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Tall order: Witnesses unloading yet another Heights building

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Maggie may — be yours!

The site of the borough’s first “skyscraper” is up for sale as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have put an 11-story tower built as an homage to the famed Hotel Margaret in Brooklyn Heights is on the market.

Built in 1889, the famed Hotel Margaret once stood on the lot at Columbia Heights and Orange streets, its 11 stories towering over Brooklyn Heights — the borough’s tallest building at the time. Over the years the hotel housed several well-known artists, including Betty Smith, the author of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

A fire completely gutted the building in 1980, but the architect heading the building’s redesign hoped to help its memory live on, incorporating elements from the hotel into the updated residential structure including its signature bay windows.

The building is currently zoned for residential, but whoever buys it could return it to its former glory as a luxury lodge through a rezoning, according to a rep for the Witnesses.

“Currently they would have to get a zoning variance for a hotel, it’s in a residential district,” said Richard Devine, who is a spokesman for the religious organization, formally called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

Staffers for the Witnesses have been living in the building’s 97 units for the past 30 years, including Devine, who moved in shortly after it opened.

“When it was brand new my wife and I lived there for some years. We really enjoyed it,” he said. “We had beautiful bay windows, beautiful views of the Promenade and Lower Manhattan.”

The society has already sold off several of its holdings to Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who most recently bought their headquarters at 25-30 Columbia Heights for $340 million and plans to convert into a sprawling office complex.

Kushner also owns five other buildings that make up “Dumbo Heights” — a tech campus with restaurants and shops and is reportedly in contract to buy a massive block-sized lot at 85 Jay Street.

The Witnesses currently have four properties on the market, including “The Towers” at Clark and Willow Streets, which was also formerly a hotel.

Devine said the Watchtower still has an open space next to the Brooklyn Bridge and handful of residential digs left to sell. The organization hasn’t set a firm deadline for when it wants to unload all of the properties and will sell of the holdings as quickly as the real estate office can manage, he said.

The Witnesses began moving into their new digs in upstate New York ahead of schedule in August, according to Devine, and expects that most of the world headquarters will be relocated by the end of November.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Alex from Brooklyn says:
Good controversial documentary from NBC Dateline on Jehovah's Witnesses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbKXj8R4_X8&t=0s
Nov. 1, 2016, 10:22 pm

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