Eagle Clothes Sign Could Be Restored, U-Haul Says

By Leslie Albrecht on August 5, 2013 11:20am 

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 U-Haul is hoping to get city permission to restore the Eagle Clothes sign to the Brooklyn skyline.
Eagle Clothes Sign Could Be Restored, U-Haul Says
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GOWANUS — The eagle could soar again.

The vintage Eagle Clothes sign removed last week from a Gowanus rooftop could once again grace the Brooklyn skyline, if the building owner can win permission from the Department of Buildings.

"We know that sign is important to the community, and we want it to continue to be part of the community in one way or another," said Stuart Shoen, executive vice president of U-Haul International, which owns the building on which the Eagle Clothes sign was placed in 1951.

He added, "U-Haul loves that sign and it's something we've been proud of since we’ve owned the building. If we didn't like it, we would have put up a U-Haul sign."

News of the Eagle Clothes sign's demise struck a nerve in Brooklyn, where many saw its disappearance as yet another symbol of the borough's march toward gentrification.

City Councilman Brad Lander wrote to U-Haul asking that the company restore the marquee to Third Avenue and Sixth Street. Lander offered to help U-Haul acquire the proper city permits to do so.

Lander said he was "saddened" by the sign's disappearance, calling it "a significant contributor to the unique character of the Gowanus neighborhood and one of the defining features of the Brooklyn skyline."

U-Haul had originally planned to keep the approximately 62-year-old sign when it added two floors to its facility, but the project manager for the site said Department of Buildings officials told him that wasn't possible because the sign would exceed city height limits.

A DOB spokeswoman said it wasn't immediately clear which height limit U-Haul was referring to, and couldn't comment on whether U-Haul would be allowed to restore the sign until the company submits a formal plan to the city.

U-Haul, which is based in Phoenix, Ariz., wants to take Lander up on his offer to help navigate New York City building regulations, Shoen said.

One wrinkle in the plan is that the sign was damaged when it was removed last week, and restoring the 80-feet-high and 70-feet-wide sign to its original glory could be an expensive and lengthy process, Shoen said.

Shoen noted that U-Haul is loathe to spend money on anything not directly related to moving and storage. For example, it doesn't outfit its trucks with CD players, despite repeated requests from customers, Shoen said.

"U-Haul is willing to spend money on [restoring the Eagle Clothes sign], but we drive Fords and Chevys around here, we don't drive Ferraris," Shoen said.

However the company remains committed to retaining the sign, or a version of it, Shoen said. He added that U-Haul isn't a newcomer to Gowanus. Though a company representative first told DNAinfo that U-Haul bought the building around the 1980s, U-Haul actually acquired the property back in 1976, according to Shoen's research.

"When we bought that building, Brooklyn was not a hip place to live on HBO series," Shoen said. Back then U-Haul's Third Avenue facility was surrounded by chop shops and "other illegal businesses," Shoen said.

Since then Brooklyn has become a sought-after moving destination, which is why U-Haul needs to expand its Sixth Street building, Shoen said.

"If we were all about just making money, we'd sell the property to condo developers," Shoen said. "But U-Haul is in the trucks and trailers business. Moving to Brooklyn is a major goal for millions of people around the country, and we want to help people do that."

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