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Borough’s famous 44-year-old beacon may disappear

✔ Poll

One to Watch: Will iconic Watchtower sign go the way of the dodo?

The Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

1/4
The Watchtower sign in Brooklyn Heights is iconic — but it might not stay in the neighborhood for long, once a new developer takes over the space now occupied by Jehovah’s Witnesses. But it isn’t the only famous sign in Brooklyn. Click the arrow for more.
2/4
The sign for Kentile Floors, on Ninth Street in Gowanus, harks back to a time when Brooklyn was synonymous with industry — and probably asbestos.
3/4
The Eagle Clothing sign, visible from Second Avenue in Gowanus, is another example of classic sign — one that reminds our editor’s dad of suits he once purchased.
4/4
This “. R” sign in Red Hook, at the intersection of Delavan and Richard streets, is our favorite. It once said “E.J. Trum,” for a paper product manufacturer. A furniture store took its place and tried to tear down the letters — but the R and one of the periods remain.

The iconic glowing “Watchtower” sign atop the Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters in DUMBO that has been a beacon welcoming people to Brooklyn — and given them the time and temperature — for the past 44 years, may soon disappear from the skyline, and some residents who have gotten used to it say they want it to shine on.

The Witnesses is selling more than 30 of its properties in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO and recently unloaded six for a combined price of $375 million, and the structure housing the constant reminder to Brooklynites of where they are, what time it is, and exactly how hot it is at that moment could be the next to go — and the sign’s possible demise has some concerned.

“It’s part of Brooklyn,” said proud Brooklynite Novella Gardner, who wants the sign to stay put. “When you’re crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in the summertime, you want to know the time and temperature!”

Others feared that it might be replaced with something not too familiar or, worse, all too familiar.

“I don’t want to see a sign for Walmart,” said Bensonhurst resident Liz Maiorino.

Built in 1969, the same year a Jehovah’s Witnesses newsletter told young people that the upcoming apocalypse made pursuing an education pointless, the sign is a classic example of New York neon signage. In 2009, the neon tubes lighting the lettering got a subtle upgrade to more energy-efficient red light-emitting diodes.

And even visitors to Brooklyn say the sign made an impression on them — even if they didn’t know what it was advertising.

“I took a picture of the sign from the other side of the bridge,” said a tourist named Matt, who figured the sign represented a “watchtower over the city.”

Of course, not everyone agreed the structure is worth its weight in gold.

“I’d prefer to see it gone,” said a Clinton Hill resident who gave his name as Joe M. “I don’t like what that organization stands for, and I do think it is an eyesore.”

But the choice to rip it down or keep it up will be made by the building’s new landlords, and they are not saying what their plans are.

“Will the time-and-temperature sign be there for another 40 years? Probably not,” the Witnesses said in a statement late last year. “That decision will rest with the future owners of the building.”

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

Reader poll

What do you think? Should the Watchtower sign come down? Let us know.

Updated 11:36 pm, April 13, 2016: Updated to correct an error in the story that stated the building housing the sign had been sold. It is still on the market.
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Reasonable discourse

ty from pps says:
Umm... why did you decide to make the poll about the clock?! Oh Lord. This was actually a fairly decent article, but you just couldn't resist ruining it by adding what amounts to a non sequitur at the end?

It's like the paper actively *tries* to lower it's standards... if something starts to appear to have quality, make sure to deploy the self-sabotage machine!
July 18, 2013, 8:51 am
mil from brklyn hts says:
I agree with ty. The Watchtower sign and the clock/temp sign are entirely different things. I like the clock & temp. I'm ambivalent about the sign. It's a religious organization sign, which is objectionable; however, the city deemed the Pepsi sign in LIC worthy or preserving and that limitless corporation is just as objectionable.
July 18, 2013, 9 am
N. from Brooklyn Heights says:
The Pepsi sign is considerably older, and more attractive. That said, I do like to see the time and temperature when I'm walking over the bridge. The "Watchtower" part can go.

I was sadder to hear they ripped out the neon at Hinsch's. I used to go there as a kid.
July 18, 2013, 9:49 am
Dave from Brooklyn says:
Interesting article. Only one small problem: If you look at the addresses of the six buildings that were sold, the one with te clock/sign was not one of them.
July 18, 2013, 10:11 am
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
I know $375 is a lot of money but this is a lot of property for that part of Brooklyn. The buildings are not great, but if they took the religious signs down and repurpose them they would be OK. I fear what even happens here, will be big, polarizing, ugly, and make someone a ton of money. Much as I don't care for these buildings I suspect they are going to be much better than what we get
July 18, 2013, 11:16 am
. from --...-.-- says:
Restore the Squibb sign!
July 18, 2013, 11:24 am
Bay Ridger from Bay Ridge says:
I say bring back the GOYA!!
July 18, 2013, 11:38 am
Ted from JFK Airport says:
I say send those Mormons the way of the Dodo!
July 18, 2013, 1:53 pm
The Chooch from the belly of Brooklyn says:
What what WHAT ... Anything to spruce up this shytehole! This is just one more dead zone that needs to go. What, we're gonna kibbitz about this like with Domino Sugar? Move it out, move it up, move it over, and get a job. If you don't know nothin', get a broom and push somethin'. There's gonna be PLENTY to do around here!
July 18, 2013, 4:42 pm
John B from BayRidge says:
I agree with Chooch, don't discuss, do! If those mormons don't want the building, I'm sure hard working Brooklynites can make something better of it!
July 18, 2013, 4:49 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
The Watchtower was the Jehovah's Witness building.

They are not Mormons.

But there are some morons around here
July 18, 2013, 8:14 pm
the Chooch from from Mookland says:
Morons !!! Oh yeah? Like who !!! ... like youz ?!?
July 19, 2013, 12:25 am
mildred fierce from flatbush says:
Good to see we are really lowering the bar for "iconic" status.
July 19, 2013, 10:01 am
N from Bay Ridge says:
The sooner any reminder of those people and the lives they have ruined and the families they have torn apart is gone, the better. Brooklyn deserves better than an icon of a religious cult as their welcome mat.
July 19, 2013, 10:04 am
Uri Thraw from Gowanus says:
I don't think these people are all Mormons. I think the Watchtower holds a few other pseudo religions too, like Scientologists.

But I agree with the general feeling that we should ship them upstate where they'll be more happy, and so shall we.
July 19, 2013, 12:07 pm
Shannon from Laguna says:
Those buildings are impeccably kept up. The area businesses have really appreciated the cleanliness and sense of safety the Watchtower organization brought to the area and those living, working and visiting the buildings have supported those businesses financially. So ask the local business owners how they feel.
July 19, 2013, 12:56 pm
James Moel from DUMBO says:
I own three businesses all a short walk from the area in question. I'm happy they're closing. Sure, they are clean, but they do nothing else for the neighborhood. Something more "Brooklyn" could make a difference, I suspect.
July 19, 2013, 2:53 pm
Ex 4th Gen JW from NorCal says:
The Watchtower Society and the JWs it represents have a long and well known history of ignoring pedophiles in their congregations. Having that sign removed would be a big step forward in removing the constant reminder of crimes against children.
July 19, 2013, 4:47 pm
Ex 3rd Gen JW from Australia says:
The Watchtower Society (aka Jehovah's Witnesses) are a religious cult that besides covering up their pedophile problem, also break up families and drive some to suicide due to their "disfellowshipping" (excommunication) practices. I'll be glad to see the sign gone for good.
July 19, 2013, 7:41 pm
Steven from Oregon says:
Take the sign down, do people really know what the organization stands for? Do you know how they destroy families, hide pedophiles, encourage child sexual abuse? These are real things that hide behind that sign.

Off with it's head.
July 19, 2013, 8:18 pm
Cosmo Demonica from Vinegar Hill says:
Iconic to who? Idiots who nothing about history. For years, JH were considered a cult and rightly so-- and an anti-Catholic one as well, though that puts them in the same bad bed re: institutional sex abuse.

The Domino sign is garbage too, though for other reasons of white moron nostalgia, ignoring the real history of the company and the abuses it heaped upon many during its history. And that's not even getting into its latter day closing and mob-brokered union busting!

Brooklyn = biggest hick town in America!
July 19, 2013, 10:12 pm
Rob from Bay Ridge says:
Seriously, Bk Paper -- I sure as heck never felt "welcomed" by this looming ad for the house organ of a religious group that views nonmembers as damned. It's not even esthetically significant; it's just *there*.
July 20, 2013, 1:29 am
matt from usa says:
Wow, Haters gonna hate I guess...
July 20, 2013, 9:25 am
The Chooch from Bohemian Zion says:
For the Domino Sugar sign, replace it with "Life is Sweet!"

For the Watchtower sign, "Life is Rich."
July 21, 2013, 12:22 pm
The Chooch from Bohemian Zion says:
And for the projects in Brooklyn, put condos on the playgrounds and parking lots like they're doing in Manhattan. These houses need to carry their own weight.
July 21, 2013, 12:25 pm
Frank from Brooklyn says:
More idiot comments from transplanted 'Brooklynites'. Go back to Jersey, and take your pet (thats your husband, the one on the leash) with you.
July 22, 2013, 12:59 pm
Michael from Brooklyn Heights says:
I love the sign. I think that pedofiles exist everywhere but no one has EVER tried to cover up child molestation more then the catholic church. Its so desgusting!

Catholics are syonimous with child molestation. I dont see why such a big deal has been made of honest kind and extraordinarily clean people.

If your concern is cults and child pornography, why are the churches still standing in new york?

They should be burnt down. Jws have their beliefs. And they truly believe them and stick to them... In my experience anyone who wholeheartedly believe something like that thats positive and its Quite clear from just meerly their presence, that theyre neat, clean and simple people, has to be an upgrade to the community. All you have to say is "im not interested" and in return you get a "ok thank you, have a nice day"

I personally feel like if i was trying to speak to someone and they said they didnt care, id probably beat them with a bible.
Sept. 14, 2013, 6 am
charlie from Fort Lauderdale says:
I have read many nice stories about the Witnesses at those buildings. There are a lot of lies I know, but what do we expect?
After the planes hit 9/11 People flooded into those buildings and a great number of wonderful comments came out of that situation.

Folks were pleased with the hospitality they received. Many got help reaching loved ones and others got medical care assistance.
Some even asked about the bibles view of what was happening, and got some solid answers directly from the bible.

I read similar stories from around the world, that when Jehovah's Witnesses hold an event or there is a natural disaster Witnesses impress people by how loving and kind they are.
How they are orderly and leave a place better then they found it.
They have won many awards from many governments and many officials have expressed a desire to have more citizens like Jehovah's Witnesses.

I have to admit I love that about them. I grew up around Witnesses in my family and have attended their meetings and conventions all across the US .

Some think they are weird. Which makes sense, I mean people actually believing in the bible so much that it motivates them to do what it says is about as rare as them lets face it.

Also they knock on doors looking for converts is a common complaint. Though I think we should admire them for it.
Sure it might be a minor inconvenience to open your door and speak with them, but the fact they are doing what the bibles tells them about this activity shows us how trustworthy they are about the rest of the bibles views.
Like stealing, drugs etc. as a group, they are trustworthy.
Sure they are human, but they really work hard to be good people. That's amazing to me.

Also My wife became one of Jehovah's Witnesses about 20 years ago. She was terrified to go knocking on doors. She soon found out she was not alone. We should think about that! They do that out of love, they really do. They believe God's Kingdom as it says in the bible, will soon be here and solve all problems, even death. So you may not agree right? But they know most wont and do it anyway, because they love everyone on earth and want them to share in that new kingdom.! To not see how loving that is, is to not be able to empathize with others not like you. I can tell you from having even done it myself years ago, and seeing my mother and wife, and thousands more, they are really doing it out of love for you. That is pretty awesome.

How nice a religion actually does what it says. Not seeking money. They are funded 100% by contributions that are voluntary!
I went to the Kingdom Hall on Blvd. Of Champions here, and took me the third time going there to even find a contribution box! amazing.

Sadly there is an organized efforts by truly terrible people to blanket the internet with lies about them. They are really not smart lies in one sense, I mean because it would take you seconds to disprove much of them. But still for those that do not know any better, they may have some sinister view of the Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses though do not deserve so much hatred and lies.
I say that because I have yet to find any group that show love the way they do, no matter what country they are in, they are all one united loving family! Would it not be awesome if everyone was like that? Take a trip around the world knowing you have real family everywhere? I love that.

They may be truly "weird" but if so, only because the rest of the world is so awful and our society is not wonderful. I mean that seems obvious right? It's not the Witnesses that need to change to function better socially. At least that is my view. It is an honest one though and I stand firm for every letter I wrote here. :)
May we all learn to be a little more like Jehovah's Witnesses and not say one thing but do another. And to show real love for our neighbor., and treat property and rules with honor. May we all live without prejudice and look at every nationality as our potential family members!
Oct. 8, 2013, 1:30 am
charlie from Fort Lauderdale says:
I have read many nice stories about the Witnesses at those buildings. There are a lot of lies I know, but what do we expect?
After the planes hit 9/11 People flooded into those buildings and a great number of wonderful comments came out of that situation.

Folks were pleased with the hospitality they received. Many got help reaching loved ones and others got medical care assistance.
Some even asked about the bibles view of what was happening, and got some solid answers directly from the bible.

I read similar stories from around the world, that when Jehovah's Witnesses hold an event or there is a natural disaster Witnesses impress people by how loving and kind they are.
How they are orderly and leave a place better then they found it.
They have won many awards from many governments and many officials have expressed a desire to have more citizens like Jehovah's Witnesses.

I have to admit I love that about them. I grew up around Witnesses in my family and have attended their meetings and conventions all across the US .

Some think they are weird. Which makes sense, I mean people actually believing in the bible so much that it motivates them to do what it says is about as rare as them lets face it.

Also they knock on doors looking for converts is a common complaint. Though I think we should admire them for it.
Sure it might be a minor inconvenience to open your door and speak with them, but the fact they are doing what the bibles tells them about this activity shows us how trustworthy they are about the rest of the bibles views.
Like stealing, drugs etc. as a group, they are trustworthy.
Sure they are human, but they really work hard to be good people. That's amazing to me.

Also My wife became one of Jehovah's Witnesses about 20 years ago. She was terrified to go knocking on doors. She soon found out she was not alone. We should think about that! They do that out of love, they really do. They believe God's Kingdom as it says in the bible, will soon be here and solve all problems, even death. So you may not agree right? But they know most wont and do it anyway, because they love everyone on earth and want them to share in that new kingdom.! To not see how loving that is, is to not be able to empathize with others not like you. I can tell you from having even done it myself years ago, and seeing my mother and wife, and thousands more, they are really doing it out of love for you. That is pretty awesome.

How nice a religion actually does what it says. Not seeking money. They are funded 100% by contributions that are voluntary!
I went to the Kingdom Hall on Blvd. Of Champions here, and took me the third time going there to even find a contribution box! amazing.

Sadly there is an organized efforts by truly terrible people to blanket the internet with lies about them. They are really not smart lies in one sense, I mean because it would take you seconds to disprove much of them. But still for those that do not know any better, they may have some sinister view of the Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses though do not deserve so much hatred and lies.
I say that because I have yet to find any group that show love the way they do, no matter what country they are in, they are all one united loving family! Would it not be awesome if everyone was like that? Take a trip around the world knowing you have real family everywhere? I love that.

They may be truly "weird" but if so, only because the rest of the world is so awful and our society is not wonderful. I mean that seems obvious right? It's not the Witnesses that need to change to function better socially. At least that is my view. It is an honest one though and I stand firm for every letter I wrote here. :)
May we all learn to be a little more like Jehovah's Witnesses and not say one thing but do another. And to show real love for our neighbor., and treat property and rules with honor. May we all live without prejudice and look at every nationality as our potential family members!
Oct. 8, 2013, 1:30 am
trish from Detroit says:
I agree with Charlie from Fort Lauderdale!
Oct. 28, 2013, 10:45 pm
Mike from Burleigh Heads, Australia says:
I remember going to that area four years ago and I even went inside one of their buildings. 3 words; Clean, friendly and helpful. What else do you want from neighbours? The Watchtower sign will probably go but I reckon there's a good chance the locals won't be as happy with their new neighbours. I think it might end up being a case of "you don't know how good you've got it until it's gone"
We'll have to see, I guess, but all that stuff about cults and paedophiles and breaking up families is as close to nonsense as anything I've ever heard. Decades ago, when child abuse finally became something tolerable to talk about, no one really knew quite what to do about it and since then modern nations have learned a lot about the right way to deal with it. Reporting the abuse to the local authorities and the "Disfellowshipping", mentioned by one of the previous writers is exactly what JW's do with paedophiles. I became aware of their methods through events that occurred locally and I am also aware that JW's work to maintain the same standard worldwide. One things for sure, they are nothing like Mormons or Catholics in so many ways.
I look forward to visiting New York and surrounds again someday. Its a great place and you all should be kinder and show a little more insight in order to live in a big city like this.
Nov. 14, 2013, 11:31 pm
Me from Australia says:
Be careful for what yiu wish for in wanting them to leave - Brooklyn
Aug. 24, 2014, 4 am
bob villa from brooklyn says:
Should be replaced by "witchtower"
Sept. 22, 2014, 11:51 am
noe poll from brooklyn says:
should be kept as a constant reminder of what a demonic possessed cult is capable of doing to families.
Their atrocities of letting thousands die by not allowing blood transfusions.
Their shunning practices that breakup families.
their constant violation of privacy of peoples homes by knocking on their doors or leaving unwanted trash in the door jambs.
yeah lets keep the sign and keep our confederate flags also since they are part of history, and every other symbol of hate and discrimination...
why not , we need to keep reminded of these things. lets raise swastikas in Brooklyn heights so the jewish community be reminded of Nazism.
give me a break!!!! tear the sign down along with every other symbol of hate.
Coexist!!!
Sept. 22, 2014, 11:58 am
Tengu from Brooklyn says:
Just goes to show this cult is backed by man, not by Christ. Get rid of it and burn it. Bring justice to the children's lives and families they have destroyed.
Sept. 24, 2014, 3:05 am
Ed G. from Brooklyn says:
They say, "we don't worship idols". There is one right there. Not to mention there idols drawn in all their literature . Paper is made of wood. That is what cellphones are for. They worship the —— with no genitals.
Sept. 24, 2014, 3:22 am
Slave class from Brooklyn says:
$375 million is not simple.
Sept. 24, 2014, 3:36 am
John from Brooklyn wanna-be (Conn) says:
As a Dad, Engineering Manager and a J.W. serving as an Elder for over 25 years, may I please add these 2 comments:
1.) Sign: Its been an icon for decades and used as a landmark by many. It's even referenced on NYC tours conducted by non-Witnesses. The real bottom line, like the Watchtower Society said, the new owners will make that call.
2.) Higher Education: It is completely up to the individual. For myself, I am looking into an MS in Engineering/UMichigan. For my oldest daughter, I am encouraging her to use her State License she recently obtained, start her own business, and focus on her Pioneering and getting accepted into Bethel (Brooklyn, Wallkill, Paterson, & now Tuxedo, NY.
Nov. 8, 2014, 12:49 pm
anonymous says:
hahahahahahaha cult. hilarious. so ignorant. JW isn't a cult its a religion. R E L I G I O N. if you were in a religion and someone did something very bad and would have a bad influence or could possibly hurt others would you want them in your religion? you cant take the mick out of something you truly don't understand. disfellowshipping is like a prison sentence. if you do something very bad and you don't want to change your bad lifestyle then you need to go before other people get sucked in. anyone who is disfellowshipped can come back like if they are good in prison they can go on parole. its all their choice if they want to come back. if they were allowed to see their family and friends not only could they have bad affects on the family but they would have the best of both worlds, they could be bad in gods eyes and be doing bad things but at least they would have their family. how do jw ever expect a person to come back or realise their mistakes if they get to carry on living their lives as if nothing happened.
so next time before you make a comment about something you don't understand actually THINK first.
Feb. 12, 2015, 4:50 am
anonymous says:
and another thing.
the whole blood thing? there are doctors that can prove that having a blood transfusion isn't always the best solution, in some cases it can be dangerous!
and another thing
im sure half the criminals in this world were probably christened and a lot of people in prison will belong to some sort of prison.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that one day all the bad people in this world will be destroyed. BUT if a person can prove not just physically but in their heart that they can be good or change their ways then well its all up to Jehovah to decide whether they deserve it.and another thing! the watchtower icon is not an idol! JWs only worship Jehovah. the watchtower icon is just a sign! a sign that establishes what the building is!

another thing! you seem to forget that jw were persecuted in the concentration camps as well. not just the jews. what the JWs have achieved since then is living proof that hitler could not destroy them. so excuse the JWs for having a sign and building they deserve it after the years they spent getting totured.
Feb. 12, 2015, 5:01 am
anonymous from Brooklyn says:
I don't understand why some people here feel threaten by JW's they are harmless and practically invisible unlike that "peaceful religion" the one that wants to convert you by the sword or cut your throat and throw you and family down a dirty well. I guess it's safer to go after easy targets who turn the other cheek like JW's and other christian organizations. I say keep the whole iconic neon sign up it's a NYC landmark.
Aug. 10, 2015, 12:19 am
Dennis says:
DE
I served at Bethel for 5 yrs
That place was spotless. The sidewalk was sweep everyday
The building was power washed yearly. Windows washed quarterly.

No future resident will enjoy that. Let alone the sidewalks were filled with bethelites all the time. Very safe.

I can imagine what will be there next to.the doors as you leave the building Or at night.

We will see what service the city gives the area. I'm sure they will take the slack
.clean the sidewalk. Pick up the trash. Remove snow. I'm sure they will do a great job
Sept. 13, 2015, 11:37 am
John from Brooklyn wanna-be (Conn) from CT says:
Agreed with the last comment about Brooklyn Bethel being kept spotless by the JW Bethelites. I volunteered a week of my vacation to assist in projects in the Watchtower complex and was amazed how clean it is kept. Watching the interview with the new owner on JW.org, Mr. Trump Jr. was certainly accurate when he complemented the Watchtower Society in their being honest, straight-toward, and the amazing condition of the Watchtower buildings. John
Sept. 15, 2015, 9:49 am
Richard wilson from Paradise says:
I have been a witness for over forty years. I speak with authority when I say that if a member is found to be a pedophile not only is the matter reported to authorities but the individual can NEVER be used in the congregation in a responsible position. The bible says a little leaven ferments the whole lump, if a person is a willful sinner and unrepentant, he or she is removed, as supported by the bible, the apostle Paul referred to such an individual and told the congregation not to even say a greeting to him. All the person has to do is repent and turn around and they are welcomed back with open arms. Many Witnesses are now enduring horrible conditions in prisons in other parts of the world simply because the refuse to compromise their faith, Jesus said that the people hated him and they would hate his followers, so if you are going to make hateful comments about us, perhaps you should take the time to do a little research first. As to "bothering" people by knocking on their doors, Jesus disciples "bothered" people by going from house to house preaching the good news if we are told not to return we make a note to that effect and do not return. Our Kingdom Halls are open to the public we have nothing to hide and we have achieved what no other organization on earth has achieved, a united group of people made up of every race and nationality, no prejudice, no hatred. Jesus said "by this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love among yourselves. By the way, as to education I hold a degree from the University of Oregon so, our pursuit of education is a personal choice we simply encourage our young people to put God's kingdom first.
Feb. 29, 1:22 pm

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