Once upon a time in January 2002, the owner/developer of 460 Union Street (known as the “Green Building”, a handsome century old Civil War era brick industrial building) filed a request with Community Board 6 to demolish this building and replace it with a seven story 74 unit luxury condominium. Since the Green Building exists on a site zoned for industry the developer also had to file for a variance with the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) to rezone the site for residential use.
Many of the residents of the Gowanus were against this proposed development. They saw the Green Building as an integral component of the urban industrial legacy of the Gowanus that should be preserved, and that the condominium would have been inconsistent with the character of the Gowanus: a neighborhood of primarily light industrial buildings and 2 to 4 story residential brownstones with low density occupancy. The residents were concerned about the potential negative impact on the health of the condominium’s future tenants. The condominium was going to be built directly next to the Gowanus Canal, a highly polluted waterway that was later designated as a Superfund Site. The residents were concerned about the negative environmental impact of the condominium from the projected increase in traffic.
For two years at 3 to 4 month intervals members of the Gowanus community and nearby residents gave heartfelt testimony at the BSA to deny the developer’s request for the variance. Finally, on February 3, 2004, the BSA denied the developer’s application for the variance!
The Green Building still stands and is being reused as an event space. The Green Building symbolizes the strength of the Gowanus community to preserve its industrial heritage!