3. Gowanus Batcave

Image courtesy Abandoned NYC

Not long ago, a pack of teenage runaways lived the dream in the infamous Gowanus Batcave, shacking up rent-free in an abandoned MTA powerhouse on the shore of the notoriously toxic Gowanus Canal. Out of the grime, in back rooms and crooked halls, the artifacts of this sizable squatter settlement remain to enlighten, amuse, and unnerve the intrepid few that enter the disreputable interior.

The aimless individuals who lived here may have recognized themselves in the old Central Power Station of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, which had long since been cast aside by society, ceasing to be useful but retaining a proud exterior. Built in 1896 to serve a rapidly expanding subway system in the outer boroughs, its position on the banks of the Gowanus ensured an efficient intake of coal to power its arsenal of 32 boilers, which supplied eight 4,000 horsepower steam engine driven generators. The station’s technology couldn’t keep up with the times, and after a brief second life as a paper recycling plant, the powerhouse was abandoned. Today, it’s more commonly known as the “Batcave,” supposedly named for the creatures that once congregated in its broken-down ceiling.

The residents are long gone, but most of their humble furnishings remain. Some living quarters, fashioned in old corner offices of the power plant, are generously sized, complete with beds, bookshelves, and lounge chairs. Others are no larger than a closet; album covers, skulls and superheroes, and a general state of chaos are prominent features of these impromptu bedrooms.

It’s been a while since there was any update on the status of the infamous Gowanus Batcave, but with the rapidly changing landscape of the neighborhood, it was only a matter of time. The New York Times reported that the nonprofit Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation has plans in place this year to begin the transformation of the Batcave into The Powerhouse Workshop, an artist and manufacturing space. The project will be designed by the renown Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, most well-known for the Tate Modern in London but whose Jenga-like skyscraper in Tribeca, 56 Leonard, is probably their most recognizable New York City work. The Powerhouse Workshop had an anticipated opening date of 2020 but has been delayed.