Watchtower’s DUMBO plans
revealed to Brooklyn Papers
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society certified plans with the city this
week to build a four-apartment-building complex at the edge of DUMBO and
The Department of City Planning has been working with the Watchtower Society,
the corporate entity of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, for the
past year and a half to develop an appropriate design for the massive
project a half block from the Manhattan Bridge.
Its world headquarters blocks away, the Watchtower is looking to consolidate
many of its smaller residential facilities, which house thousands of volunteers.
The new development — on an immense, vacant plot of land bounded
by Jay, Front, York and Bridge streets — would include 1,000 one-bedroom
apartments divided between four towers reaching 20, 18, 16 and 14 stories.
The tallest of the planned towers would be 220 feet. Four courtyards within
the complex will be gated, but remain open during the day.
The plans include a three-story assembly hall with a seating capacity
of 2,500, a 1,600-person dining facility and an 1,100-space underground
The Watchtower Society expects to complete the massive construction project
“We’re very anxious to share this with the public and get reaction,”
said Watchtower spokesman Richard Devine.
The certification of the plans starts the clock on the city’s rigorous
land use review process, with public hearings before Community Board 2,
Borough President Marty Markowitz, the City Planning Commission and the
Currently zoned for manufacturing, the Watchtower Society originally planned
a printing facility for the site and even began demolition that has left
the plot vacant for the past 12 years.
But the organization this year shifted its printing facilities 90 miles
outside the city to upstate Wallkill, N.Y., and decided to use the site
for apartments instead.
The new Jehovah’s Witness visitors’ center would also be included
at street level at the corner of York and Jay streets. Some 60,000 to
70,000 people visit the headquarters each year.
Area residents opposed to the plan have started circulating petitions
and have already collected more than 1,200 signatures, according to Christy
Nyberg, a Vinegar Hill resident who wants the plan scaled back.
“We’re going to have transient residents who don’t have
any interest in our neighborhood,” said Nyberg, who lives on Bridge
Street, and who started the Web site 85jaysreet.org to keep other residents
informed about the development.
Critics of the project say the development will divide DUMBO and Vinegar
Hill and will create a dangerous corridor with no retail shops. Others
are worried about the additional traffic.
Citing religious reasons, the organization said they could not include
businesses on the three-acre site.
The DUMBO Neighborhood Association and Councilman David Yassky are asking
the Watchtower Society to invest in improvements to the dilapidated and
dangerous York Street F train station and in the adjacent park.
©2004 Community News Group