Is The Bossert Being Converted Back To The ‘Waldorf Astoria of Brooklyn’?

Consider this a potential game-changer for Brooklyn Heights: The magnificent Bossert at 98 Montague Street, owned & maintained by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is apparently returning to its original domain as a hotel. Brownstoner reported Tuesday that according to a Public Hearing notice sent out by Community Board Two, a variance application has been filed to allow “reconversion of the existing community facility hotel back to its original, transient hotel use.”

What remains unclear is whether the flip is a maneuver on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses to find an interested buyer for the building. It was first put on the market in 2008, just as the economy flatlined. A $90 million bid fell through, and the property has failed to draw serious interest since.

The religious group bought the Bossert in 1988 and meticulously returned the majestic 14-story building to world-class grandeur—restoring its one-time reputation as the “Waldorf Astoria of Brooklyn.” Currently, it is utilized as free lodging for Jehovah’s Witnesses visiting and studying at Brooklyn Heights’ Watchtower. The 200,000-square-foot building is configured into 224 apartments.

The Hotel Bossert was built in 1909 by Louis Bossert, a Brooklyn lumber magnate and opened as an “apartment hotel.” During the 1920s, it was known for its two-level rooftop restaurant that provided panoramic Manhattan views. In the 1950s, the Bossert was home to several Brooklyn Dodger players, and following the team’s win over the New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series, Dodgers fans and players notoriously gathered in the lobby.

A public hearing will be held Wednesday, May 16 at 6 p.m. at the Dibner Library at 5 Metrotech Center.

(Top photo: Josh Derr; Below: BHB)

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  • GHB

    Brooklyn could use a classy hotel (unlike the one that advertises on the screen at the Cobble Hill Cinema.)

  • She’s Crafty

    We do really need a nice hotel like that right in the center of the Heights (not the fringe like all the other hotels)! I bet they’d put bigwigs up there who come into Brooklyn on travel rather than the Marriott.

  • GHB

    And an upscale hotel should also attract some upscale dining options.

  • Josh Derr

    Chuck: Just a correction on the credit for the first photo. The photo was taken by me, not McBrooklyn. Feel free to link to it here:

  • elemengee

    It would be wonderful to have a grand ‘ole hotel in the heart of Brooklyn Heights. I fondly remember the Bossert Hotel Bar with its separate entrance on Montague Street and the gorgeous Marine Roof, where I attended some lovely wedding receptions. The drawback would be the lack of parking facilities. Maybe a deal could be cut with the parking garage on Montague Street.

  • bornhere

    If this were to come to fruition, it could be amazing: just imagine dining, etc, on the Marine Roof, and having even one, truly fine,
    “special occasion” restaurant/bar nearby. Parking might be a major concern, though, unless some arrangement could be worked out with a nearby garage and valet service. And then the proximity to Key Food (and the related deliveries, carting of awful offal, etc) might be a downside. But let the owners work out the details — even the possibility of this is exciting!

  • AEB

    I can’t quite see that a Brooklyn hotel, even one in BH, serving transient folks only would attract a sufficient number of same to make it a going proposition.

    Perhaps set aside rooms for residency? Plus the amenities, as bornhere notes.

  • AlGonz

    “Ahhh the Watchtower makes scathing denunciations of their nemesis the Catholic church for same such opulence.

    Tax free religious real estate it’s like ‘going to heaven without having to die’.


    Robert Giles, you apparently have not been to the Vatican City St Peters to compare the WT with? You sir are biased by the comment made obviously a disgruntled exJW

  • ronk

    Robert Giles,

    The building was in a decrepit state, and they had to meet the standards set by the LPC. Per Wikipedia:

    “It required extensive restoration according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission standards for the historic district. The famed Marine Roof had collapsed, and a new roof had to be built.”

    The restoration was performed by artisans who volunteered their time and skill.

    JW’s follow Matt 10:8 and 2 Thess 3:6-8 by ‘giving free what they received free’ so not to impose an ‘expensive burden’ on anyone. This is a far cry from the clergy class who charge for services, take a salary, and then “retire” with a pension.

    I encourage you to visit a local Kingdom Hall and see for yourself a humble place of worship supported entirely by voluntary, anonymous donations (no collection plates or invoices). A monthly report showing contributions and expenditures is posted for all to see.

  • jcb

    “Algonz-Why are there SO MANY disgruntled Ex Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

    Frankly.. they couldn’t maintain their vows of morality in most case. Rather than accept this, they turn on the loving people who were there for them.

  • Flashlight Worthy

    Is it possible that they need this change in designation not to prepare for a sale, but because they themselves are using it as a hotel?

    People may not realize it, but the building is no longer a dorm — the Witnesses are having out-of-town Witnesses come and stay there for ~4 day stretches — I imagine as some sort of reward for work well done?

  • jcb

    @Flashligh Worthy,

    A hotel is a business that charges $$ for rooming. The Bossert isn’t charging $$ for rooming so that isn’t a reason for the zoning change request. JW’s come to visit the US Bethel Branch (aka JW site) for various bible schools and tour. With the majority of the people who live and work at Bethel moving to other locations in NY, these rooms are made available as a loving gesture.

    The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society are vacating Brooklyn all together. Likely they are attempting to change the zoning to make it more appealing to prospective buyers.

  • ZeekOsbourne

    “Frankly.. they ( ex JW’s) couldn’t maintain their vows of morality in most case. Rather than accept this, they turn on the loving people who were there for them”-JCB.

    Interesting JCB, what if one choses not to accept the ever changing doctrines that never were promised would come to pass like it was “right around the corner” 50yrs ago? Seems your comment is the short way out of thinking. Just for your information, not all exJW’s/ExScientologist leave a high control totalitarian group based on as you said ” Immorality” . Most just tend to research truly for what it is rather than having a group of old farts called the “Governing body” dictate the so called “new light” that never gets brighter, it just gets replaced. Carry on.

  • ZeekOsbourne

    @JCB………The 1914 Generation will be swept under the carpet just like the so called ” anointed” that are supposed to have decreased , but seems they are making a comeback with well over 12,000 partakers at last years Memorial……………epic failed Doctrines!

  • ZeekOsbourne

    “The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society are vacating Brooklyn all together. Likely they are attempting to change the zoning to make it more appealing to prospective buyers.”-JCB.

    Ummm..seems that the liquid cash is running out. Why sell branches and property worldwide when they are supposed to be increasing with membership? Whenever a corporation is losing money they must downsize and start cleaning house first and selling assets will keep them afloat until they figure out why they are losing money. Its called mainstream society, publishing companies are going bankrupt all over the world. The implosion has begun, thank Jehovah for the internet!

  • stuart

    I was on the Marine Roof shortly before it was demolished. It was a bit ramshackle by then but it could have restored beautifully. Nothing was “collapsed”.

  • Jorale-man

    I suspect there’s a growing market for an upscale Brooklyn hotel. If you think of the growing number of businesses in Downtown and Dumbo that have out-of-town clients or colleagues visiting, it’s more convenient than putting them up in Manhattan. It also comes with an “authentic” neighborhood character unlike the Marriott, which is nice but a bit sterile. I wonder if a chain like Hilton or Radisson ever buy up the building?

  • stuart

    the Bossert would suit folks coming in by cab but it doesn’t have a nice garage like the Marriott. Perhaps a valet service to some remote parking….but where? Brooklyn Heights is so dense. Everyone walks and shleps, very few garages unlike say the Upper East Side. It’s an issue for a luxury hotel. You can’t ask your guests to shlep their luggage from the nearest subway.

  • Stuart Friedman

    The idea of a nice hotel in the middle of the Heights is great but what about the parking? A hotel without a garage or a parking lot will be quite limited in it’s appeal.

  • Cranberry Beret

    The obvious solution is for the buyer of the hotel to also buy the Key Food site and build an underground garage with a low-rise building on top.

  • Robert Swartz

    @Cranberry Beret: That’s an interesting idea – I wonder if the R train tubes below Montague Street are still deep enough at that point not to be a problem (shoring, not excavating; they run under the street, I believe.
    I live a block away, and I’m constantly speculating when the Bossert will be sold and converted. Not sure parking is an issue actually; plenty of hotels in Manhattan, and the kind of business/upscale NYC visitors you’d pitch the Bossert to as an option don’t arrive with or rent their own cars.
    It’s a great layout for a boutique – the W Brooklyn, maybe? I’ve seen the floor plans, and the rooms are on the small side, like Ian Schrager’s renovated hotels in NYC, but they were designed as two-room suites. Put a bar/lounge/restaurant in the new space on the roof and another restaurant in the large-windowed space in the rear and you’d have a working proposition.

  • Andrew Porter

    When the Marriott was built it soon became clear that occupancy warranted additional rooms. Don’t forget that the Marriott shares much of its building with NYC legal offices. The old NYC subway generating station next to it on Adams Street was torn down and an addition constructed which is entirely hotel rooms plus a large amount of function space. It is connected to the Marriott by a flyway above street level.

    The old main ballroom in the Bossert was transformed into a dining hall by the JWs. It has a dropped ceiling and, one hopes, the original ornate ceiling is merely hidden by the new one. Such a large ballroom would surely be a major benefit to social and business functions in BH, and add to the Bossert’s occupancy rate.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    As far as top tier hotels are concerned, Brooklyn Heights will have one within a couple of years at Pier One. If the Bossert also become a hotel, it would be fantastic if it includes a rooftop restaurant. Brooklyn is getting better and better and better……

  • EHinBH

    I hope the W Hotel buys it. Would be great spot for them. Some random hotel group w/o global resources and marketing budget will surely fail on this difficult to succeed in hood. PLEASE lets hope the Marriott and Hilton stay away….

  • dera

    Why is it that the Watchtower organization would like all their people to believe the people who leave their religion are “immoral”.

    I have left them behind due to finding out I had been lied to, over and over.

    Research outside the Watchtower publications is the key to freedom.

    They ruined our family………….they “shun” those who leave, even family members. It is a cruel way of life. They love bomb you on the way in, they kick you on the way out.

  • Mary

    I want to purchase the first coop /condo unit in that building and am hopeful that will be the end game for this beautiful building. As a youngster I worked summers for a firm that always had their end year party in the rooftop restaurant. The view is stunning.

  • Alfred

    The internet is exposing the Watchtower for what it really is… a real estate development corporation disguised as a religion. Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses are waking up every day and contributions are quickly drying up. If the Watchtower has any hopes of staying in business in the next decade, it will have to be through their real estate flipping business… Step 1: Build kingdom halls after receiving suffiecient contributions to do so, have the congregation(s) for that hall take out a loan from the Watchtower to pay for the NEW hall (again)… that’s double-dipping folks… Step 2: Force the congregation(s) to remodel that Kingdom hall after having received sufficient contributions to do so, but only after forcing the congregation(s) to take out ANOTHER loan to remodel… that’s double dipping again (or should i simply say quadruple-dipping?)… and after all that… Step 3: Sell the Kingdom Hall to another religion…. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

  • She’s Crafty

    It’s my impression they are selling property because they are moving their operations out of Brooklyn, not because they are going broke. While it’s not my religion (and will never be), they’ve been good neighbors in the Heights.

  • Andrew Porter

    You’re right, She’s Crafty. They’ve decided it makes no sense to bring paper into Brooklyn, print their mag, then have it distributed from the bottleneck of NYC to the rest of the world. Also, infinitely cheaper to create a new campus in a rural area, far from exposure of their workers to the worldly NYC scene. And if they can finance their upstate growth by selling the real estate they acquired for a song a hundred years ago, shows financial acumen. Unlike, for instance, the Christian Scientists.

  • carol

    The magazine – Awake and Aware – is just the tip of the iceberg in the JW printing operation. They are the world’s largest printer of Bibles – in virtually every language. Technology, I believe, is the reason for their move. All of the Bibles and other literature were printed and shipped from Brooklyn.
    Digital technology permitted printing at different locations around the world; they also purchased a new state-of-the art printing machine (it could not be accommodated here)that they installed upstate. Those events (and no doubt others) convinced the JWs to consolidate their operation. Was the real estate market a factor ? – without question, yes. But they have been pretty good stewards of their buildings.