Brooklyn is poised to lose another icon of its industrial past. The Kentile Floors sign has been a treasured sight for decades from the F train or the Gowanus Expressway. Even without its neon lighting, the sign is indelibly linked to our image of the urban environs in which we live. Permits have been issued for its demolition and it is encased in scaffolding. Last year, the Eagle Clothing sign came down and the further loss of the Kentile sign will leave a gaping void on the Gowanus skyline.
But perhaps it can still be saved at this eleventh hour. Council Member Brad Lander has created a petition on his website that urges the building’s owner, Ely Cohen of Regal Home Collection, to preserve the sign in its current form or to disassemble it and donate it to an organization for future re-installation in the Gowanus area. There is a precedent for this form of preservation in the Colgate sign on the Jersey City waterfront and the Pepsi-Cola sign on the Long Island City waterfront. One can well imagine how terrific the sign would look along a cleaned up Gowanus Canal lined with walking and bike paths.
The Kentile sign dates back to the mid-1900s when the Kentile company, which dates back to 1898, placed it on top of its factory on Second Avenue and Ninth Street. Kentile, using an amazing substance called asbestos, made floor tile that found a growing market in the expanding suburbs. At one time, the factory employed about 400 people. When the adverse health effects of asbestos became known, the wave of litigation over asbestos products led to the company’s closing in the mid-1990s. The sign has provided mute testimony to this once-vibrant company that made Brooklyn one of the nation’s major manufacturing centers.
If you, too, regret the potential loss of this piece of Brooklyn’s history, support the call to save the sign. Sign the petition – click here to add your name.