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Whole Foods on crack: We didn’t do it

Crack attack: Gowanus residents say work on the new Whole Foods has damaged the historic building.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Construction on the about-to-open Gowanus Whole Foods Market caused a massive crack in the wall of a historic building that shares the lot with the health food giant, claim locals who love the building and say the city is not doing enough to protect it.

The Whole Foods agreed to fix up the long-abandoned Coignet building on Third Avenue at Third Street as part of a deal to build a mega-market in the lot around it, but with just a handful of days left until the store’s Dec. 17 opening, neighbors say the pounding of piledrivers and sloppy excavation all but tore the place apart and the company is sidestepping the problem.

“Whole Foods does not want to be responsible,” said Linda Mariano, president of the activist group Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, who noticed the crack last week.

A spokesman for Whole Foods denied the allegations, stressing that the food retailer will honor its promise to give the building’s already crack-littered façade a fresh face-lift.

Old and new: The 140-year-old former New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company headquarters stands next to the about-to-open Gowanus Whole Foods Market.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“Nothing that occurred in relations to building our building for the store affected what’s happening to that building,” said Michael Sinatra, spokesman for Whole Foods. “I don’t think anything caused that crack. The building is a bit weathered.”

But Mariano is not convinced.

“They are liars; they have to be,” she said. “They better fess up.”

The former New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company headquarters may have been the first concrete building in the city when it was built in 1873. Park Slope mega-builder Edwin Litchfield took the operation over when Coignet went bankrupt, but the two-story building has sat abandoned since the 1960s. The city designated it a landmark in 2006.

Fissures for sure: The landmarked Coignet building on Third Avenue and Third Street has a lot more problems than just the one crack.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A documentarian who made the Coignet building the subject of a short film said the crack is one of many and, whether or not the kale and kim chi vendor is responsible for the latest fissure, the building is hanging on by a thread.

“When I was filming, everyone in every interview said they saw it shaking [from the work] and said, ‘You’d better film it now before it falls down,’ ” said Max Kutner, director of “At the Corner of 3rd and 3rd” and contributor to this paper.

The auteur stopped short of pinning the blame on Whole Foods, but said city preservationists could definitely be doing more to hold the gourmet grocer to its word.

The Department of Buildings said it is investigating reports of damage to the building.

Activist-itude: Linda Mariano is demanding that Whole Food fix the dilapidated Coignet building.
Photo by Bess Adler

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.

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