Reasons to Get Excited About Watchtower Property Sale

Crain’s NY Business writes about how our local electeds and others are already licking their chops over the potential buyers, uses and tax revenue resulting from the sale of the Watchtower properties in Brooklyn Heights.

Crain’s NY Business: “There is great potential here to transform the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president.
Even with the sale likely a few years away, he and others are dreaming big about what could be. For the city, the sales could return the holdings of the largest landlord in Brooklyn Heights and vicinity—the nonprofit Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Witnesses’ business arm—to the city’s tax rolls. The move could net City Hall millions of dollars a year in revenue.
Meanwhile, backers of the nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park have already tentatively factored the sale of some of the Witnesses’ properties into the park’s long-range funding plans, and developers are eyeing the possibility of vast amounts of new housing and office space. The Witnesses themselves offer some other suggestions.
“These would be good for universities or a senior-housing operator,” said Richard Devine, a spokesman for the Witnesses, referring to half a dozen buildings linked by brightly lit, spotless tunnels that the Witnesses dug over the last 35 years.

Share this Story:
  • Topham Beauclerk

    @ Western Brooklyn

    Only the Witnesses have bought a lot of real estate in BH. You’re certainly right about that.


    “They don’t recognize anyone but themselves from a beliefs perspective.” Have you spoken to a Hasid lately? Or a priest or nun?

    “The other thing that creates contempt is their constant strive to be self-sufficient within a community and their reluctance to be part of any community which they live unless you are “one of them”.” Have you been to South Williamsburg?

  • Tony

    @Heightsman: They are all dim bulbs. Study after study has shown that of all the religious groups, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the least educated and the most ignorant of the world around them. Considering the state of religion in America, that is indeed saying something. You paint this picture of shrewd, sinister forces duping some rubes to join their cult. Not so. They are not Branch Davidians.

  • Heightsman

    Tony – you don’t need to be very shrewd or sinister if your have dim bulbs on your hands…..they tend to willing jump off or buy the bridge you are selling.

    Topham – i am speaking about contempt in the Heights, not saying it doesn’t exist elsewhere with others.

  • malanga es malanga

    Does anybody know just how many housing units the JW’s occupy in the Heights? I am real curious to know how many new residents are projected to move in after the Watchtower exodus.

  • Tony

    @Heightsman: Yes, you do. People may be gullible and dumb but they still need charismatic leaders to inspire them. This is not the case with the Witnesses. I am simply refuting your point that “someone smarter is pulling the strings.” These are people who have willingly joined this religion, mostly because they are not too bright. I also think your depiction of them is wildly inaccurate. I’ve known countless Jehovah’s in my many years here in the Heights and they don’t “cut out all communication” with people who don’t agree with them. “Hand over all their wealth”? I’m not an expert but I can’t believe this is true.

  • Western Brooklyn

    Organized religion & religious wars: My invisible friend is better than your invisible friend, so now I have to kill you!

  • Western Brooklyn


    Despite your shilling for them, the Witnesses do indeed practice shunning, in which family members & friends cruelly mistreat a fallen member as if he/she had died, often destroying what’s left of his/her fractured life!

  • Tony

    “Shilling for them,” Western Brooklyn? Have you read any of my posts today? I have said repeatedly that all JWs are a bunch of dim-witted ninnies. Heightsman said nothing about “shunning”; he claimed they cut off all communication with non-believers, and this is simply untrue. The truth about them is bad enough; propaganda is hardly necessary.

  • Western Brooklyn

    @Topham Beauclerk,

    Even more snide & smug than usual today, huh?

    Please inform us about what other cult has bought-up dozens of hotels, apartment buildings, & brownstones in Brooklyn Heights, & exclusively for their own use???

  • Topham Beauclerk


    You were speaking only about the Heights. I see. As it happens, the many Witnesses I’ve met over the years were unfailingly polite and always eager to respond to any questions I put to them. That their answers were nonsense is nothing to the point. They are no more aloof or closed-off than any other religion.

    It’s never been clear to me why the Witnesses excite such contempt. They are ridiculous in their beliefs,of course, but no more so than any other religion and they enjoy the same privileges as all religions do in this country. If they are so widely disliked in the Heights it can’t simply be because of the size of their real estate portfolio; something else is at work.

  • Western Brooklyn


    You and are few others here are shilling for them in the sense that when too much harsh reality is released (in your opinion), you begin subtly mitigating for them in your comments.

    Also, there is something more sinister going on here that just some “dim-witted ninnies”, and I think you know that too.

  • Topham Beauclerk

    @Western Brooklyn

    Did I not agree with you above that the Witnesses are unique in their appetite for Brooklyn Heights real estate?

    Here’s another example of my smugness: The point is obvious and therefore uninteresting and I like interesting commentary. Snide enough for you?

  • Tony

    @Western Brooklyn: Actually, I don’t. Enlighten me.

  • Scott

    I am pretty sure you can tour any of their buildings and ask how many people they house in Brooklyn. I think it is around 1,200.

  • philica

    Nothing like a Watchtower post to get the natives all riled up. If the new residents that come in after Watchtower leaves are half as clean, polite, and quiet as the JWs the nabe will be LUCKY.

  • Western Brooklyn

    @Topham Beauclerk:

    You’re wrong again. Witnesses in the Heights are more aloof & closed-off than those of other religions because they’re forbidden to vote or participate in the community. They’re also not allowed to maintain close friendships with people who are not Witnesses.

    I do have sympathy for the low-level Watchtower lackeys who are merely a brainwashed, unpaid workforce. It’s those at the top of the pyramid who manipulate them & the vast monies they extract from other poor people who I can’t stand!


    I’ve heard the clean/polite/quiet rebuttal to anyone criticizing the Witnesses for decades now. That’s was also one of the pretexts cited when they rescued (stole) a number of huge welfare hotels in the Heights years ago, for pennies on the dollar! Moreover, does it make the countless lives they ruined any better because they’re superficially clean & nice about it?

  • Jorale-man

    Here’s an interesting NY Times article from 1971(!) about how Heights residents had mixed feelings towards the Witnesses – how on one hand they keep their properties in immaculate shape but on the other, don’t contribute to the community and proselytize to residents: (subscription required)

    The more things change…

  • philica

    Where was all the hoopla and upset when they “stole” those hotels way back when? Or was it only when the neighborhood improved (and their properties increased in value) that all of a sudden people were interested in what they -legally- acquired? Don’t worry- you’ll get them all back now. Isn’t that what this post is all about?

  • Spiritualbrother

    A book publishing and real estate corporation masquerading as a religion?

  • Master Of Middagh

    To just write off all of those folks as idiots is too simplistic a viewpoint to be accurate. I’ve met many Witnesses over the years and a lot them were very intelligent and good readers too. They’re not stupid- but they were weak-willed at one point or another; a time when they felt deserted by friends and family- and they found that the Witnesses were there for them- VERY THERE FOR THEM! This is why, once a member of their group, extracting oneself can become problematic.

    Why do we (even myself) dislike the Witnesses? I think a lot of it stems from the notion that, were their day of judgment to arrive, they would happily dance on our ashes. A nun or a priest, they may not a have smile for you on demand- but they WILL help you. Notice how they let the homeless sleep outside the church of The Assumption- you think the Witnesses would let that fly?

  • Topham Beauclerk

    @Western Brooklyn

    If you should ask non-Hasidic residents of South Willliamsburg what they think of the Hasids in their midst, you would hear, as I have heard, precisely the same complaints one hears about the Witnesses. If Americans find the Mennonites or the Amish so adorable, it’s because they have withdrawn themselves to remote rural spots where non-members of their sects couldn’t possibly be disturbed by their way of living. The more geographically isolated a sect is, the more charming it becomes in the distance. How lovable ashrams are, for example, though they are as absurd as any 19th-century American Protestant religion.

  • Tony

    @Master of Middagh: PC nonsense. Jehovah’s Witnesses, well read? Not a chance. Have you ever thumbed through JW literature? It’s a bit above kindergarten level.

  • Hicks St Guy

    @MoM, homeless at Assumption Church? Catholics have
    Catholic Charities, a very good organization which help a
    lot of non-Catholics. What are they to do at Assumption Church,
    do a homeless sweep every night? Not their job, the city’s.

  • Danny Haszard

    Credit card donation terminals being installed at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall Kingdom Halls

  • mlo

    Perhaps a good post exodus use for the former site of the Watchtower could be for relocation of the Vatican Bank. Perhaps we should think about first drafts on a proposal. they can buy our silence by funding our park

  • Master Of Middagh

    @Tony- Yes, well read. And I base this on knowledge of actual people: co-workers, classmates and a family member over the years who have been Witnesses. If nothing else, they sure read the Bible a lot.

    It isn’t being overly sensitive or “PC” for me to say that it’s wrong to dismiss an entire class of people (a religion in this instance) by calling them stupid or smelly or greedy or anything negative like that. Their unpopularity does not justify prejudice. And nobody has any right to think themselves superior to any of them as a human just because you find their lifestyles unappealing.

    @Hicks St Guy- I don’t understand your point. I was saying it’s a good thing that they let the homeless sleep on the stoop- among the countless other charitable acts they perform. Are you saying that they would like to get rid of the homeless, but are too lazy to do it because that should be a cop’s job? I don’t really think that’s the case. Otherwise, the church would ask the cops to get rid of the homeless people- I’d like to think their sense of altruism towards the homeless would outstrip such a comical display of laziness as you have implied.

  • Reuben Arlen

    If one dosn”t believe his religion is THE truth, should he not find the one that is? If you have THE truth why would you join forces with others who disagree with you. If there is no absolute truth, forget religion.

  • Master Of Middagh

    @Reuben- An absolute truth may contain all religions and that truth may be reached from a variety of different roads. Don’t make me sic a Jesuit on you, unbeliever! ;)