Former Gowanus Canal Batcave Renovated

View from Bond Street Canal Park

The infamous Brooklyn "Batcave" has been fully renovated and restored into a soon public-faceted building for downtown Brooklyn artists.  The former central Power Station of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company was decommissioned in the 1950s and was once synonymous as a temple of graffiti and a squatter community haven in the early 2000s. Hence the name "Batcave". It became so popular it even hosted concerts and underground parties as it awaited development. 

renovated batcave building view from street bridge
The Batcave as seen from the Third Street Bridge.

As Rebecca of Brownstoner states, "Brooklyn Rapid Transit acquired the property to use as a powerhouse in 1904, and “under their ownership, it appears that coal was delivered by water and transported beneath the site via coal tunnel,” the state notes. It was later owned by the Williamsburg Power Plant Corp. and then the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which used it as an electrical substation and switching yard until 1996."

The power station as it looked in the 1940s. Photo Credit to NYC Department of Records

Acquired by philanthropist Joshua Rechnitz in 2012 for $7 million and managed through Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation, and reportedly cost $74 million in the renovation, the 119-year-old building will be called The Powerhouse Workshop which will serve creatives and artists as both a work and exhibition space for metalworkers, woodworkers, printmaking, ceramics, fiber arts and more as a production mecca. PBDW Architects and Herzog & de Meuron collaborated and designed the space. The Swiss firm also had a hand in the Parrish Art Museum on Long Island, Park Avenue Armory renovation, and Tate Modern of London. 

downtown brooklyn view from gowanus canal street bridge
The Powerhouse Workshop is on the right with the foreground of Downtown Brooklyn center.

According to renderings of the final exterior, graffiti was supposed to be left standing outside but as in the pictures in this post, that idea was scrapped. No exterior graffiti to be found nowhere in sight.  In addition, to that, inner graffiti was also to be preserved but no current or present interior pictures have been published at this time. Currently, the foundation is moving into the facility from Red Hook as I type these words and operations are to be resumed sometime in July 2022.

The new six-story addition to the former Brooklyn Rapid Transit powerhouse. 


1. Plitt, Amy, "Gowanus Bat Cave will transform into an art space designed by Herzog & de Meuron", March 7, 2017, NY Curbed

2. Bradley-Smith, Anna, "Long Blighted, Newly Revamped Batcave Gets Ready for Debut as Gowanus Arts Center", May 25, 2022, Brownstoner

3. Rebecca, "Decontamination Planned for Gowanus Batcave", January 6, 2014, Brownstoner

4. "Batcave", Wikipedia

5. Street View of 1940s New York, 1940s NYC, NYC Department of Records

6. Mazzarella, Michelle, "As Gowanus Canal cleanup gets start date, Brooklyn's "Batcave" begins transformation into creative hub", January 30, 2020, CityRealty


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