The Jehovah's Witnesses are selling their worldwide headquarters, creating a big buzz in the real estate industry but anger among longtime residents over a broken promise. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
The magnificent view from the Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters is just one of the selling points for the Brooklyn Heights property. It's one of five buildings spanning two city blocks that went up for sale last month.
"We're not setting as asking price on the property, so we really don't know," said Richard Devine, spokesperson for Jehovah's Witnesses. "A property like this, there's no comps in Brooklyn Heights. There's no comparison."
The church is relocating upstate, ending an association with Brooklyn that began in 1908 and famously includes the huge "Watchtower" sign named after its flagship publication.
"At the height of our activities, which was the late '90s. we may have had as many as 35 or more properties," Devine said.
The church handles its own real estate deals and recently sold buildings in DUMBO for $375 million. Industry experts say the Watchtower headquarters will be record-setting.
"I'd be shocked if it didn't trade over $1 billion," said Erik Serras, principal broker with Ideal Properties Group.
Two other properties also are on the market. One is a 10-story residence that the group bought 108 years ago. The building has an underground tunnel connecting to its other properties. It's not clear what a new owner would do with the tunnel.
There's also 85 Jay Street, a fenced-off city block that's used for parking. The Jehovah's Witnesses got the lot rezoned in 2004 for housing, but the project stalled. As part of the rezoning, they were supposed to fix up a park across the street, but 11 years later, it remains barren, a sore point to the community. The religious group blames the Parks Department for faulty planning, but just last week. it pledged $5.5 million so the city could finally do the job.
"That's woefully inadequate. That's the price of a condo in DUMBO," said Alexandria Sica of the DUMBO Business Improvement District. "$5 million is a three-bedroom condo around here, and we'd like to see them add at least a zero to that."
The community says the Jehovah's Witnesses will get a stunning windfall and need to give back more, especially after enjoying tax-exempt status all those years. The church says it's invested here for decades, even when the area was in decline, and it's time to move on.