Endangered signage! Kentile Floors sign could disappear

Endangered signage! Kentile Floors sign could disappear
Shrouded: Scaffolding around the Kentile Floors sign could signal its demise.
Photo by Stefano Giovanini

The Gowanus skyline could soon have another hole in it.

The owner of the building below the Kentile Floors sign, a landmark that has for decades guided the way for drivers on the Gowanus Expressway and provided a place for F-train riders to rest their eyes, has filed a permit to tear the sign down. The iconic structure is not protected by official landmark status, but area residents aren’t ready to let it come down without a fight.

“It seems like developers get to do whatever they want around here,” said Park Sloper Stephen Savage, who walks past the sign every day and is organizing a rally on Saturday morning to protest its looming eradication. “We have to hustle so hard to live here — it’s not fair that we don’t get to say anything about the look of our neighborhood.”

Savage is still smarting from the loss of the Eagle Clothes sign, which stood for 60 years atop a building on Sixth Street between Third and Fourth avenues. That piece of the neighborhood skyline came down in July when the owners of the property moved to add two stories to the existing building, six days after we pondered the possibility of its destruction. Savage wants to “avenge the death,” he said.

“It was the same thing,” he said about the days leading up to the Eagle sign’s surprise tear-down. “I saw the scaffolding and assumed it was maintenance. But two days later it was totally gone, and no one said anything about it. I thought, ‘At least we still have the Kentile sign.’ ”

At least one local pol has Savage’s back for the demonstration, which is scheduled for 10 am below the sign at Second Avenue and Ninth Street.

“The character of the area must be maintained,” said Councilman Brad Lander in a statement on Thursday. “And local landmarks should not be sacrificed for development. Owners and developers who want to be part of the future of Gowanus would do well to heed the consensus of our community.”

The work permit was issued in April, but attention wasn’t paid to the sign’s proposed demise until a hawk-eyed straphanger tweeted about the new scaffolding surrounding the marquee on Tuesday.

Standing tall: The Kentile Floors sign before the scaffolding went up around it, prompting alarm that it will be torn down.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The building’s owner Ely Cohen did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but a representative of his company Regal Home Collections told the New York Times on Thursday that the sign is not in danger, despite the paperwork filed with the city that calls for “[removing] existing structure and sign by hand off roof.”

“They know that they’re going to get a lot of backlash for this,” said Brian Kanerak, in an interview with the Times. “Why would they take it down?”

Kanerak declined to comment when this paper rang him up.

Also tight-lipped was Stroh Engineering Services, the contractor listed on the permit.

“Yeah, don’t call here anymore,” said a man who answered the phone and hung up without identifying himself.

The former Kentile Floors factory, which employed more than 400 people at its peak in the 1960s, filed for bankruptcy in 1992 and closed shortly thereafter. Following the dismantling of the Eagle Clothes sign, Councilman Lander pleaded with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to name the Kentile sign for preservation. The industrial vestige is beloved by neighborhood residents, serving as the subject of countless photographs and the muse for art projects, but it has not yet secured the designation. In his statement, Lander begged the building’s owners to at the very least preserve the sign should it be removed from its perch.

“If Mr. Cohen is unwilling to reconsider, he should commit to preserve the sign intact and donate it to a conservation organization for future re-use in the Gowanus area,” Lander said.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Men at work: Construction workers get busy at the base of the Kentile Floors sign.
Photo by Stefano Giovanini