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Watchtower sign was illegal, Buildings Department says

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Legal fight begins over former Jehovah's Witnesses' Brooklyn Heights HQ sign

By Lore Croghan

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The famous Watchtower sign was illegal for its entire half-century existence.

The Squibb sign that originally stood in its place was illegal, too.

That's the city Buildings Department's stunning assertion — and its rationale for why it denied the owner of the former Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters in Brooklyn Heights permission to replace the Watchtower sign atop 30 Columbia Heights.

The property's owner, Columbia Heights Associates, is appealing the city agency's decision.

Lawyers for the landlord and the Buildings Department duked it out at a city Board of Standards and Appeals hearing Tuesday night at Spector Hall in Lower Manhattan.

As a consequence of this legal battle, the void in Brooklyn's shoreline scenery that was created by the Watchtower sign's removal will remain for at least three more months. The next Board of Standards and Appeals hearing concerning this issue won't take place until Oct. 23.

 

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This 2017 photo provides an up-close look at the now-departed Watchtower sign from the rooftop bar at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

'Iconic presence on the Brooklyn skyline'  

The red electric Watchtower sign had been “an iconic presence on the Brooklyn skyline,” attorney David Karnovsky of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP said during his testimony on behalf of Columbia Heights Associates.

Workers removed the iconic Watchtower sign's 15-foot-tall letters in December and left standing a flashing electric sign that shows the time and temperature.

The Watchtower sign had been visible from Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.

The Jehovah's Witnesses installed it in 1970, the year after buying 25-30 Columbia Heights from E.R. Squibb & Sons.

The Watchtower sign replaced a Squibb sign the pharmaceutical company had installed in 1961.

 

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The partly golden-hued, partly blue buildings are the former Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters, where the Watchtower sign was removed. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
 

Did Squibb get a permit to install its sign?

The key argument by Timothy McKernan, the Buildings Department's assistant general counsel, is that there's no evidence Squibb obtained a permit to install its rooftop sign.

To counter that argument, Karnovsky testified that the agency acknowledges the availability of old Buildings Department records is limited.

Nevertheless, his team managed to find a 1961 Buildings Department ledger with a notation about an application to put a roof sign on top of 30 Columbia Heights. The estimated cost of erecting the sign was $20,000.

A Buildings Department employee's signature of approval appears in the ledger notation.

Karnovsky's team also found other documentation suggesting Squibb got a permit for sign construction.

Concerning the current situation with the iconic Watchtower sign, McKernan said in his testimony that putting new sign letters on framework that was left atop 30 Columbia Heights would constitute a structural alteration — and that's not permissible, he asserted.

Karnovsky countered that an engineer's study determined the framework is “a complete and viable structure” and the sign letters are not structural elements.

 

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A flashing sign that remains atop the old headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses tells the time and temperature. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Jehovah's Witnesses moved upstate after headquarters sale

Columbia Heights Associates bought the five-building Watchtower headquarters complex for $340 million in 2016.

The Jehovah's Witnesses sold 25-30 Columbia Heights because they relocated their world headquarters to upstate Warwick, New York.

Columbia Heights Associates is redeveloping the property, which is across the street from Brooklyn Bridge Park, into an office and retail complex called Panorama.

Columbia Heights Associates is a joint venture made up of CIM Group and LIVWRK Holdings. Kushner Cos. initially was part of the joint venture but sold its stake in the property to CIM Group this year.

Jared Kushner headed Kushner Cos. until he stepped aside to serve as senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

 

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    • By The Librarian
      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Watch closely — because you might not see it again.
      The Watchtower sign, a Brooklyn waterfront icon for 70 years, was taken down on Wednesday from atop the former Jehovah’s Witnesses building at 30 Columbia St.
      The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is moving to upstate Warwick. The nonprofit sold five Dumbo buildings last year for $340 million to a joint venture of Kushner Companies, CIM Group and LIVWRK, which plans to turn the properties into an office complex called Panorama.
      The letters are each 15 feet tall and weigh up to 860 pounds. A sign named for a future office tenant will eventually replace them. The old letters will be reinstalled at the society’s new headquarters.

      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  
      I was there on the last day to see these letters come down. It was a sad moment. 
      Eerily, after being all over Manhattan this week I saw ZERO JW's witnessing in the streets or subways. 
      The silence is deafening.

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    • By Bible Speaks
      The "present ideas to replace the Watchtower sign", now that the building has been sold.
      Bye Brooklyn ?? On to the Kings Drive, Warwick, New York

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    • I disagree. Jesus "framework" is/are interpreted many times by many people or organizations as how they see how would Jesus do this or that. So when you put quote that sound so final and as definitive diagnosis; " the Watchtower has the same framework as Jesus did", i must be careful, alert :)))) Not forget how same WT using phrases (when they explaining GB doctrines) as "Jesus must be thinking this or that, he obviously mean this or that. So, please do not call for Jesus authority when promote own or GB ideas :))  
    • Then you will notice, the Watchtower has the same framework as Jesus did, to separate church from state. So, it is not what the GB is saying, it is what scripture is saying. The majority of former witnesses fail to make that distinction.  As for the trolling, from everyone here, that’s to be expected. There’s only one cure. The moral fiber of some is zero.
    • My opinion is not of some importance now. It is more important how WT define it and how some of people who participate in this forum as WT defender, are not  in harmony /unity, obeying) what GB told them, instructing and teaching. Let see what i found in JW publications. Politicians, activists, and reformers have long struggled to find solutions to divisive issues. Their efforts may be sincere and well-motivated. Yet, Christians recognize that only God’s Kingdom can solve mankind’s problems and guarantee true justice. We must leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands. After all, if each Christian advocated the solution he thought best, would not our congregations soon become divided? -  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. "From Political Activist to Neutral Christian"                                                                                                                                                                                            THE year was 1953. The place—Liberec, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). I was then a 19-year-old activist who sought political change. We activists propagated our views by distributing leaflets that were critical of the Communist Party, then in power. -  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Similarly, true Christians today do not engage in civil disobedience. They await the day and hour when qualified intervention by God will come. Only he has the wisdom and the power to bring lasting solutions to mankind. Through their preaching work, Jehovah’s Witnesses reassure those who are suffering from injustices that such relief is soon to come. -  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.
    • Where can I find comments for the watchtower images?  
    • rubadubdubdub ...... rubadubdubdub ...... rubadubdubdub ...... rubadubdubdub ...... rubadubdubdub ...... .... stupid chain saw .....
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