A rendering of the proposed Brooklyn sign in place of the “Watchtower” sign. Image courtesy of Susanna Briselli.
“Brooklyn is a potent idea as well as a place,” according to Susanna Briselli, who explains in the Brooklyn Eagle that the borough’s name “summons vivid images and associations.” Briselli, who is an artist and photographer, suggests this potent chemistry is a compelling enough reason to create an enormous free-standing illuminated sign that reads “Brooklyn!” The massive work would be used to draw in more visitors and increase value, placed where the soon-to-be removed “Watchtower” sign in Brooklyn Heights now stands, or at another highly visible site such as Pier 7.
A sign of the times
Back in 2012, Megalith Capital Management and Urban Realty Partners bought two neighboring DUMBO sites from the Jehovah’s Witnesses for more than $30 million. They then tapped Aufgang Architects to design both warehouse conversions: a landmarked former Brillo factory at 200 Water Street was transformed into 15 boutique condos; 181 Front Street into a 105-unit rental. Twenty percent of apartments in the latter development are reserved as affordable, and as of tomorrow, New Yorkers earning 60 percent of the area median income can apply for these 21 units, which range from $895/month one-bedrooms to $1,247/month three-bedrooms.
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The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a long history in the neighborhoods of DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, but over the past five years the religious group has slowly retreated from the neighborhoods for a hefty profit. For a little backstory, Jehovah’s Witnesses set up a headquarters in Brooklyn Heights way back in 1909, and then went on to acquire significant real estate holdings in the area that included homes in Brooklyn and big hulking warehouses in DUMBO. They decided to start selling off real estate holdings in 2011, which brought in millions upon million of dollars. This carriage house, at 165 Columbia Heights, was sold by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2012 for $4.1 million. And after a very significant renovation, it’s now back on the market asking $9.95 million.
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