Change of faith: Trump crony converting old Jehovah’s Witnesses dorm to apartments

Bigly: Trump pal Vincent Viola is planning to turn this former Jehovah’s Witnesses dorm building into apartments.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Call it a religious conversion.

A billionaire pal of President Trump will transform a former Jehovah’s Witnesses dormitory in Brooklyn Heights into a residential complex after the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the plans on Aug. 8.

Vincent Viola — Trump’s first choice for Secretary of the Army — is turning the 237-unit property on Columbia Heights between Pineapple and Orange streets into an apartment house with 101 residences, according to city records.

Changes to the exterior of the building, which sits in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, required approval from the landmarks commission in order to ensure they are in keeping with the nabe’s old-timey character.

Exterior alterations include the addition of a parking garage with an elevator for cars, which will have a bulkhead on the roof. In addition, workers will carve an opening for the garage door into the building’s facade and make a curb cut in the sidewalk.

The new owner is also planning to replace the current windows with aluminum ones, as first reported by the Brooklyn Eagle.

The Williamsburg-born Viola is the head of trading firm Virtu Financial, the owner the Florida Panthers hockey team, and a part owner of the 2017 Kentucky Derby–winning horse, Always Dreaming.

The former lieutenant withdrew himself from consideration for the position of Trump’s army secretary because of concerns over of his business entanglements.

He bought the Columbia Heights building in 2016 for $105 million through a limited liability company overseen by his wife, according to city records.

Viola isn’t the only Trump crony snatching up Jehovah’s Witnesses properties as the organization moves its headquarters to upstate New York. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, owns retail and office complex Dumbo Heights, recently revealed plans to turn the religious group’s former Columbia Heights headquarters into another high-end office complex, and bought a massive parking lot at 85 Jay St., which he has yet to file plans for.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

More from Around New York

>