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

Now you see it: The Watchtower headquarters — sporting the iconic red neon sign — is on the market. Will the sign survive?
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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.

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