Neighbors say Gowanus worth preserving

Activists pitch historic designation for Gowanus

The Brooklyn Paper
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Buildings on the banks of the filthy Gowanus Canal are pieces of history worth saving, neighborhood activists say.

A community group wants to create an official Gowanus historic district that would encompass a total of 422 properties, including the Batcave, a former subway powerhouse that a millionaire wants to transform into an arts complex, and myriad other warehouses and industrial lots. The activists behind the preservation bid say that, though few traces of the fight remain, the area saw the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Brooklyn and that plenty of other history lurks in the canal’s murky depths and the area’s unassuming factory yards.

“People walk around in a dream half the time, I think — they don’t really get it, they don’t see what lies beneath,” said Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus member Linda Mariano, who has been interested in getting the preservation designation since the 1980s. “I’m a history buff and that’s what it’s all about.”

The 53-block area is a prime example of urban industry dating back to the mid-19th century, according to the application, which the state will vote on in two months.

If the canal-side neighborhood were recognized as historic, there would be no restrictions as to what locals could do with their properties unless they needed federal funding or a permit from a state agency, which would trigger a formal review, according to a state spokesman.

An area businessman penned a letter slamming the plan, arguing that neighbors were not properly informed about the application, that the tax credit qualification process would be too burdensome, and that Gowanus is just downright not historic enough.

“I don’t feel that it’s in the best interests of the community to have designations in a diverse area that doesn’t even have the characteristics to qualify,” said Gowanus Alliance president Paul Basile, who owns several one-story warehouses on Seventh Street and one on Baltic Street. “It’s not a progressive strategy for Gowanus moving forward.”

The neighborhood’s Community Board 6 is planning to ask elected officials to push a bill that would require the state to notify community boards about developments such as considering historic designation bids and closure plans like the one recently approved for a Park Slope old folks home, both of which caught board members off guard.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jim from Carroll Gardens says:
The canal finally gets a superfund and Residents of Greater Gowanus (RGG) members care about the buildings that line its banks. Just a coincidence I'm sure.
March 17, 2014, 6:43 am
LandmarkingCripples from Bklyn says:
Landmarking is a terrible burden for homeowners (and leads to increased rents). Only city agencies and architects, DOB admin., expeditors etc. benefit - it feeds bureaucracy, amd makes owners pay dearly for trying to update, restore their homes. Applying it here, is an attempt to cripple any landowners (its so easy to forget that these areas have somehow made it through 100-120 years without gov't restrictions)... Or slow development to suit needs of groups (which of course is easy to gain support, if its presented as a Haves vs. Have Nots issue). There's usually a double-standard. NYC doesn't give $$ or support renov (to taste or standards, lets say for specific windows preferred) but will fine and penalize and delay? But as per GC - look deeper and you see many of the very opponents to Gowanus dev. are those with homes already -- and most usually without a care to the self-effects of Landmarking (either out of landmarked zones or having done their renovs before the restrictions posed and costs tacked on). City Planning is absent - and it leaves a vaccuum for locals to get angry, fight over each step. This whole issue needs a 2nd look.
March 17, 2014, 9:50 am
canal garbage from Gowanus says:
Anyone know who/where to write to oppose this canal garbage?
March 17, 2014, 9:55 am
Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
Looks like my FROGG neighbors are trying to do exactly what it accuses everyone else of doing -- pushing their agenda through as quickly and quietly as possible without notifying or consulting with the public, like no one was watching. Seems the only folks they were talking to were themselves and their supporters. Certainly not the property owners or the broader public. Then again, why should they? FROGG demonizes anyone who disagrees with them. The worst kind of activists -- Hypocrites all!
March 17, 2014, 11:51 am
Jim from Carroll Gardens says:
To Mike Curatore from CG: Exactly
March 18, 2014, 6:05 am
Gowanus Business from Gowanus Business says:
A portion form Historic District Council HDC on the Gowanus Historic District:

These comments do not make sense. The area was declared eligible for the National Register in 2006, which means that for the past 8 years, the State Historic Preservation Office has been reviewing and commenting on any permits which involve state or federal government actions or funds. The regulatory "burden" - what little there is - has been in place for 8 years. The sole change that listing the district on the Register would be to make it possible for projects in the district to apply for NY State and Federal tax credits for rehabilitative work. That's it. It is entirely voluntary - listing on the Register does not place private development under any kind of regulation. It encourages investment and economic development with tax incentives. But that is only a by-product of the listing. The real purpose of listing on the National Register is to acknowledge and raise awareness of the importance of a site to the history of our country, to change the conversation from "the notoriously polluted Gowanus" to "the canal which built Brooklyn". It seems that some people are happier with deriding and demeaning the neighborhood than celebrating it. Let's not let their bleak vision triumph.
March 18, 2014, 10:29 am
Clarity from Gowanus District says:
The post from "LandmarkingCripples" demonstrates the massive bad information GCCDC is passing about. The National Registry Listing fro the canal has nothing to do with City Landmarks and everything to do with helping finance redevelopment projects when an owner volunteers to take part in this program. The tax incentives cover 40% of the cost of a renovation; 70% of you renovation is for affordable housing.

Yes look deeper. Why would GCCDC be working so hard to prevent property owners access to this financial help? Could it be that they want to force owners off their land, making them sell off to the mega developers who want only to put up their mega steal and glass towers in Gowanus?
March 18, 2014, 10:48 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
It would be great to see the Gowanus follow the lead of the area around the High Line, which has pretty successfully blended new architecture with the warehouses and industrial past of the Meatpacking District. Tearing down nothing kind of smothers growth, while bulldozing everything erases an area's character. Layering the two gives a place texture and energy.
March 18, 2014, 12:23 pm
BrownstoneWatcher from Red Hook says:
What's funny is that this "frogg" group wants to push their agenda that affects property owners onto the neighborhood but it leaves them unaffected. Why were they not required to get approval from actual property owners in the area???
March 28, 2014, 3:44 pm

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