Iconic Kentile (Floors) Sign May Find Second Life In Redesigned Gowanus Playground

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kentile park design
Renderings by Loci Architecture and Gowanus By Design

Does your stomach still drop when passing over the Gowanus neighborhood as you ride the F/G line because you’re still mourning the loss of the Kentile Floors sign?

Since those 13 letters were removed from Brooklyn’s skyline, the Gowanus Alliance has been keeping them in storage. The Alliance, which is made up of a group of business owners whose mission includes promoting advocacy, community stewardship, and dialogue, announced its restoration campaign via Instagram less than a week ago.

“I think it would represent retaining some of our past that we feel is so threatened by the gentrification and rezoning,” Alliance President Paul Basile told Brooklyn Paper, who first reported the recent developments.

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Fran Brady Under-The-Tracks Playground
The abandoned site of the former Fran Brady Under-The-Tracks Playground, at 3rd Avenue and 10th Street. (Photo by Donny Levit / BKLYNER)

Those developments involve the exciting proposal to revitalize a long abandoned playground at 3rd Avenue and 10th street located under the Culver Line (F/G) subway tracks, and install the letters (the K-E-N-T-I-L-E letters only; the F-L-O-O-R-S letters are not included in this current plan) as part of the new park.

The current plans are a collaboration between the Gowanus Alliance and Loci Architecture / Gowanus By Design. GBD’s Executive Director David Briggs has lived near the Gowanus for quite some time. As a Carroll Gardens neighbor, he is well aware of the history of the Kentile letters. He’s also on the Landmarks/Land Use Committee of Community Board 6.

“I know Paul [Basile] very well,” Briggs said. “He reached out to me and said, ‘You have the resources, I have the letters. Can we spend some time creating a concept about what the park could be?'”

Briggs worked closely with architect Elise McCurley, who created the renderings for the project.

“The community expressed interest in getting a recreational space, with both passive and active elements,” Briggs said. In addition to the rec area, there would be a “promenade underneath the letters that could serve as an area for a greenmarket.”

Basile also envisions the new community space as a major draw to the area. “If you love seeing them at the F and G, come and visit them below and visit the local stores and restaurants,” Basile told Brooklyn Paper.

kentile park design
Renderings by Loci Architecture and Gowanus By Design

While the design is impressive, Briggs explained there are a lot of steps which need to take place before the plans are approved.

One of those major components is getting the approval of the MTA because they’ve been repairing the overpass since 2009. The Fran Brady Under-The-Tracks Playground, which was named after a long-time Park Slope resident and activist, has been closed since 1995 “when pieces of concrete falling from the tracks above posed a safety hazard,” according to the New York Times. “The department closed the park and surrounded it with a high fence.”

kentile floors sign
The Kentile Floors sign before its removal. (Photo via BKLYNER)

“We’re putting this [design] out there, but the MTA has not green-lighted anything,” said Briggs. “We look forward to a dialog with them.”

The next CB6 Landmarks/Land Use Committee Meeting is scheduled for 6:30pm on Thursday, January 26 at the NYPD 76th Precinct (191 Union Street between Henry and Hicks Streets), however, Briggs could not confirm if the project will be discussed that evening. While it doesn’t appear on CB6’s website agenda, Basile told Brooklyn Paper that he’s approached the committee about adding the topic for that meeting.

The Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage
Cover of The Mixed-Up Truck by author and illustrator Stephen Savage. The sign has been a passion for him. (Courtesy of the author)

The sign remains a source of great enrichment to the community, and certainly to Gowanus artists.

Artist, author, and illustrator Stephen Savage was one of many neighbors who had a personal stake in the sign.

“I became a leader of the ‘Save The Kentile Floors Sign‘ movement,” he said when we interviewed him in October 2016. “I’ve never been an activist.”

“It was like in Back to the Future — when it’s so important to ‘Save the Clocktower‘,” Savage said, smiling broadly. “You know you’re back in Brooklyn when you come out of the tunnel [on the F/G subway line as it pulls into Smith-9th Streets station after Carroll Street]. The skyline looks almost unfamiliar without it.”

When we asked him about the new plans for the sign, Savage said he “groaned when I first heard about the ‘under-the-tracks’ plan. We had all hoped the sign would be resurrected on top of a building somewhere in the neighborhood. The proposed plan felt kind of like a ‘burial’.”

But the idea has grown on him.

“Two years have gone by, and it seems unlikely that the sign will live again as a towering monument,” he said. “So why not put it in a park and let people pose for photos next to those gargantuan letters. I’ll be there with my smart phone!”

Updated on Sunday, January 15 at 5:45pm.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The writer calls the train line the “Culver City” line. It’s just the Culver line. Culver City is in California. This strikes me is a synecdoche of the whole false nostalgia argument for this sign. Yes, it was nice where it was. It’s gone now. There are far worse changes to Brooklyn from our new popularity with people who know CA better than NY. Having a park under the overpass again would be nice, for some. But it was basically used as basketball space, back when it was usable. Now that working class families have been replaced by the rich, no one will use the area. I’d be pissed if New York City spent any of my taxes on this. Maybe get Culver City to pay.

  2. Synecdoche or not, I wouldn’t read too deeply into the writer’s snafu [mine]. Culver/City has been an inside joke I’ve shared with my grandmother for years and it clearly got the best of me. Thanks for pointing it out. Having said that, sometimes a metonymy cigar is just a metonymy cigar. DL.

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