Call it a sign off.
The iconic Watchtower lettering that has towered above Brooklyn Heights for nearly half a century is being ripped down as part of Donald Trump’s son-in-law’s conversion of the former Jehovah’s Witnesses buildings into a swanky office complex, city records show, and its expulsion will be a big loss for Kings County, according to preservationists.
“It was a very distinctive part of the Brooklyn waterfront skyline — for decades, as you walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, you knew you were in Brooklyn because there was the Watchtower,” said Simeon Bankoff, of the Historic Districts Council.
The Witnesses filed plans with the Department of Buildings on June 9 to remove the 15-foot-tall red letters from the roof of the building on Columbia Heights and Vine Street.
Developers Kushner Companies, Livwrk, and CIM Group — collectively calling themselves Columbia Heights Associates — purchased the headquarters for $340 million last year and revealed plans earlier this month to transform the buildings into a high-end office and retail complex called Panorama.
The builders plan to keep the sign’s framework, which includes a flashing temperature and date, and project renderings show some sort of red lettering affixed to it, but a spokesman declined to comment on what that will be and any other details regarding the sign’s removal.
Landmarking signs is difficult in New York City because, as long as the font looks the same, the Landmarks Preservation Commission does not have control over what new words are written on old frameworks, according to Bankoff.
But some locals could care less about the sign disappearing from the skyline, pointing out that people could not really see it from Kings County and joking the framework could be used to erect a poster for President Trump’s re-election campaign.
“In Brooklyn all we see is the back of the sign,” said Heights resident Andrew Porter. “They can always put something else on it, like ‘Vote Trump 2020.’ ”
Another neighbor mourned the loss of the well-known letters, but admitted her expectations that they would be saved were low.
“It’s kind of an iconic sign, but I assumed it was going,” said Doreen Gallo, president of the Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance. “It would have been great if they kept it.”
The Watchtower sign joins many placards that once characterized Brooklyn’s skyline and are now extinct, including the Kentile Floors, Eagle Clothes, and Bruno Truck Sales signs in Gowanus, the Domino Sugar sign in Williamsburg, and Red Hook’s E.J. Trum sign, all of which remains are a floating period and “R.”
©2017 Community News Group
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