For a Rusty Industrial Relic, a Bid for Revival
ON warm summer weekends along the Brooklyn waterfront, at the end of Columbia Street, the baseball and soccer fields of Red Hook Park are lined with Latin American food vendors and families spread out on blankets to watch players in crisp whites and vivid primary colors. But looming behind the fields is a spectral counterpoint to that lively scene: a monolithic, ash-colored grain elevator, 429 feet long with silos nine stories high, that has sat vacant since 1965.
The grain elevator, which opened in 1922, sits just out of reach behind a fence made of huge concrete blocks, a silent reminder, as were the Todd Shipyards graving dock and the Revere sugar refinery, of Red Hook’s industrial history. But while those other structures are gone — filled in and torn down to make way for development — the owner of the grain elevator says he has a plan to bring this industrial relic back into use.
John Quadrozzi Jr., president of the Gowanus Industrial Park, a 46-acre property that contains the grain elevator, said last week that his company is seeking government approval for a concrete manufacturing plant that would use the silos for bulk cement storage. The plan, which was reported in The Brooklyn Paper, requires approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. There is no set timetable for the silos to reopen.
Despite their age, Mr. Quadrozzi said the silos, which could hold 70,000 tons of cement, remain solid.
“There are some deteriorated parts that are going to be removed, but the structure itself is like a bomb shelter,” he said. He was speaking literally. Because the elevator was built to hold combustible grain, he explained, “it’s actually explosion-proof.”
Kimberly Chupa, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Conservation, said that the industrial park had sought permits to renovate its piers for the project in October, but that the state had held off its review until certain violations, one involving the property’s fence, were resolved. The two sides reached an agreement on Wednesday, she said, and on Friday the agency resumed its review of the project.
The grain elevator, which was used for washing, drying, cooling and storing grain before it was loaded onto waiting freight ships, has maintained its mystique. Jake Dobkin, who publishes the local news blog Gothamist and runs a photo blog at Bluejake.com, was part of a group of self-described “urban explorers” who sneaked into the site in January and posted their pictures, which showed rickety metal staircases, intricate graffiti and a sprawling warehouse floor full of old machinery.
Mr. Dobkin, who grew up in nearby Park Slope, said the site always held an attraction. “When you’re riding the F train from Carroll, you just see it in the distance, this massive building,” he said. “There’s something about the solidity of it.”
He said the expedition, which involved shinnying along a sea wall over the Gowanus Canal and swinging under a fence, was worth it for the fog-shrouded view of the surrounding neighborhoods.
“There are very few spots that I would risk getting arrested to photograph,” he said, “but this is one of them.”
By JAKE MOONEY