Along the toxic shore of the Gowanus Canal sits the forgotten Central Power Station of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. Built in 1896, the power station once proudly served Brooklyn’s train system, a system that was growing at a brisk pace. A little too brisk for the station’s boilers, and as technology moved past it, the power station remained. Soon the once-impressive station was neglected and forgotten.
Fast-forward to the early 2000s, and what was now called the “Batcave” (whether it ever actually housed bats is unclear) was littered with graffiti. The homeless youth of the area began to flock to the abandoned structure, squatting in and eventually forming the Batcave into a community of sorts. Punks, travelers, and drifters created their own colony under the eaves, policing their own, and spray-painting political messages and discontent with the society at large on the walls of the building.
For a while, all was well. It was still a place to crash, party, and draw on the walls, but there was some semblance of order. It is said, though not confirmed, that hard drugs were kept out and violent crime was not tolerated. Unfortunately, after a drunken rooftop incident that involved the police, many of the squatters were evicted. Over time various people moved back in, but the rules were gone, and the Batcave slowly became a living space for junkies, dealers, and the harder-living, more aggressive faction of New York’s homeless population. Within two years of the punk kids’ ousting and the squat becoming a den, the violence culminated when a homeless man was thrown from a window and one overdosing teen was carted to the street for the authorities to clean up. The last residents of the Batcave were evicted in 2006.
Known best for the ever-changing political graffiti on its overhang, visible from the 4th Avenue 9 Streets stop on the F and G train, the building is now empty save the furniture and belongings of the people who had lived there.
Currently being cleaned of an excessive build-up of moldy books, mattresses, and plush toys (albeit the graffiti remains relatively untouched), the building was recently bought and is being developed into an art center and bicycle velodrome.
Know Before You Go
3rd street and 3rd avenue
- Hannah Frishberg
- Nathan Kensinger, "Gowanus: The Batcave Revisited." February 28, 2010.
- J. David Goodman, "The Mysterious Mr. Rechnitz." The New York Times, November 23, 2012.
- "In Gowanus’ Batcave, Broken Teenage Dreams Live on." Abandoned NYC, June 10, 2010.
- "Gowanus Squatters Looking for New Abandoned Building." Curbed, November 29, 2006.
- Jess Wisloski, "Gowanus Surprise." Brooklyn Paper, November 13, 2004.
- Jotham Sederstrom, "Homeless Rule at the Bat Cave." New York Daily News, October 23, 2006.