GOWANUS – Despite requests from the community, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has decided not to designate the more than 100-year-old Gowanus Station building a landmark, Brownstoner reported last week.
The brick Beaux-Arts building, erected in 1913 by the City’s Department of Water Supply, Gas & Electricity to serve as a pumping station for the Gowanus Canal, has been at the center of the EPA’s plans to clean up the Superfund site. One cleanup proposal includes placing an eight million gallon CSO tank at the head of the canal at 234 Butler Street (the Gowanus Station site), 242 Nevins Street, and 270 Nevins Street. These three properties are not owned by the city and would need to be purchased from their private owners or seized via eminent domain.
According to Brownstoner, the New York State Historic Preservation Office sent a letter to the EPA in October requesting that the building be spared from possible demolition, but the LPC was not moved.
In a letter dated December 11, the LPC’s Lisa Kersavage wrote, “We have carefully reviewed whether this building may merit consideration for designation, and found that as a plain utilitarian building that has been highly altered it lacks the necessary architectural significance and integrity to rise to the level of an individual landmark.”
The letter continues, adding that almost “all of the building’s existing openings have been extensively altered,” a “utilitarian brick addition” was built in the 1970s, and the property has changed ownership and use multiple times over the years. Kersavage’s letter notes that other buildings in the area such as the Gowanus Flushing Tunnel Pumping Station and the Gate House (201 Douglass Street) demonstrate “much stronger associations with the history and engineering of the canal, and also a greater architectural merit.”
The LPC claims to be currently conducting a comprehensive survey of the Gowanus neighborhood, seeking “historic preservation opportunities” in the area.
Brad Vogel, a Gowanus resident who submitted a Request for Evaluation (RFE) for the Gowanus Station building in September, shot back at the LPC, writing, “The justifications provided in the letter are flimsy and perfunctory,” Brownstoner reports. Vogel states that the LPC letter undermines the building’s “architectural value” and suggests that “one cannot help but wonder if this denial was more about the CSO tank and less about considering historic resources.”
BKLYNER readers might recognize Vogel’s name—he’s the lawyer and preservationist who requested the LPC evaluate a former residence of Walt Whitman’s for landmark status and subsequently launched a coalition to oppose the agency’s denial.