Display okayed: New sign can replace ‘Watchtower’ letters, city’s standards board rules

Sign of change: Rendering shows new letters atop old Watchtower building in Bklyn Heights
Columbia Heights Associates

It’s signing back on!

Another sign will soon grace the Brooklyn Heights skyline where the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower letters once hovered, after the city on Thursday ruled the property’s new owners’ can put their own branding on the building’s still-in-place scaffolding.

Last December, workers tore the neon-red Watchtower letters from the 30 Columbia Heights building’s framework, where the flashing time and temperature display still remains, as part of the site’s conversion from the religious group’s headquarters into a massive office-and-retail complex by developers Livwrk and CIM Group — a two-firm collective calling itself Columbia Heights Associates that previously included President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, until he divested himself from the project in June.

Months before the 15-foot Watchtower letters came down, the developers who bought the building in 2016 filed a request to put a new “30 CH” sign atop it in March 2017. But Department of Buildings officials rejected that application because it was incomplete, and in August panned the builders’ second request to install their own signage above their so-called Panorama complex, claiming the Witnesses’s sign was illegal all along because the site’s original occupant, E.R. Squibb and Sons, never secured the proper permits to install its own Squibb hung there in 1961.

But a lawyer for the new owners, who filed an appeal to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals following the agency’s rejections, argued that officials could have simply lost paper records okaying the Squibb sign way back when, and the board ultimately unanimously ruled 5–0 in favor of the developers putting their own stamp on the building — a decision that will allow the builders to continue what they called a neighborhood legacy.

“We are appreciative that the board confirmed the lawful status of the signage rights at Panorama,” said Bill Mendel, a spokesman for CIM Group. “The signage atop this marquee property has been a recognizable feature of the Brooklyn skyline for generations, and this decision affirms that the sign will continue its tradition as a part of the Brooklyn waterfront’s rich history and renewed vibrancy.”

But Mendel did not respond when asked if they had specific signage in mind for the site, when it may go up, or if they will keep the flashing time and temperature display in place. Previous renderings of Panorama, however, show neon-red letters spelling its name atop the property.

And the builders may install a placeholder moniker celebrating the area, such as a sign declaring “I Love Dumbo,” before hanging a permanent placard, according to a New York Post report.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Gone: The old Watchtower letters.
Photo by Paul Martinka