RED HOOK – Red Hook residents came face-to-face with UPS representatives Tuesday night at a community meeting regarding the demolition of the historic Lidgerwood Manufacturing Building at 202 Coffey Street.
The red-bricked Lidgerwood building has been a staple of the neighborhood for more than a century. It was built by the Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company in 1882, serving as a factory that produced equipment for the Panama Canal construction, among other notable projects.
Last year, UPS bought the site with plans to demolish the building and erect a distribution center in its place. The community rallied to preserve the building with a petition that currently has over 2,100 signatures, but demolition began on May 24th regardless—the Friday before Memorial Day weekend—in what some residents called a “sneaky move” at the meeting last night.
Following requests from neighbors, in April Brooklyn Community Board 6 sent a letter to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) requesting that the building be considered for landmark calendaring. The board also sent a letter to the NYC Department of Buildings requesting that the agency refrain from issuing permits “that would alter the exterior or damage the structural integrity” of the building until LPC made a decision about the property.
“One of our jobs is to see that the community’s voice is heard. So, back in April, we sent letters to LPC and DOB regarding Landmark evaluation,” said CB6 District Manager Michael Racioppo following the meeting. “We hope that last night, with many of our board members in attendance, was the beginning of UPS hearing, and as importantly listening, to the community.”
Demolition on the Lidgerwood building was halted in June when Congress Member Nydia Velázquez and Council Member Carlos Menchaca intervened and convinced UPS’s Chief Engineer to conduct a new engineering analysis on the structure in an effort to preserve a section of the south-facing facade of the building, while rebuilding another portion of it. During the analysis, UPS has promised that no additional demolition on the Coffey Street facade will take place. The company also agreed to meet with the community.
Last night, representatives from UPS addressed the community to hear their concerns, answer questions, and present a design concept that would incorporate the building’s south-facing wall, preserving its historical and architectural integrity.
Laura Lane, President of Global Public Affairs at UPS, presented the concept design, explaining that while some of the wall has already been torn down, they plan to rebuild it with brick that is free from contamination, asbestos, and water damage.
“This is the visual of what we would like the facility to look like,” said Lane. “This is a true representation of the old and new coming together, and we really did try to honor the spirit of [Red Hook] but we’re bringing new opportunity at the same time.”
After presenting the concept, Lane and Councilman Carlos Menchaca opened the floor for questions and community members voiced concerns for the next hour and a half. Demolition is set to continue until next year followed by a three-year construction of the new warehouse, which raised a lot of questions from worried residents.
Questions were aimed at the company’s plans to mitigate traffic congestion, monitor air quality, and ensure the safety of residents and their children throughout the project. Some addressed the impact of CO2 emissions and demanded electric delivery vehicles. Others stressed the importance of having access to the neighboring Valentino Park, suggesting UPS construct a community garden with a view of the East River.
In some instances, tensions were high between UPS and community members. At one point, a resident pressed Lane to provide specific details on the company’s plans to alleviate foreseen issues. When no direct answers were provided, the resident stormed out of the building, sarcastically noting, “Don’t worry, they have a plan!”
Anastasia and Wilmot Kidd have lived in the neighborhood for twelve years. They questioned whether UPS will actually go through with the project and echoed concerns that many aspects of the project seem undetermined.
“Red Hook is the last place where this kind of project should be happening, and on top of that, they have no plan,” said Anastasia. “They demolished a historical building and they’re going to maybe step back and say, ‘What a mess we made.’ They can’t undo that.”
Like many residents, the Kidds highlighted concerns about safety and air quality as demolition continues and construction commences. They live half a block away from the site with their one-year-old child.
“On that fantastically sneaky day when they started to demolish the building, I scooped my son up off the floor, who’s crawling, and he had dirt all over him,” said Anastasia. “So I had to close the windows, close the doors. And they’ll continue to be this sneaky.”
Wilmot said that even with all the complications caused by such a massive project put aside, the land shouldn’t be used for a distribution center anyway.
“It’s a waste of the land,” said Wilmot. “You’re right on the water. You want to be doing something that takes advantage of that.”
UPS has created an email address for the project—RedHookCommunity@ups.com—so they can incorporate ideas, gain insight, and answer questions from the community. According to Lane, the emails are sent directly to her office and are read daily.
Though some of the questions community members had last night remain unanswered, Wilmot said the meeting allowed them the opportunity to be heard. “There was a big turnout and a lot of people spoke up about how this is a bad idea,” said Wilmot. “And hopefully, they’ll listen.”
Bklyner reached out to UPS for comment on three issues. The company’s Public Relations Manager, Kim Krebs, responded shortly after we first published this article. See her responses below.
How will UPS respond to community concerns?
We will continue to work closely with Councilman Menchaca and other local elected officials to understand and respond to community concerns. The dedicated email address will continue to be available for the community to share input, ideas and concerns. We understand that environmental issues, including truck traffic and emissions are important to this community. UPS has a number of sustainability initiatives that will be considered as we develop plans for the facility. The company has a long track-record as a leader in the area of alternative fuels, including electric, hybrid electric, natural gas, renewable natural gas and others. UPS has also been a pioneer in the use of e-bike delivery in Europe, and has piloted several e-bike delivery solutions in the U.S, as well. We also are evaluating feasibility of using the water as a way to mitigate vehicle traffic.
How does UPS respond to concerns that the company will not build at the site even after the building has been demolished?
UPS is growing, and we look forward to working with our new neighbors in Red Hook. We are in the early stages of redeveloping this property, including completing approved NYSDEC (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) Brownfield remediation efforts. These are the first steps in the feasibility and planning process. The type of UPS operations established at this location will be finalized during the planning phase, including detailed construction plans. We have already made significant investments to acquire the property and have no intention of abandoning our intent to build facilities that will serve our needs.
What will be done to ensure the safety of residents during a three-year construction?
Safety of the project’s workers and the community is a priority for UPS. The goal of the Red Hook site cleanup plan is to ensure protection of public health and the environment, while allowing for redevelopment of the site. We are following all code requirements and will continue to do so throughout duration of the project. We encourage residents to share any concerns with us through the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. Remediation of asbestos will create a long-term health benefit.