Some of East New York’s most iconic industrial buildings are now NYC’s newest landmark. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to designate the Empire State Dairy Company Buildings, located along Atlantic Avenue and Schenck Avenue, in the neighborhood.
The complex was designed in two phases. The first structure was built between 1906-07, and designed by architect Theobold Engelhardt, who was known for his designs of commercial and manufacturing buildings in Brooklyn. The second set of buildings were built almost a decade later, between 1914-15, and designed by architect Otto Strack.
It’s these three buildings, that were built later and front on Atlantic Avenue, that are probably the most iconic within the complex, largely due to the ceramic tile panels depicting Swiss pastoral folk scenes that are in the tallest of the three buildings. They are considered to be the largest surviving decorative tile installations created by the American Encaustic Tile Company.
The complex was used for processing milk and making ice cream for several decades after its opening. It shuttered in the mid-20th century, and has essentially been out of use since.
Landmarking this complex came to the fore when the city decided to rezone East New York. Preservationists raised concerns that the buildings might be demolished if protections weren’t put in place. The LPC calendared the complex in March 2016, and subsequently held public hearings and discussions to landmark the complex.
The current owners were opposed to the designation on the grounds that one of the buildings at the site needed significant environmental remediation. The Commission’s staff debated delaying the landmarking until remediation was complete, but decided to move forward regardless so that the Commission could closely monitor changes to the buildings at the site.
“It is really important that we preserve these buildings,” said LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, concurring with her staff’s assessment. “These are the most significant industrial buildings in East New York.”