UPDATE: an agreement appears to have been reached with the developer to dismantle but preserve the sign so that it can be relocated to another location in Gowanus. The owner, Iyahu Cohen, has agreed to donate it to the nonprofit Gowanus Alliance, which will repurpose it at a new location.
“We love the sign, and we heard the voices of so many community members,” Cohen said in a statement. “We will work hard to preserve the letters during removal.”
City Councilman Brad Lander helped broker the deal, which was first reported in the New York Times.
“Everyone would love to see the sign right where it is,” said Lander. “But given the structural conditions and the needs of the owner and his legal rights, we’re very grateful that he’s willing to bear the extra cost to preserve the letters and donate them.”
“The sign is saved!” rejoiced Stefanie Wood, co-founder of ‘Save Our Sign.’ “But it’s with a caveat–moving to another location in Gowanus (we hope). Stay tuned, as we are going to watch the process like a hawk.”
“We first became aware when we saw the scaffolding, like everyone else,” said Stefanie Wood, co-founder of ‘Save Our Sign,’ an organization that hopes to preserve the indelible ‘Kentile Floors’ lettering that peers over low-slung Gowanus warehouses.
The sign is a relic from a manufacturing-era past, and advertises a company long since out of business. It is nonetheless adored by commuters, residents, and local workers alike, both for its unique typography and the emblematic impression it makes over the Brooklyn skyline.
“We thought it was coming down earlier, but that was a false alarm,” Wood said. “Now the owner has a demolition permit.”
Wood, along with co-founder Stephen Savage and ‘Save Our Sign’ members, held a rally Wednesday morning on Ninth Street in Gowanus, near the ‘Kentile’ site. With a bullhorn and placards, supporters pleaded to “save our sign.” Local truckers and construction workers, many of whom are also fond of the signage, honked their horns in solidarity or shouted words of encouragement as they passed by.
The ‘Save Our Sign’ group is seeking a dialogue with the building owner that would allow some kind of practical solution should new construction be about to commence. Time is of the essence: the owner has secured permission to “remove existing structure and sign by hand off roof.” A framework scaffold atop a the warehouse at ninth street and second avenue was erected last week.
“The developer has not spoken to one person from our group,” Wood added. “We’re willing to have a realistic discussion–to relocate the sign, to do whatever needs to be done so that everyone can be happy.”
Other supporters shared similar assessments.
“This sign is too iconic, too visually memorable to just throw out,” said Gilly Youner, Co-President of the Park Slope Civi Council. “Everyone I’ve talked to so far on the Council supports finding some kind of compromise to preserve it.”
The group has the support of at least one local politician.
“Sitting eight-stories high, with striking red neon lettering, the decades-old sign is a city treasure, admired every day by straphangers traveling along the Culver Viaduct and drivers on the Gowanus Expressway,” said Council Member Brad Lander in a statement. “In many ways, it stands for Gowanus.”
Lander has circulated an online petition to save the sign, which has garnered over 1,700 signatures.
“I heard one person say it’s tacky, that they don’t care,” Youner added. “But it’s tacky in that quirky, Coney Island way. We love that. That’s everything that Brooklyn is about.”