Two Developers Said to Agree to Buy Witness Headquarters

The Real Deal reports that an investment group led by two prominent Manhattan property owners and developers, Jared Kushner and Aby Rosen, are said to have agreed to purchase the Watchtower headquarters complex at 25-30 Columbia Heights, along with a site on Jay Street in DUMBO that has substantial development rights, for $700 million. No word is given on the prospective purchasers’ plans for the headquarters complex. The same group previously purchased another large complex of buildings on Sands Street from the Witnesses, which they converted into “Dumbo Heights”, office space housing Etsy and other on-line and tech oriented companies.

In February we noted that several Manhattan based office developers had expressed interest in the headquarters buildings; the ones mentioned at the time did not include Kushner or Rosen. Aby Rosen is the owner of some of Manhattan’s most prestigious office buildings, including the Park Avenue neighbors Lever House and the Seagram Building. He is an avid collector of contemporary art, much of which adorns his buildings. Kushner owns office buildings, including 666 Fifth Avenue, as well as many residential properties. He is married to Ivanka Trump and, according to his Wiki, he has served his father-in-law’s campaign as an “emissary to the Jewish community.”

BHB reader Andrew Porter left this comment on the Real Deal story:

As a north Heights resident, I welcome this purchase. The buyers have already shown, through their redevelopment of the properties they’ve purchased and are turning into Dumbo Heights, that exciting days are ahead for these buildings.

The question is, of course, what will happen to 119 and 124 Columbia Heights and all the other JW properties still on the market or still to come, for example the mammoth Towers Hotel, which fronts on Clark, Willow and Pineapple Streets.

Photo: Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons.

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  • Andrew Porter

    This just in, via The RealDeal: the JWs have put 107 Columbia Heights, the modern building along the southern block-front of Cranberry Street from Columbia Heights to Willow Street, on the market:

    My comment there: “Really ugly modernist building with non-traditional window arrangement. The best thing going for it is the lovely garden and fountain entrance on the Columbia Heights side, which is the actual entrance.”

  • CHatter

    Oh what I’d give for a good samaritan billionaire to come along, buy that one, tear it down and restore that half a block to it’s pre-Soviet state. Dreaming a little dream….

  • Jorale-man

    The big question is, will these developers be happy to keep the present buildings or tear them down and put up a glass skyscraper instead? I share Andrew Porter’s hopes but anything seems possible nowadays…

  • Concerned

    Can they put up a skyscraper? I thought that even if they tore down the building and built a new one, the height would be limited to the height of the torn down building.

  • Claude Scales

    I believe the site is outside any designated historic district with a height limitation. Judging by what the same developers did with very similar buildings (also originally part of the Pfizer complex) that became Dumbo Heights, I doubt that they intend to raze the existing buildings, but rather to re-purpose them.

  • Andrew Porter

    The buildings are just to the south of the Fulton Ferry Historic District, whose history and borders are detailed here:

  • Jeffrey Smith

    Another new “living space” with more population drawn to the area and….

    Not ONE more cop for the 84 precinct
    Not ONE more Fire personnel for local fire houses, (let alone upgraded equipment
    to deal with 30+ story buildings)
    Not ONE new EMS paramedic or additional vehicle

    EVERYBODY should be yelling bloody murder…the safety net is being stretched thinner and thinner and everyone just lets it happen….

  • Andrew Porter

    And how do you know this, Mr. de Sapio?

  • Monty

    I’m assuming it’ll be an indoor velodrome.

  • Concerned

    So what’s the answer? Can they build a high rise? Please excuse my ignorance.

  • Jeff patrol strength Smith

    Yeah, remember Carmine DeSapio? Mayor Wagner waited for just the right moment and destroyed DeSapio.

    But to your question. I have repeatedly asked very reliable sources at several levels if there is any evidence of planned upgrading in amount of manpower in these three critical areas. The answer always comes back no, except for EMS which has promised increased manpower and equipment sometime “soon”

    I have testified at like 30 public hearings on this very point. I have never had anyone inside or outside government offer one hard piece of evi- fence to refute my observations.

    But, I DO find it ironic that anyone from a 1960’s civil rights background
    after which the city went from a polite, safe and productive environment to the crime and drug plagued place it shortly became, would now decide to address the subject of the current levels of public safety.

  • Claude Scales

    It’s not in a historic district, so not subject to a height limitation such as the 50′ limit that applies in the Heights and Cobble Hill. There may be other zoning restrictions that apply. Sorry; I can’t be any more definitive than that. As a practical matter, I think it’s unlikely the new owners would demolish this very substantial structure (yes, I know, Penn Station was substantial), which would be a very costly undertaking, and then build something new on the site, which would incur further cost, when the building can be adapted for new use that could generate substantial revenue, as with Dumbo Heights.

  • Andrew Porter

    Actually, I’m not “from a 1960’s civil rights background.” I just grew up then, here in NYC. And I personally never experienced any of the crime and drugs that you talk about.

  • Andrew Porter

    Does anyone remember when the JWs wanted to build their immense Inn on Columbia Heights, and knocked down an 1800s wooden building in preparation, only to be refused by the City Council? Any attempt to destroy the views NW from the Heights would, I think, be strongly opposed.


    You bring up petty drug crimes from 50 years ago to defend your neo nazi rhetoric. You’re no hero or a patriot. You’re a racist and a loony, and nobody cares about your opinion.