On a crisp November morning, we visited the Coney Island Pumping Station off Neptune Avenue in hopes to see the long lost locus for Brooklyn fire departments to refill their water. Upon arriving by Subway and a short walk toward Kaiser Park, the Pumping Station appeared like a mirage – spontaneously as if we were dreaming. Tucked away next to disheveled grass and leafless trees, the structure is at once inviting and menacing.
Built in 1937, it was opened to serve the needs of the Brooklyn Fire Departments. Architect Irwin Chanin constructed the one-story pumping station with elements of Germanic influenced in its fortified bunker-like appearance. For over thirty years, Brooklyn fire departments utilized this Pumping Station in order to be prepared in case flames broke loose somewhere in the dense cityscape. However, pumping station regulations changed in the 70’s and the NYFD was forced to shut down the building.
Ever since the Pumping Station has been shut down, it has been neglected. No museum has ever bid to renovate the space for a specific purpose, but rather, the building just remains here, alone and abandoned. The limestone façade, rectangular symmetry and expressive water drops covering the outside create a total Art Deco aesthetic. Its authoritative aesthetic and eclectic water motifs symbolize a nexus of order and cultural expression that is rarely found on a structure whose purpose was constructed for Industrial service.
What is peculiar is that nothing has been done to renovate this Pumping Station when it could easily become a cultural center adjacent to the already well-known sites of Coney Island. After all, the Coney Island Pumping Station is still here after Hurricane Sandy, so why not revitalize this wonder and turn it into a getaway for arts and cultural expression?
The Jacob Riis Bathhouse