Brooklyn Heights

Jehovah’s Witnesses put massive DUMBO parking lot up for sale

The end approaches for Watchtower properties in Brooklyn

August 31, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This massive parking lot in a prime area of DUMBO has been listed for sale by the Watchtower. This is the religious group’s last property in DUMBO. Photo courtesy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Watchtower is selling its massive parking lot at 1 York St., a prime site just north of the Brooklyn Bridge, in DUMBO. The property is the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ last site in DUMBO, though the religious organization still owns several properties in Brooklyn Heights.

The 52,171-square-foot site, which the Watchtower has dubbed ONEYORK, is steps from Brooklyn Bridge Park and is outside of the DUMBO Historic District. It has frontage on Front Street.

According to the Watchtower’s offering, the property is under a medium-density residential zoning designation (R7-1), but is “primed for achieving enhanced ZFA (Zoning Floor Area) rights” and is “a strong candidate for destination retail if a mixed-use zoning overlay is achieved.”

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The offering comes near the end of the Watchtower’s multi-year process of selling off its real estate holdings in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights. The Jehovah’s Witnesses opened their new headquarters in upstate Warwick in September 2016, after having a major presence in Brooklyn for more than a century.

According to Finance Department records, the Watchtower purchased 1 York St. in 1977 from The Katz Parking System of York St. Inc.

A spokesperson for the Jehovah’s Witnesses was not immediately available for comment on Thursday, as he was organizing long-term relief for hurricane victims in Texas. (The situation in Houston “is ugly,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.) Check back for updates on ONEYORK from the Watchtower’s Office of Public Information.

According to Brownstoner.com, which first reported the offering, the property could fetch from $54 to $78 million, based on past sales in the area.

Previous Watchtower property sales in Brooklyn

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Some previous sales of Jehovah’s Witnesses properties in Brooklyn include:

–  Hawkins Way Capital has closed on the purchase of 117-125 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights for $18 million and expected to close a deal for 97 Columbia Heights by the end of August, real estate reporter Lore Croghan reported in the Brooklyn Eagle on Aug. 17.

– A development site in DUMBO at 74 Adams St. was purchased by Jeffrey Gershon of Hope Street Capital in May. The site has been one-story (plus-mezzanine) vehicle-maintenance facility.

– Also in May, the Watchtower closed on the $87.5 million sale of 107 Columbia Heights, a gated L-shaped residential building in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. The building, which has frontage on Orange and Willow streets, is located near an entrance to Brooklyn Heights’ Promenade. The purchaser was an affiliate of publicly traded Clipper Realty Inc., which is headed by David Bistricer.

– Bistricer also co-owns is Brooklyn Heights’ Hotel Bossert, which was also purchased from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Watchtower had used the Bossert to provide lodging for its members who were visiting the religious organization’s world headquarters.

– The purchaser of another DUMBO development site, 69 Adams St., was the Rabsky Group, which paid $65 million for it in November 2016. The site was occupied by a four-story building with a tennis court on top.

– Another huge parking lot at 85 Jay St. in DUMBO was sold to the Kushner Cos. (headed by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner) and its investment partners for $345 million in December 2016. The investment group said it is planning a mixed-use project at the site.

– The Kushner Cos. also purchased the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower building at 25, 30, 50 and 58 Columbia Heights and 55 Furman St. for $340 million in 2016. Joint-venture partners include CIM Group and LIVWRK. The complex previously belonged to pharmaceutical giant E.R. Squibb & Sons.

– The Kushner Cos, along with partners RFR Realty and LIVWRK purchased the complex at 175 Pearl St., 77 Sands St., 117 Adams St., 81 Prospect St. and 55 Prospect St. for $375 million in October 2013. The group developed the site into the Dumbo Heights complex.

Watchtower property in Brooklyn not yet sold

– 80 Willow St. in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, a 3-story, 11-unit residence.

– A 2-story carriage house 86 Willow St., in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, with two residential units.

– The Watchtower has listed “The Towers,” at 21 Clark St., called an “architectural gem” in the in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. The 16-story building was formerly the Leverich Towers Hotel, one of Brooklyn Heights’ grand hotels dating back to 1927. The Watchtower purchased it in 1975 for $1.99 million, Finance Department records show, then remodeled it to serve as a residence and dining room.

 

— Additional information from Eagle reporter Lore Croghan

 


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