Before the Jehovah's Witnesses depart their Brooklyn headquarters, they'll help beautify one extremely unloved corner of Dumbo: the Brooklyn Paper reports that the group has pledged $5.5 million to clean up Bridge Park 2, a decrepit patch of concrete that's mere steps away from the much swankier Brooklyn Bridge Park.
A New York Times story from December detailed the role that the Witnesses have played in the park's creation and ultimate disintegration, which has been ten years in the making. Per the Times:
The group had been granted a zoning change for its property at 85 Jay Street, permitting it to build a residential tower and event space on the lot. The Jehovah's Witnesses tore down the low buildings on the block, but they never built the proposed tower. In lieu of the zoning change, the Witnesses were supposed to convert Bridge Park 2, which is located next to 85 Jay Street, into a turf baseball field and a playground, as per the Brooklyn Paper. The plans also called for the creation of a lighted path from the subway station in the area to the Farragut Houses development. That was in 2004, and more than a decade later, none of that has materialized.
Last month, the Witnesses listed the property at 85 Jay Street, along with their headquarters at 25-30 Columbia Heights, and another property at 124 Columbia Heights—a sale that could fetch them as much as $400 million. In recent years, the Witnesses have been selling large chunks of their land in Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights as they get ready to move to their new headquarters in Warwick in Upstate New York.
This has led community leaders and politicians to demand that the Witnesses live up to their promise of building the park before they leave the area, and before a potential new buyer decides to go in another direction with the land.
To that end, the Witnesses say that have a new plan for the park that includes a skate park and a multipurpose field. That plan still needs to be assessed by the city's Parks department, but for now the religious group has committed funds for its creation.
Update: Tucker Reed, the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, released this statement to Curbed:
"We're pleased the Jehovah's Witnesses heard our call to give back to the community, but $5.5 million is simply not enough. Before they leave town and reap the benefits of property ownership in an area that has blossomed around them, the Witnesses should make a meaningful contribution toward badly needed public infrastructure in the neighborhood that helped bankroll its future." · EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses pledge $5.5M to fix crummy Dumbo park [Brooklyn Paper]
· As Brooklyn Park Stalls, Fingers Point at Religious Group [NY Times]
· The Jehovah's Witnesses create a fund for long-awaited Bridge Park II renovation [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]
· All the Jehovah's Witnesses Brooklyn Real Estate Coverage [Curbed]