We just can’t blog enough about the Gowanus and eminent domain. So much to talk about from week to week about this area. Then was saw this interesting story, rather an interesting picture of an historical building, and it peaked our interest.
In a nutshell, there is a lovely historical building. It’s a two-story beaux-arts building, built in 1913 by the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity located at 234 Butler Street. Just in case you know the area, it’s a the corner of Nevins Street. This building captures the essence of the area — Gowanus as one of the earliest and busiest industrial and manufacturing centers in this country! Historically it is important as being the only building that actually bears the name of the neighborhood. Of note is that Salvatore Tagliavia and his wife Lena, are the current owners of the 234 Butler Street.
Despite the historical importance, and overwhelming community advocacy to save the building, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Agency (D.E.P.) has plans to demolish the building and put in an 8 million gallon Combined Sewer Overflow (C.S.O.) tank and facility.
As readers of this blog already know, advocates are always looking for some sort of creative solution, and there are some proposed solutions buzzing around for this project too. Some members of the community would like to see, at the very least, the façade incorporated into D.E.P.’s design for the C.S.O. facility.
The New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) said back in October of 2017 that “Based on our review of the project details to date, it appears feasible to retain and incorporate the historic former Gowanus Station Building (234) Butler Street into the project. This building that has a prominent street presence on the corner and the very edge of the city’s preferred site, has overreaching significance on the National Register eligible Gowanus Historic District. Its demolition would adversely affect both the building and the National Register eligible Gowanus Canal Historic District. To destroy this intact, architecturally distinctive example of Brooklyn’s civic and industrial heritage would be a disservice to the Gowanus neighborhood and to the city as a whole.”
There is also support from Community Board 6 that agrees that there is historical importance for the building in the community.
Alas, it seems that the D.E.P. is not up to the challenge of saving the building. And like so many other stories of this nature, there is a bit of history in the story itself. In June of 2016, the E.P.A. finalized an agreement with the City of New York that secures the design of the larger of two combined sewage and storm water overflow (CSO) retention tanks, mandated by the Federal Agency as part of Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup.
There are lots of other details, but you need to know that the City’s plan relies on the taking of two privately owned sites, 234 Butler Street and 242 Nevins Street, by eminent domain. A third site, 270 Nevins Street, which currently houses a film production studio, will be seized and then leased by the City for temporary staging purposes. The NYC Council will cast its vote in April 2018 (or so they say), when other government parties have completed their studies.
While all of that is going on, the D.E.P. is designing the C.S.O. facility on the footprint of 234 Butler Street. The D.E.P. has determined that it is not technically feasible to keep the building or the façade. The excavation for the retention take would undermine the structure, because it is too brittle and has been alerted too many times. What the D.E.P. does want to do is salvage some of the building’s walls and exterior elements and put them on display.
The reality is that the City never really had an open mind about saving the building. Back in June of 2017, they had already worked on a contract to demolish the building. Also, the E.P.A. has the final say on what happens in the end.
What happens next? We will find out with you!