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A Sign of the Times: Why Saving the Kentile Sign is Important #savekentile

There's a 60+ year old sign in Brooklyn leftover from a company that went bankrupt years ago.  The current owner of the property wants to take it down and has every right to do so.

So what's the big deal?

The Kentile Floors sign has become a mainstay of the Gowanus area.  F train riders pass by it everyday on the way to and from work.  It has its own Twitter personality.  There are Tumblr accounts of people taking pictures of it everyday as a routine.  It has even made it to a t-shirt designed by a company specializing in iconic Brooklyn images.  Not only does it give people a sense of familiarity and comfort in a constantly changing city, but it serves as an important reminder of Brooklyn's history as an industrial community--a place where things got made.  This is especially important as Brooklyn appears on the verge of an entrepreneurial explosion--one rooted in the maker and craft movement.

Brooklyn is attracting a generation of entrepreneurs who never saw Brooklyn in its industrial heyday, but feel like the borough is uniquely positioned and a historically fitting place to produce their products and serve creative communities.  Makerbot has a factory in Industry City.  Maker marketplace Etsy has agreed to take a huge space in the new Dumbo Heights complex.  Refactory is trying to create an end to end process from design to manufacturing for hardware on Sackett Street.  Distilleries, bakeries, ice cream manufacturers--all across the borough, it seems that someone is making something.  Even the old Pfizer headquarters, active as recently as 2008, is now home to the production of everything from microchips to pickles.  In the Navy Yard, they're making body armor to product our troops and solar streetlamps to light our streets.  

So while it's easy to think that the Kentile sign is a relic of a bygone era, it may actually be the symbol of a bright future for a growing manufacturing base.  It is a reminder to those who dare to create that yes, things can get made here--they've been getting made here for a long time and will continue to do so.  

So if you're an Etsy seller--the Kentile sign is your sign.

If you've purchased a Makerbot in the hopes that you might inspire your kids to be engineers, the Kentile sign is your sign.

If you're excited about the Ample Hills ice cream factory's new retail location--the Kentile sign is all yours.

If you've backed a Kickstarter to enable a craftsperson to make something locally--the Kentile sign is your sign.

Eaten from a local producer at Smorgasburg?  That Kentile sign represents everything good about producing things right in our own backyard.  It's all yours.

We've learned enough from neighborhoods like Dumbo that mixed use communities of commercial and residential can anchor each other to create dynamic ecosystems.  There are huge opportunities in places like Gowanus and Crown Heights to help New York City scale its entrepreneurial endeavors, in contrast to places like San Francisco which seem bottlenecked by geography.  That won't happen, however, if every last bit of commercial space is replaced by a glass condo tower.  

If you want to support local ecosystems of makers, producers and craftspeople--help us preserve the symbol of Brooklyn's industrial past and future opportunity.  Sign this petition sponsored by City Councilperson Brad Lander.

 

 

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