Plum-lord! City to cite Whole Foods 2nd time for ‘neglecting’ old building

Whole Foods on crack: We didn’t do it
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The city is slapping the new Gowanus Whole Foods Market with a second fine for letting an historic building it owns fall apart, a Landmarks Preservation Commission spokesperson reported.

The commission hit the grocery giant with a $3,000 fine in December for failing to maintain the exterior of the Coignet building at Third Avenue and Third Street, which Whole Foods promised to fix up as part of a deal to allow it to build on the lot around it, but that ticket was dismissed on a technicality — the city forgot to bring a piece of paperwork to court, according to a spokeswoman. Now, the fancy food-seller claims it started restoring the Coignet facade on March 10, but preservationists are not buying it and are getting ready to cite the upscale grocer again, according to a city spokeswoman.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission rep Damaris Olivo about the ticket, adding that she did not know when the organic grocer could expect to receive it.

A Whole Foods spokesman said he could not comment on the impending fine until his office sees it, but claimed work on the building, once the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company headquarters, started last Monday and is targeted for completion in autumn or winter of this year. He stressed that the timeline is not set in stone.

“Work officially started on March 10 and it’s a little unclear how long it might take until we’re actually in the midst of the project,” spokesman Michael Sinatra said.

A neighbor who has accused the organic giant of destroying the building, which is an official city landmark, says he is skeptical that the company will follow through on its pledge to give the place a facelift, arguing that it did nothing to fix up the building even after the first fine came down last year.

“The day after they got issued the violation, scaffolding went up, but still nothing happened as a couple months went by,” said Gowanus resident and musician Martin Bisi, who documented the decay of the banisters on the structure’s front steps.

Whole Foods has repeatedly denied that it has anything to do with the structure falling apart.

The Coignet building was designated a landmark in 2006 and may have been the city’s first concrete building when it was erected in 1873.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.