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UPS Pauses Demolition Of Historic Red Hook Factory Facade

What remains of the facade along Coffey Street.
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What remains of the facade along Coffey Street. Photo by Carolina Salguero

Following a public outcry among community members and preservationists, UPS has agreed to partially halt demolition of a historic factory complex along the Red Hook waterfront, according to elected officials.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez and City Councilman Carlos Menchaca on Thursday issued a statement saying that the shipping giant’s chief engineer ordered a new engineering analysis related to the community’s desire to preserve the facade that faces Louis Valentino Park.

“While the analysis is taking place, UPS has said no additional demolition of the Coffey Street façade side will take place, though demolition will continue on other parts of the site,” the statement said.

The company has also created an email — RedHookCommunity@ups.com — to which residents can submit ideas "that might help with the new engineering analysis and design."

Reached for comment, a UPS spokesman confirmed the details provided in the statement from elected officials. He added that the company had ordered a new engineering analysis on June 4.

UPS began demolishing the wall and other pieces of the sprawling 1880s-era manufacturing complex at 202 Coffey Street on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. The surprise demolition prompted outraged posts on Twitter and Instagram from residents, many of whom had lobbied the company months ahead of the demolition to save the façade.

Once a busy foundry, the Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company used the complex to make equipment and machinery that was deployed to build the Panama Canal, among many other projects.

Roughly 40% of the wall along Coffey Street has already been torn down, according to PortSide New York, a Red Hook-based nonprofit that promotes maritime education and activities.

Carolina Salguero, the founder and president of PortSide New York, said the Coffey Street façade was important because it is part of a suite of old warehouses surrounding the park that contribute to a strong sense of place. Over the years, the façade has served as the picturesque and historic backdrop for weddings and birthday parties.

Salguero, who was among those who fought to preserve parts of the 87,000 square-foot factory, praised UPS's decision, saying, “I’m very glad that UPS has now heard us and hope that they will continue to do that going forward so we do not lose any more of the southern façade.”

She added that the community was looking forward to having conversations with UPS about local training and hiring within the community. Another overarching concern for residents has been the potential for increased truck traffic. The company is expected to use the property as a new distribution center.

The arrival of UPS comes on the heels of a mini-boom in warehouses in Red Hook, a trend fueled by the rise in e-commerce.

Following the initial demolition, UPS issued a statement saying that the building was "unstable and unsafe" according to a structural analysis.

However, the company pledged that it would "find a way to preserve the historic nature of the building and meaningfully honor it in memoriam, in a visible and authentic manner."

UPS bought the Lidgerwood complex in January 2018 for $37.25 million, according to city property records. The company later purchased six neighboring parcels for $303 million, assembling a six-parcel site with 1.2 buildable square feet.

UPDATE: Story has been updated with UPS comment.

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