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Inside the Brooklyn Bridge Park deal


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News analysis: Inside the Brooklyn Bridge Park deal


BY KATE BRIQUELET | The Brooklyn Paper


It’s the billion-dollar boondoggle!

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are poised to make out like moneylenders in the temple under the just-signed deal that allows the city to fund Brooklyn Bridge Park’s annual upkeep with tax revenues from the group’s properties, a Brooklyn Paper analysis reveals.

The deal calls for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s holdings in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO to be rezoned for residential use — a change that real-estate experts believe will send the value of the Society’s properties well north of $1 billion.

“If they put them on the market now, they’ll be sold very quickly,” said Downtown real-estate broker Chris Havens.

The deal between Mayor Bloomberg and state officials will reduce the amount of luxury condos inside Brooklyn Bridge Park by using new property taxes created after the Watchtower properties are sold and return to the tax rolls.

That money will go into the normal general fund, which will then cover maintenance of the world-class park.

The deal has green advocates seeing red.

“Tax money is supposed to go into the city’s general fund and it’s being diverted to one park,” said Geoffrey Croft, founder of watchdog group New York City Park Advocates. “These types of deals create enormous disparities. Other neighborhoods can’t pay for parks in this way.”

Under the deal crafted by state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens), the greater the number of Watchtower buildings that go on the market, the less luxury housing needs to be built inside the park at Pier 6.

Those buildings were projected to bring in roughly $6 million a year in property taxes earmarked for the park. If the properties don’t start yielding sufficient property taxes by 2014, the city, under a new mayor, can move forward with the controversial condos.

Watchtower owns more than 30 properties, but doesn’t pay taxes on any of them under federal laws that exempt religious groups from normal levies.

The religious order will either apply to rezone its properties to residential before selling them, or sell them to developers based on the inflated post-rezoning price. Either way, it’ll mean big bucks for the group.

Havens estimates that one of Watchtower’s most valuable buildings — 25 Columbia Heights, which is part of the group’s administrative offices — could go for $91 million as right now as commercially zoned. It will likely go for at least twice that now that the city is behind the rezoning.

Indeed, One Brooklyn Bridge Park, the former Watchtower property at 360 Furman St., was bought by developer Robert A. Levine for $205 million in 2004.

The city’s deal is the latest funding scheme for Brooklyn Bridge Park — but the only one to gain the support of the wealthy in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, who won’t have to pay anything to maintain the park.

In 2009, Squadron proposed siphoning off some taxes from nearby landowners to pay for the controversial park project’s upkeep. But that went nowhere.

A year later, a committee designated to find alternatives to housing inside the park suggested creating a “park improvement district” that would charge nearby property owners an annual fee. But that went nowhere.

Again, wealthy Brooklyn Heights objected to having to pay.

“Maybe this is all just kind of scheme so Brooklyn’s wealthiest residents somehow don’t have to pay higher property taxes,” said Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association and longtime opponent of housing in the park. “Why shouldn’t the immediate adjacent property owners pay more for the park?”

That’s a question that has come up in various forms ever since the the 2002 agreement requiring that the $350-million park raise its own maintenance budget so it wouldn’t become a drain on city and state coffers.

City and state officials decided that luxury housing — in the form of high-rises at John Street in DUMBO, Pier 1 and Pier 6 — was the easiest way to generate revenues for the park. But that scheme has long been under fire from Heights residents — and, indeed, helped propel Squadron into office.

Opponents of housing inside the park joined the anti-tax crowd and hailed Squadron’s call to capture tax revenue from the Watchtower properties as the way to stop future luxury condos within the park.

But former Squadron allies like Sloane say that the deal is fishy and that the senator sold out the park.

“This whole thing feels artificial to me and like it’s all driven by real estate,” Sloane said. “The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been the immense beneficiaries.”

Article Source: The Brooklyn Paper

=They fail to mention that the society bought these old, run down buildings decades ago, some over 100 years ago (wt 5/1/09 pg 22)

They renovated and maintained these buildings and outside areas with great time and expense, why shouldn't they make a profit. Much of the money goes to purchase and renovate other properties that benefit those areas. Watchtower farms in Wallkill have their own fire department which is sometimes called to help with community fires as well. Yet, we still don't own as much as the catholic church but we increase the value of the communities we are in.

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http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/32/dtg_bridgeparkdealmain_2011_08_12_bk.html

News analysis: Inside the Brooklyn Bridge Park deal

BY KATE BRIQUELET

The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler

The Watchtower Society’s headquarters on Columbia Heights will be turned into a sweet residential building.

=They fail to mention that the society bought these old, run down buildings decades ago, some over 100 years ago (wt 5/1/09 pg 22)

They renovated and maintained these buildings and outside areas with great time and expense, why shouldn't they make a profit. Much of the money goes to purchase and renovate other properties that benefit those areas. Watchtower farms in Wallkill have their own fire department which is sometimes called to help with community fires as well. Yet, we still don't own as much as the catholic church but we increase the value of the communities we are in.

Yes, I agree! They slyly make us look like we're all out for the money. What a laugh. As you said, we improve the buildings and surroundings wherever we go, and there are some worldly people who recognize that fact and have put it in print.

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"moneylenders in the temple" :hammer:

Just at the beginning of the article, vicious low kick in the knee...

:nope: Well someday they will know that those are JEHOVAH'S buildings to get the preaching work done and it's the most important service we are to do today! Money goes where it belongs under the control and direction of Jehovah's spirit and according to Jehovah's will. There's so much to say about this, but how can we explain when people don't have Jehovah's spirit? It's "foolish" to them and materialism. It's quite aggrivating trying to explain to people this stuff because they don't see beyond the horizon.

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Dages I have thought the same thing. If that earthquake had been very bad perhaps the buildings with our brothers might have fallen. Yikes! Get outta town - QUICK!

When the twin towers went down on 9/11 - there were so many brothers and sisters there in NYC who just looked across the river to see people jumping to their deaths out of windows very high up. Many were horribly traumatized by what they saw.

Living in the country where Patterson is located would be much more ideal.

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I followed the Brooklyn newspapers when the first lot of Brooklyn buildings were sold ( including the one that the early Superman novels/comics based Clarke Kent in). The neighbourhood were divided. Many joked we thought Armageddon must be near. Others knew we did not need so much overseas shipping offices as we have branches overesas seeing to most of that themselves now. Everything is more computerised/streamlined and we don't need as many Bethelites anywhere, not just New York.Some reporters did report favourably that wherever the Offices are located the Witnesses care for the parks and streets around them even though they need not and this would be missed.

I am glad we are slowly reducing such a high profile in the area. If we are less 'in their faces' they may leave us alone regarding the fact they can't believe/don't want to believe we are volunteers and different tax rules apply. We don't want what happened in France and Russia etc, happening anywhere else. Other reporters were reporting that Gay Pride parades or pro-abortion choice rallies were wanting to go passed our buildings and other odd groups wanted to use this as a chance to protest about some other greivances against us too, doubt they'd bother out at Patterson -who'd see them there?

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Other reporters were reporting that Gay Pride parades or pro-abortion choice rallies were wanting to go passed our buildings and other odd groups wanted to use this as a chance to protest about some other greivances against us too, doubt they'd bother out at Patterson -who'd see them there?

that's interesting Helen...one of the comments written below the article ...made a point that the writer was a homosexual and that is why it was written against us...

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Thank you joy (and Helen)... the opening paragraph did annoy me but I don't know if I understood it correctly.... the way I read it, the Society has no influence on whether the area will be rezoned or not but have every right to benefit if it is.

Can anyone (Helen maybe ) explain what this rezoning is, I don't understand about the park - is there a a park there? Is the Slave planning to sell ALL the buildings in Brooklyn and move everthing out? I thought it was just a few buildings (for downsizing)... I'd appreciate some clarification, I'm interested.

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As I understand it, the buildings are zoned commercial at the present time. The rich people in the neighborhood pushed for a variance to the tax laws so that when the WTBTS buildings are sold the taxes from the new owners would go to maintain the `Brooklyn Bridge Park'. There is also a time line for residential building to be put in place either from the sale of WTBTS buildings or the land where the Park is located will have to be used to build residential buildings, high rise condos or whatever. The WTBTS can request a change of zoning to residential at the time of sale or shortly before. The difference in the sale price after rezoning is the difference between millions for commercial property zoning and billions of dollars for residential zoning. The poor people think the WTBTS are greedy and the rich want their Park but don't want higher taxes to maintain it nor do they want new high rise buildings in the area.

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Personally, I'd love to see them get completely out of New York. I have seen many pictures of the newer properties, and even looked them up on google earth. Beautiful area, beautiful buildings. Definetly gives glory to God. Besides, who really thinks we are going to continue to live in massive concrete jungles on the other side of this system of things?

Sell them all, move to the country, eat alot of peaches.

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As I understand it, the buildings are zoned commercial at the present time. The rich people in the neighborhood pushed for a variance to the tax laws so that when the WTBTS buildings are sold the taxes from the new owners would go to maintain the `Brooklyn Bridge Park'. There is also a time line for residential building to be put in place either from the sale of WTBTS buildings or the land where the Park is located will have to be used to build residential buildings, high rise condos or whatever. The WTBTS can request a change of zoning to residential at the time of sale or shortly before. The difference in the sale price after rezoning is the difference between millions for commercial property zoning and billions of dollars for residential zoning. The poor people think the WTBTS are greedy and the rich want their Park but don't want higher taxes to maintain it nor do they want new high rise buildings in the area.

Thank you lynn, that's a bit clearer for me. So the Society didn't push for the rezoning, but

--- > If they request residential zoning the park gets maintained but the fallout will be ??...?

--- > If the WTBTS DON'T requestion residential zoning, the brothers stand to loose billions and ... the park will be lost (? - or residents will have to pay for it themselves)/ new highrises could go up in its stead.... ... and...?

What do the "poor" people stand to gain from it remaining as a commerical zone?

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