Preservationists need miracle on Kent

Preservationists need miracle on Kent
Jeremy Boon-Bordenave

All it takes is a ton of cash and a dream — and so far, all they’ve got is the dream.

Williamsburg residents are rallying behind long-shot plans to turn a soon-to-be demolished, century-old powerplant into an art museum, affordable housing, or community space — but without a deep-pocketed developer, saving Con Ed’s Kent Avenue structure from the wrecking ball may prove impossible.

After weeks of speculation about the future of the 102-year-old building at the corner of Division Street, the power company announced in April that it would tear down the waterfront plant, which has been inactive since the late 1990s.

The announcement didn’t go over too well among neighbors, who want to keep the iconic powerhouse standing.

“It is such a beautiful building — it has so much potential to be turned into something wonderful for the community,” said designer Jeremy Boon-Bordenave, who thinks the building’s column-free interior could lend itself to a top-notch art museum, like the Tate Modern in London.

To showcase his plans, Boon-Bordenave created savethepowerhouse.blogspot.com, a Web site that includes a history of the building, an online petition to prevent demolition, and his own architectural renderings of what the powerhouse could become.

Mary Habstritt, chair of the Preservation Committee of the Roebling Chapter of the Society of Industrial Archeology sides with Boon-Bordenave.

“Architecturally, it’s a magnificent building,” said Habstritt. “It almost embodies power. It’s built very close to the sidewalk and it really looms over you — it’s a palazzo of power.”

On June 2, the state deemed the powerhouse eligible to join the National Register of Historic Places, declaring it “an important icon of New York’s industrial heritage.”

That eligibility means that state historic preservation officials will need to review any modifications to the site that involve state or federal funding — a bureaucratic requirement that could delay the brick building’s demolition.

“If the right person came along and said, ‘Stop the demolition, I want to buy this building,’ then Con Ed would stop demolition,” Boon-Bordenave said.

Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee begged to differ.

“The building is coming down,” McGee said. “It’s being taken apart now.”