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Residents Rally to Save Kentile Floors Sign

By Nikhita Venugopal | June 6, 2014 4:19pm | Updated on June 9, 2014 8:43am
 The Kentile Floors sign along the Gowanus Canal at Second Ave. and Ninth Street.
The Kentile Floors sign along the Gowanus Canal at Second Ave. and Ninth Street.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

GOWANUS — The possible removal of the beloved Kentile Floors sign in Gowanus has local residents and one elected official rallying to save it — while the building owner remains silent on its fate.

News broke Wednesday that the iconic sign might be removed after a permit surfaced from the Department of Buildings to “remove existing structure and sign by hand off roof.” It was approved on April 17.

While building owner Ely Cohen has not confirmed the report, the DOB permit and presence of scaffolding around the sign bolstered the rumor’s legitimacy.

“It seems so crazy that something as integral to the identity of Brooklyn could be so easily torn down,” said Stephen Savage, a Park Slope resident who is organizing a protest Saturday morning to help save the sign.

City Councilman Brad Lander said he was “deeply distressed to learn of the imminent threat to the Kentile Floors sign.”

“Demolition of this iconic sign would be an enormous loss for Gowanus and for Brooklyn,” Lander said in a statement sent Thursday evening.

Lander, who is expected to attend Saturday’s protest, called the decades-old sign a “city treasure” that can be seen by drivers on the Gowanus Expressway and subway commuters on the F/G trains. 

Cohen, who owns the building at 111 9th St., has not responded to requests for comment. The real estate broker who represents him, Brian Kanarek, also did not respond to phone calls Friday. 

Lander is urging Cohen to reconsider his decision or at least find a way to preserve the sign for the community’s use, the statement said.

The sign, which has been nominated to the Census of Places that Matter, was erected in the 1940s for the company that specialized in asphalt and vinyl floor coverings, according to the Municipal Art Society of New York.

It serves a relic and reminder of Brooklyn’s industrial past, said Dom Gervasi, owner and producer of Made in Brooklyn Tours.

The Kentile Floors sign, along with other unique features of the neighborhood like the Eagle Clothes sign that was torn down last year, “is part of the fabric of the community,” Gervasi said.

The former factory on Ninth Street near Second Avenue is a private building and the sign is not landmarked.

“We’re upset the sign may be coming down, but we respect the owners' right to do what they want with the property,” said Paul Basile, president of Gowanus Alliance, a neighborhood improvement group.

Savage, who has lived in Brooklyn for 25 years, first noticed the scaffolding a few days ago but assumed it was for maintenance work. When he heard about the sign’s possible demise, he knew he had to take action, he said.

“The wrecking ball can be stopped in mid-swing,” he said.

The protest is scheduled for June 7 at 10 a.m. at Ninth Street between Second Avenue and the Gowanus Canal.