Jehova’s Witnesses Not Vacating Coveted Brooklyn HQ Anytime Soon

10/25/2011 2:31 PM |

The biggest of the Watchtower buildings in Brooklyn.
  • The biggest of the Watchtower buildings in Brooklyn.

Remember how, in order to maybe reduce the number of hotel and condo towers built inside Brooklyn Bridge Park to help pay for the park’s hefty operating costs, one plan was to generate revenue by converting the soon-to-be-vacated world headquarters of the Jehova’s Witnesses—aka the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society—into condos? Well, that might not be happening for a long, long while.

The Witnesses, who own several large office buildings and many smaller townhouses and such around DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, are planning on relocating their headquarters upstate, a move that is going to take longer than previously thought. And so, as the Brooklyn Eagle reports, the converting and selling off of those properties to generate extra revenue for the fancy park is going to be significantly delayed. This is especially problematic since there’s a deadline on the properties’ conversion and sale of January 1, 2014. After that time, a request for proposals will be put out to developers for all the previously planned condos and hotel inside the park.

Richard Devine, who manages the Witnesses’ real estate holdings, tells the Eagle that the group’s move to Warwick, New York, is still years away—they’re about to file an environmental impact report, and are still months from being given a construction permit. Accordingly, the 2014 deadline for converting their not-yet-vacant property in Brooklyn to residential zoning and use, and selling it, will be all but impossible to make. Those properties include:

The Witnesses have 34 properties totaling 3.4 million square feet to be disposed of in the Heights and DUMBO. According to Devine, four are parking lots, 17 are residential buildings and 13 are buildings that are in manufacturing zones, including its world headquarters complex at 25 and 30 Columbia Heights and the tower at 90 Sands St. that is zoned as a hotel.

Of those buildings all but eight are still being used by the organization. The eight that are not, all residential, are currently for sale.

How all this will affect the future of Brooklyn Bridge Park and real estate development within its boundaries remains unclear.

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