Watchtower pledge $5.5 million to fix Bridge Park 2

EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses pledge $5.5M to fix crummy Dumbo park

Big plans: The Jehovah’s Witnesses have pledged $5.5 million to revamp Brooklyn Bridge Park II, which will also include a skate park. Plans for the new park include a multipurpose field, exercise area, playground, and skate park.
The Brooklyn Paper
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They will clean up before they leave.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses will give the city $5.5 million to overhaul a run-down Dumbo park the organization promised to make-over more than a decade ago as part of a lucrative rezoning deal, after local pols demanded the group finally honor its pledge before it sells all its land and decamps from the borough for good.

The sect — officially the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — believes the money will be enough to cover its share of the long-stalled plans for the land.

“Watchtower has set aside this amount to cover the funds officials estimated the city would need to take over this project and complete the current vision for the park,” the group told this paper.

The religious outfit offered to fix the moribund Bridge Park 2 — a slab of crumbling concrete next to York Street station and quite possibly the crummiest park in the city — in 2004, when the city agreed to let the group build a huge housing complex on a massive parking lot next door at 85 Jay St.

Plans at the time included a turf baseball field, a new playground, and a lighted path from the subway station to the neighboring Farragut Houses development.

But Watchtower never actually built the new property, and the planning process for the park facelift dragged for years through various design iterations, eventually hitting an impasse over cost and labor — the Witnesses wanted to use its members as volunteer workers, which is not how the city typically does business.

The group’s announcement last month that it is selling 85 Jay St. — now incredibly valuable thanks to the residential rezoning — as part of its mass exodus from the neighborhood it has long called home sparked renewed calls for the Witnesses to keep their vow and put some of the massive windfall to good use.

“It is unacceptable that since the Watchtower committed to work with the Parks Department, over 11 years have passed, the site has seen no improvements, and remains a piece of barren asphalt,” a host of local pols and business leaders wrote in a letter to the organization in December.

It remains to be seen whether $5.5 million will be enough to take the park from drab to fab, however — the parks department said it can’t estimate the total costs without a concrete plan for the park in place. Watchtower honchos say they have one ready, based on the city’s most recent requests for the site, which now include a skate park and a multipurpose field.

Those pushing for the park renewal say they also want more details before celebrating, but the pledge is still good news.

“Without seeing the details, that seems like a significant step in the right direction,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill), one of the letter-writing pols. “I would like to sit down in a formal way with them and the parks department to see exactly what the plans are.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Terry Goldsmith from Brooklyn says:
This is commendable that the Watchtower is stepping up.They have over $200 billion in worldwide assets,$5 mill is chump change to them.They existed here for 100 years tax free while they built up their equities.
Jan. 11, 2016, 4:15 am
Gb from Heights says:
Where did you get the figure of $200bn from? That's nonsense
Jan. 11, 2016, 7:06 am
70Washington from DUMBO says:
We actually love the lot just as it is! My kids have a place to ride their bikes, play wall ball, etc. It's empty SPACE, something we don't have in the neighborhood.
Jan. 11, 2016, 9:08 am
Julie from Bronk says:
Jehovah's Witnesses are now building a massive and expensive world headquarters near Warwick, New York.
This new development will no doubt be larger and more modern than the old buildings they occupied in New York City. And then there will be all that leftover cash from the billion dollar plus sales of holdings in Brooklyn.
Some may think that Jehovah's Witnesses represent a fanatical and extreme fringe religious group. But when it comes to money management and real estate development they may match the business smarts of Donald Trump.
(The Watchtower could buy out Scientology 100X over)

Jan. 11, 2016, 9:12 am
DM from BH says:
Fool me once on a bogus end of the world prediction, shame on me, fool me 20 times on a bogus end of the world prediction and you really need to move on and find a new religion.
Jan. 11, 2016, 9:37 am
BU from BH says:
Couldn't help noting that, despite the obvious prejudice of the writer, even she couldn't help admitting that the reason the park never got built was not unwillingness by Watchtower, but intransigence on the part of the city. And, by the way, what does "permeation" mean?
Jan. 11, 2016, 11:31 am
ty from pps says:
Jan. 11, 2016, 12:05 pm
Harry Osborn from Florida says:
The truth comes out: Even this writer, who is clearly trying to smear Watchtower, has to note that "the planning process for the park facelift dragged for years through various design permeations..." I assume she means 'permutations' but in any case, the real reason the park didn't get built was the city's failure to agree on a plan
Jan. 11, 2016, 12:44 pm
HJ from Dumbo says:
As Brooklyn Park Stalls, Fingers Point at Religious Group

New York Times-Dec 31, 2015
Jan. 11, 2016, 1:17 pm
JR from Bay Ridge says:
Will the city take the money and do something else with it?
Jan. 11, 2016, 1:31 pm
diehipster from Hurting Haydens says:
Abbrashazamazola!!! Did you all see Ethan The Chooch Pettit get clobbered all over the internet?

Natives win!
Jan. 11, 2016, 2:54 pm
marsha rimler says:
Levin is trying to look like a community hero . He isn't he approved millions of wasted dollars on the bridge that fell apart. He is tough with the witnesses but lets david kramer the library developer walk away with over 500 million in profits while the citizens loose their library and get shortchanged. Does Levin deserve a third term after his double dealing on the library. ?? and on twitter
Jan. 11, 2016, 7:54 pm
James King says:
If the city politicians had just 'Butted Out' of the process & 'LET' the Watchtower Society do the job they had agreed to, it would have been done years ago.
Even the article author, though clearly biased against the Watchtower Society, had to admit that the reason things didn't get done was due to the city's lack of being able to agree on anything. (No $$ kickbacks if JW volunteers did the labor VS the contractors the city politicians wanted to use.)
IMO, the city will take the $$, but nothing will ever be done with the park. The politicians will siphon all that money off to their pet projects in their pet areas & to their pet contractors, & quite probably a good bit of it will end up back in the politician's pockets through 'Campaign Donations'. (The New Euphemism for bribes & graft)
Jan. 11, 2016, 11:53 pm
Joy Libert says:
If the Watchtower Society said it would build a park as agreed, I can guarantee you it would be such an asset to Brooklyn Heights, it would be award winning. Everything they touch is always beyond expectations. Let them live up to their reputation and be done with it.
Jan. 12, 2016, 6:43 am
John Hibbert says:
I hope the city is wary and nailed down the contract tightly. The JWs are under extreme financial burden right now largely due to the settlement of several multi-million dollar child sexual abuse cases. Also, they have a bad track record of using loopholes to get out of promises made when it comes to property development. For example, they promised the family of a brain injured man in Rio Rancho, NM that they wouldn't ruin his only remaining joy in life, the view of the mountains. But they built a big ugly concrete wall right in front of his window anyway.
March 4, 2016, 9:09 am

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