By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The New York and Long Island Stone Company Coignet Building in Gowanus – which today is quite dilapidated and covered in graffiti – is the earliest known concrete building in New York City and was designated with landmark status in 2006. It’s also for sale.
The building was originally part of a five-acre factory complex on the Gowanus Canal at the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street in Brooklyn. Located at 360 Third Ave., today it is part of a smaller 1,350 sq. ft. lot that includes a 750-square-foot dock space along the canal, next to the Third Avenue Bridge.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission called the building a "pioneering example of concrete construction in the United States." Built in 1872 by William Field and Son, it was initially designed to showcase Beton Coignet, a type of concrete patented by Francois Coignet in the 1850s.
At the time it was advertised as a cheaper alternative to stone -- the material was less expensive because it was built using molds rather than chisels and cutting tools.
The concrete factory closed in 1882, after which the building held offices of the Brooklyn Improvement Company until 1957. Later, it housed the Pippin Radiator Company.
The now-empty Coignet Building has been deteriorating for years. In fact, since it was refaced with faux brick in the 1960s -- most of the original concrete is now hidden.
The pre-cast details and block on the upper stories are still visible, though, as is the poured-in-place foundation. The interior needs a gut renovation, according to realtor Massey Knakal.
Whole Foods, which bought the land surrounding the building in 2005, has agreed to handle the exterior renovation. These arrangements were made with the building’s owner, Richard Kowalski, of Beach Haven, N.J. Kowalski has owned the building since 1992.
In 2008 there was some disagreement over when the renovations would be completed, and so far Whole Foods has only replaced the building’s roof. Michael Sinatra, a spokesman for Whole Foods, said the supermarket chain plans to finish the exterior renovation by the fall of 2013, when it opens its store.
“We’ve worked very closely with the community board [Community Board 6] and we are in the process of working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission,” Sinatra explained. “The goal is to get it done by the fall when they open the store.”
It may seem a bit odd that Whole Foods did not purchase the building when they bought the surrounding land in 2005; at that point, the building was not landmarked. But Sinatra explained that the building was not for sale in 2005, and now that it is, Whole Foods has no interest in purchasing it.
Currently, no asking price has been set for the building. According to the realtor, the owner is solely interested in hearing offers right now, and will decide later on at what price to sell or lease the property.
The Coignet Building at 360 Third Ave. in Gowanus, once a pioneering structure, has been dilapidated for years and is now up for sale.