Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Historic District Council And Preservationists Continue Push Against Shrinking Coignet Building Site In Gowanus

Historic District Council (HDC), the Citywide Advocate for New York's Historic Neighborhoods, is currently circulating a petition to be sent to the NYC Council's Landmarks Subcommittee in regards to the landmark Coignet Building on the intersection of Third Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus.
HDC is asking the Landmark's Subcommittee to not grant Whole Foods Market, the owner, a special dispensation from the New York City Landmarks Law that governs the historic building.
Whole Foods wants to annex part of the Coignet building site to make the design of their proposed food market fit on the adjacent site "without any consideration given to how that new structure will impose itself on the designated landmark building." If granted, there will only be a five-foot “buffer zone” between the Coignet building and the new WF bi-box retail store.
On January 24th, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to reduce the size of the lot.
The Council's Landmarks Sub Committee (chaired by Councilmember Brad Lander)  will vote on this matter soon, before it is taken up by the entire Council.
HDC's petition reads:
"The Coignet building must be given the proper protection it currently has under the Landmarks Law. Whole Foods should comply with this law just as any owner of a landmark is required to. Whole Foods must make a proper Landmarks Public Hearing that shows just how their proposed development will relate to the Coignet Building."
If Whole Foods is allowed to alter the landmark site in order to avoid the normal Landmarks Preservation Commission review process, this will opens the way for all who want to build upon a landmarked site and avoid any LPC oversight. Maybe St Bart's Church can request a "Whole Foods" ruling and start building that glass tower they wanted to cantilever on their landmark church site 30 years ago.
We ask that City Council not damage Landmark Law by allowing any developer to manipulate and thus avoid the law in this manner
On January 24th, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to reduce the size of the lot.
The Council's Landmarks Sub Committee will vote on this this week, before the matter will be taken upthe flu Council.
To sign HDC's petition, click here

Historic Etching of Conglon building
A brief history of the Coignet building from HDC:
"The New York and Long Island Stone Company Coignet Building was constructed as a show case for what the manufacturer’s product could do, create a strong, elegant, detailed building at a cost less than real stone. It is easy to forget that this is the earliest known concrete building in New York City, and one of the earliest in the country, due to the fact it has been primarily covered over with faux brick. Areas of the west and south façades though are uncovered and the building’s reason for being, concrete, is visible. While these two walls are certainly secondary to the main façades on Third Avenue and Third Street, they are not plain and instead some of the same detailing including arched windows, quoins and stringcourse are carried over. The west façade also includes a bay identical in design to the bays on the primary façades. It is troublesome that after years of planning by Whole Foods, the company is only now dealing with the fact that it owns a designated site and is asking the landmark to bear the brunt of the project. As shown in renderings, plans and elevations presented to the Brooklyn Community Board 6 Land Use Committee in August, the Coignet Building would be engulfed by new structures, while the other half of the block would be a parking lot. Obviously there are other arrangements on this block that would be more appropriate for the landmark. Although buildings were once unfortunately built up against the Coignet Building, probably in the mid-20th century, as their ghosts on the side walls show, they were shorter. Other factory buildings on the block were described by Brooklyn Daily Eagle in June 1872 as 32 feet tall – about 20 feet shorter than the planned Whole Foods buildings. The Coignet Building was always allowed to retain its prominence on the block. HDC urges you to keep the boundaries as they are so that any alterations to the sight are overseen by LPC and sensitively help preserve one of the few landmarks in Gowanus."


Michael said...

The Coignet building should stay and be refurbished. There is no reason to tear it down. People who defend razing things for no reason are probably just too bored or have too much disposable income and don't realize that just because it can be done, doesn't mean it should be done - everything costs money - maybe Whole Foods should start donating to better causes, rather than jumping on the Monsanto bandwagon, as it has just been revealed. Nothing but trouble is Whole Foods. And it's not at all appropriate for the better vision of the Gowanus area. We need manufacturing, nor retail.

Anonymous said...

Manufacturing in South Brooklyn is not the future. We do need more grocery stores, however. It is a shame that there have been so many unwarranted community roadblocks for this much needed project.

It amazes me that people will argue about a company willing to develop a brownfield site!

And who cares if the Coignet building has a reduced lot; it could abut the Whole Foods building for all I care. It doesn't matter, stop the damn delays!

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of buildings in the Gowanus to have both the Whole Foods AND small manufacturing. And enough with the Coignet building already, it has been in decline for DECADES, while everyone sat idly by. Save the building, but let building around it go forward.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Way to miss the point, Michael.

The building is not being torn down. They're proposing reducing the lot size so that WF can build a larger market than zoning allows.

if this is the level of detail seen from opponents of development, no wonder developers can build whatever they want.

meg said...

@1:07 It's attitudes like yours that cause the decline of the USA as an economic power. We need manufacture - you want everything to come from China? Do you have ANY idea whatsoever about all the activities going on in Gowanus as an Industrial Manufacturing zone? Do you know how many businesses have had to leave other gentrified areas in NYC, and this is their last stand?

BrooklynMatt said...

Wow meg, an existing landmark building taking up about 10% rather than 5% of a lot for whole foods. And perhaps 10% of the parking lot having a 2nd level is not an option? This is the reason China is winning in the world economy? Can't wait to visit the Walmart where the great wall used to be

Anonymous said...

Whole Foods should move the building to a musuem and open a coffee shop on the corner.