It could be a red-letter year!
A Gowanus business group just unveiled its vision to restore the long-shuttered playground beneath the elevated subway line at 10th Street — and to place the old Kentile Floors sign that once loomed over the subway line there as a centerpiece.
The Gowanus Alliance has been hoping to bring the decrepit Under the Tracks Playground back to life as both a park and a new home for the iconic marquee for years while the Metropolitan Transit Authority fixed the decaying tracks above. Now the space is safe and empty again, its leaders say this is the year to convince authorities to make it happen.
“2017 is prime time to get this thing really going and get attention on it,” said the group’s honcho Paul Basile. “The work is done and the site is clear and vacant, and we need to push on this site.”
The Alliance’s plan is to relocate the letters on top of 10-foot planters in the playground between Third and Fourth Avenues, and to make over the space with greenery, seating areas, and basketball courts.
The sign stood for 65 years on top of a Second Avenue warehouse until the building’s owner took it down in 2014, and Basile hopes straphangers with fond memories of passing it on the F and G will flock to the playground to check it out — and then stick around and spend money nearby.
“If you love seeing them at the F and G, come and visit them below and visit the local stores and restaurants,” he said.
Basile has been trying to find a new public home for the sign since it came down, but also made a deal with the owner that severely restricted his options — the letters must remain in Gowanus, cannot go on private property to benefit developers, and must be kept together in sequence — so the Under the Tracks Playground is an ideal location since it ticks all those boxes, he said.
The city closed the park in the ’90s because concrete was crumbling off the elevated tracks above, and the transit agency has been repairing the overpass since 2009.
Now the work is complete, it is time to convince the city and state-run transit agency to hand it back to the public, Basile says.
This year is especially significant as the city is expected to release plans to rezone Gowanus for more residential development — a move many fear will further displace artists and blue-collar business from the area — and Basile believes the sign’s restoration could help locals retain some of the neighborhood’s gritty history.
“I think it would represent retaining some of our past that we feel is so threatened by the gentrification and rezoning,” he said.
Basile says he’s working on getting someone from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to come to Community Board 6’s February meeting and has reached out to the advisory panel’s land-use committee about presenting at its Jan. 26 assembly.
The Kentile Floors sign is just one of many placards from the neighborhood’s industrial past that have disappeared or are in danger of vanishing — the old Eagle Clothes and Bruno Truck Sales signs are both gone, and all that remains of the E.J. Trum sign is a period and an “R.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not respond to a request for comment.