Brothers Tinware Factory (later American Can Company), Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) Central Power Station Engine House, Montauk Paint Manufacturing Company Building and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Rogers Memorial Building. All of the buildings hold a connection to the Gowanus Canal’s industrial history. To read Cityland’s prior coverage of each building, click here.

At the public hearing, Landmarks heard testimony in support of each individual designation. All speakers were excited about the prospect of designating these five buildings before they are potentially rezoned. In January 2019, City Planning announced a zoning proposal for Gowanus, which supports mixed-use growth with affordable housing, areas to maintain and grow Gowanus’ commercial and industrial businesses, and the opportunity to create new public spaces. The proposal spurred Landmarks to search for buildings in the proposed rezoning area for potential designation, identifying these five proposed sites. There was hopeful sentiment that the Commission might designate other sites before the rezoning allows for redevelopment of the area.

Various parties expressed pleasure at the Commission’s commitment to preserve the art and art spaces that have become such an integral part of the Gowanus community. The landmarking of the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel Pumping Station and Gate House was generally appreciated as a testament to civic pride and the City’s early efforts to clean up and restore the Gowanus Canal and the surrounding area.

General support for the designations came from local government and local organizations such as Council Member Brad Lander, the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition and the Park Slope Civic Council. General support was also given by Historic Districts Council, the New York Landmarks Conservancy and from the various owners of each site.

Map of the landmarked portion of the Somers Brothers Tinware Factory Building (Red indicates landmarked portion) Image Credit: Landmarks

One concern raised at the hearing regarded the Somers Brothers Tinware Factory Building application. Some members of the community, including Simeon Bankoff from the Historic Districts Council, pointed out that only a portion of the site is being landmarked. He urged the Commission to landmark the entire building and the entire site. In his testimony he stated “arguably the most historically important portion of this factory complex is being cut out of the landmark site. HDC understands that the southeastern section has undergone alterations at its main façade, but given its extreme historical merit, this portion of the complex deserves to be considered for designation along with the rest of the site before it gets demolished for future development.”

Christabel Gough from the Society for the Architecture of the City also supported designation of the Somers Brothers Tinware Factory Building in its entirety. She stated “unfortunately, a microcosm of the benighted policy is the designation of the Somers Brothers site only in part, omitting the section where domestic manufacture of tin was pioneered in this country.”

The Commission will vote on the designations on a later date.

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)



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