A historic factory on the Red Hook waterfront had its first appointment with the wrecking ball last week, the first step towards making way for a developer’s grand retail and residential vision.
Joe Sitt — whose Thor Equities is best known for its proposed $2-billion hotel, condo and amusement spruce-up for Coney Island — started demolishing the rusting steel cone of the long-dormant Revere Sugar refinery at the foot of Van Brunt Street.
As three-story cranes reached around the iconic dome of the refinery for most of this week, a handful of residents looked on mournfully from the outdoor café behind Fairway, which is on a parallel peninsula on the scrappy Red Hook waterfront.
Sitt has not revealed specifics of his plan — fueling suspicion among a small community of working artists and residents that the gates of gentrification will soon open and erase the gritty romance that drew them to the neighborhood in the first place.
“Tearing down the sugar plant is like tearing down our Mount Rushmore,” said Chris Curen, who moved to a former brothel a few blocks from the waterfront refinery last year.
“For the people who chose to live here and love Red Hook, it’s a beautiful piece of maritime architecture.”
The multi-building facility dates back to the 19th century. After a state survey found it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, preservationists had hoped that at least one structure could be saved to be later incorporated into the new development.
Sitt has not yet applied for a rezoning to build housing on an industrial waterfront that he would share with the water taxi home port and an Ikea megastore slated to open in 2008.