The Kentile Floors sign is dead. Long live the Kentile Floors sign.
The sign’s owner broke his silence last Thursday, confirming a week of rumors that he planned to dismantle the Gowanus landmark that began when work crews erected scaffolding around it. Ely Cohen’s permit calls for dismantling the iconic lettering by hand and sending it tumbling down a garbage chute, but in a statement Cohen pledged to try to keep the typography intact for whoever might adopt it, the New York Times reported.
“We love the sign, and we heard the voices of so many community members” Cohen told the Times. “We will work hard to preserve the letters during removal.”
Neighbors who fought to keep the sign up are happy to hear the reassurance but say the skyline won’t be the same with the structure moved any closer to ground level.
“Part of what made the sign special is it acts as a beacon,” said Stephen Savage, a Park Sloper who has spearheaded preservation efforts. Councilman Brad Lander (D–Gowanus), who has thrown himself into efforts to save the sign, met with Cohen and neighborhood business booster Paul Basile, head of the Gowanus Alliance, last Tuesday to hash out the compromise, Basile said.
“I am very grateful to Mr. Cohen for working together with the community to preserve this iconic symbol of Brooklyn,” Lander said in a statement last Thursday. “This agreement insures that the Kentile Floors sign will remain a much-loved part of the Gowanus landscape for generations to come.”
Despite Lander’s reassurances, not much is certain at this time. Cohen has not made public any plans for how he aims to dismantle the sign and no one has volunteered to give it a permanent home. The Gowanus Alliance will take charge of the letters upon their removal, but Basile is still working out the specifics.
“First they have to come down, and we don’t know how that’s going to go forward,” Basile said last Friday. “We’re hoping they come down as intact as possible. Once they’re on the ground, we’ll have a better idea of their condition.”
The sign’s fate has been in question since June 3, when an eagle-eyed straphanger noticed new scaffolding surrounding it and tipped off local media. Residents, led by Savage and Lander, held protests beneath the landmark and circulated a petition that garnered more than 2,000 signatures. The sign is in rough shape, according to Lander. “Long-deferred maintenance of the sign,” along with the derelict condition of the warehouse roof beneath it, spurred Cohen’s decision to topple the beloved marquee, the councilman wrote in his statement.
When the letters do make it to down, the Gowanus Alliance will begin efforts to find a space to display them — and given the spaced and infrastructure putting it on another roof would require, Basile does not have high hopes for it to reach for the sky once more.