BRIDGE 'PARK': The 'Watchtower' deal'...

BRIDGE 'PARK': The 'Watchtower' deal's winners and losers

There are 13 comments on the The Brooklyn Paper story from Aug 10, 2011, titled BRIDGE 'PARK': The 'Watchtower' deal's winners and losers. In it, The Brooklyn Paper reports that:

The city's agreement to fund Brooklyn Bridge Park's annual maintenance with the property taxes on soon-to-be-sold Watchtower properties could be the greatest real-estate swindle of all time or sound public policy.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at The Brooklyn Paper.

“Bustin' Myths”

Since: Dec 09

Location hidden

#1 Aug 11, 2011
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/32/dt...
August 11, 2011
News analysis: Inside the Brooklyn Bridge Park deal

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 capturing property taxes from the Watchtower properties after they are sold. The money will be diverted from the city general fund to pay for maintaining the world-class park at the foot of two wealthy neighborhoods — and that 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, Sqadron 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 ownersan 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.

“Bustin' Myths”

Since: Dec 09

Location hidden

#2 Aug 11, 2011
cont:

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."

“Bustin' Myths”

Since: Dec 09

Location hidden

#3 Aug 11, 2011
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/32/34...

August 11, 2011

The Brooklyn Paper

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

Editorial: At Brooklyn Bridge Park, the rich get richer

Supporters are wildly hailing a deal between the Bloomberg Administration and state lawmakers representing Brooklyn Heights to generate the maintenance budget for Brooklyn Bridge Park by siphoning off future tax revenue from the sale of buildings owned by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

We had the opposite reaction.

The deal calls for more than one million square feet of manufacturing land to be rezoned to the far more lucrative residential use. Such a rezoning would raise the value of the land by a factor of at least 10. The city would then use the resulting taxes on the newly valuable properties to fund the $16-million maintenance of the park.

The deal is being praised because it promises to raise enough revenue to eliminate the Bloomberg Administration's prior plan, which called for new luxury housing inside the footprint of park at Atlantic Avenue.

Yes, the new deal is better than the old one. Indeed, we've long argued that any housing inside the park renders the 1.3-mile strip of waterfront land not a "park" at all, but a waterfront development with a nice open space component.

But the new deal is still flawed for several reasons:

At the stroke of a pen, the rezoning would create millions — perhaps $1 billion, according to our report on this week's page one — of new wealth for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a religious order that has does not pay taxes and has contributed very little else to Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO since establishing the neighborhoods as a base of operations a century ago. We are not persuaded that the Watchtower Society deserves this payday, courtesy of city residents.

The deal allows Brooklyn Heights residents to get the park of their dreams yet sacrifice nothing. Indeed, the just-inked arrangement is at least the third attempt by park planners to fund their maintenance budget. Two prior schemes — diverting a small portion of local residents' increased property taxes or creating a "Park Improvement" tax on local property owners — were dead on arrival because both would have forced the well-to-do to pay for the park by parting with a portion of their supposedly hard-earned cash. The selfishness of some residents continues to astound us.

Most important, the new funding deal enshrines as city policy the original sin of Brooklyn Bridge Park, namely that the ever-swelling maintenance budget must be generated by the park itself. We have long argued that the park should be treated like any normal city park; that its construction and maintenance should be part of the regular budgetary process, subject to evaluation and debate over where resources should be allocated. By creating a separate funding mechanism, the city has essentially told Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO that they don't need to worry about their park.

After all, in Bloomberg's New York, worrying about declining city services is something best done by the poor and less-fortunate — or hadn't you heard?
True Christian witness

United States

#4 Aug 11, 2011
Jehovah God, the one true God of the Bible, owns this planet earth and everything on it, surely whatever has to do with his will, will be done.

(Deuteronomy 10:14-15) 14 Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens, even the heavens of the heavens, the earth and all that is in it.

wasdeceivedonce

Since: Jun 11

Location hidden

#5 Aug 11, 2011
True Christian witness wrote:
Jehovah God, the one true God of the Bible, owns this planet earth and everything on it, surely whatever has to do with his will, will be done.
(Deuteronomy 10:14-15) 14 Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens, even the heavens of the heavens, the earth and all that is in it.
(2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). . .But the lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents 10 and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. 11 So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, 12 in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.
True Christian witness

United States

#6 Aug 11, 2011
Truth is still truth, and the workers of lawlessness or deliberate sin, are not Jehovah God's witnesses.

That description still fits false religions teachers, men and women who love their lies over the stated fact of Scripture. They love their religious doctrines taken from the Roman Catholic religion, all documented in any encyclopedia.

God's people would rather die, than deliberately
disobey God's direction to them from Scripture.

(Matthew 7:21-22). . .“Not everyone saying to me,‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.

Since: Feb 08

Germantown, MD

#7 Aug 11, 2011
True Christian witness wrote:
Truth is still truth, and the workers of lawlessness or deliberate sin, are not Jehovah God's witnesses.
That description still fits false religions teachers, men and women who love their lies over the stated fact of Scripture. They love their religious doctrines taken from the Roman Catholic religion, all documented in any encyclopedia.
God's people would rather die, than deliberately
disobey God's direction to them from Scripture.
(Matthew 7:21-22). . .“Not everyone saying to me,‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.
By all means go to the Elders in your hall and show them where your hangin out surely (Matthew 7:21-22)fits you even more so.

Since: Feb 08

Germantown, MD

#8 Aug 11, 2011
Mythbusters wrote:
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/s tories/34/32/34_32_editorial.h tml
August 11, 2011
The Brooklyn Paper
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/32/34...
Editorial: At Brooklyn Bridge Park, the rich get richer
Supporters are wildly hailing a deal between the Bloomberg Administration and state lawmakers representing Brooklyn Heights to generate the maintenance budget for Brooklyn Bridge Park by siphoning off future tax revenue from the sale of buildings owned by the Jehovah's Witnesses.
We had the opposite reaction.
The deal calls for more than one million square feet of manufacturing land to be rezoned to the far more lucrative residential use. Such a rezoning would raise the value of the land by a factor of at least 10. The city would then use the resulting taxes on the newly valuable properties to fund the $16-million maintenance of the park.
The deal is being praised because it promises to raise enough revenue to eliminate the Bloomberg Administration's prior plan, which called for new luxury housing inside the footprint of park at Atlantic Avenue.
Yes, the new deal is better than the old one. Indeed, we've long argued that any housing inside the park renders the 1.3-mile strip of waterfront land not a "park" at all, but a waterfront development with a nice open space component.
But the new deal is still flawed for several reasons:
At the stroke of a pen, the rezoning would create millions — perhaps $1 billion, according to our report on this week's page one — of new wealth for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a religious order that has does not pay taxes and has contributed very little else to Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO since establishing the neighborhoods as a base of operations a century ago. We are not persuaded that the Watchtower Society deserves this payday, courtesy of city residents.
The deal allows Brooklyn Heights residents to get the park of their dreams yet sacrifice nothing. Indeed, the just-inked arrangement is at least the third attempt by park planners to fund their maintenance budget. Two prior schemes — diverting a small portion of local residents' increased property taxes or creating a "Park Improvement" tax on local property owners — were dead on arrival because both would have forced the well-to-do to pay for the park by parting with a portion of their supposedly hard-earned cash. The selfishness of some residents continues to astound us.
Most important, the new funding deal enshrines as city policy the original sin of Brooklyn Bridge Park, namely that the ever-swelling maintenance budget must be generated by the park itself. We have long argued that the park should be treated like any normal city park; that its construction and maintenance should be part of the regular budgetary process, subject to evaluation and debate over where resources should be allocated. By creating a separate funding mechanism, the city has essentially told Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO that they don't need to worry about their park.
After all, in Bloomberg's New York, worrying about declining city services is something best done by the poor and less-fortunate — or hadn't you heard?
very interesting thanks for this post

“Tight lines”

Since: Jun 07

Location hidden

#9 Aug 11, 2011
It seems to me that the basic jist of this story is the following:

1: Currently, the zoning that Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO resides in is listed as a commercial district and it has been for at least the past 100 years that the WTS has owned this property.

2: The polititions are calling for one million square feet of this property to be re-zoned into a residental use which will increase the value by an estimated 10%

3: The city would then tax this property (once it is sold) based on that new figure.

4: The writer is upset because this means that more money would go into the WTS accounts and he feels that the WTS "does not deserve it".

Now, here is MY take on it.

1: Like them or hate them, it cannot be denied that the WTS buildings have caused the property value in that area to increase. There is a lot to be said for curb appeal and simply having all of that footage in a clean and neet appearance does wonders for property value.

2: This rezoning is not being pushed by the WTS. It is being pushed by the lawmakers who see the potential for higher taxes on this prime real estate.

3: All of this obviously depends on it being sold in the first place. This is a LOT of property and it is a far cry from farm land in Ohio. It will take some serious investors to even consider buying all of this and it is doubtful it will sell for what it is worth. The taxes will reflect on that.

“Bustin' Myths”

Since: Dec 09

Location hidden

#10 Aug 11, 2011
florida native wrote:
It seems to me that the basic jist of this story is the following:
1: Currently, the zoning that Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO resides in is listed as a commercial district and it has been for at least the past 100 years that the WTS has owned this property.
2: The polititions are calling for one million square feet of this property to be re-zoned into a residental use which will increase the value by an estimated 10%
3: The city would then tax this property (once it is sold) based on that new figure.
4: The writer is upset because this means that more money would go into the WTS accounts and he feels that the WTS "does not deserve it".
Now, here is MY take on it.
1: Like them or hate them, it cannot be denied that the WTS buildings have caused the property value in that area to increase. There is a lot to be said for curb appeal and simply having all of that footage in a clean and neet appearance does wonders for property value.
2: This rezoning is not being pushed by the WTS. It is being pushed by the lawmakers who see the potential for higher taxes on this prime real estate.
3: All of this obviously depends on it being sold in the first place. This is a LOT of property and it is a far cry from farm land in Ohio. It will take some serious investors to even consider buying all of this and it is doubtful it will sell for what it is worth. The taxes will reflect on that.
No. This is the jist of the story.

The deal between Mayor Bloomberg and state officials will reduce the amount of luxury condos inside Brooklyn Bridge Park by capturing property taxes from the Watchtower properties after they are sold. The money will be diverted from the city general fund to pay for maintaining the world-class park at the foot of two wealthy neighborhoods — and that 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."

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.

At the stroke of a pen, the rezoning would create millions — perhaps $1 billion, according to our report on this week's page one — of new wealth for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a religious order that has does not pay taxes and has contributed very little else to Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO since establishing the neighborhoods as a base of operations a century ago. We are not persuaded that the Watchtower Society deserves this payday, courtesy of city residents.
earthling

Canberra, Australia

#11 Aug 11, 2011
Seems the WT is very much a part of the world. Money dealings, investments in real estate etc.

I guess they dont mind being a part of the financial world.

Peace
earthling

Canberra, Australia

#12 Aug 11, 2011
True Christian witness wrote:
Jehovah God, the one true God of the Bible, owns this planet earth and everything on it, surely whatever has to do with his will, will be done.
(Deuteronomy 10:14-15) 14 Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens, even the heavens of the heavens, the earth and all that is in it.
Does Jehovah 'will' that the JW org gets super wealthy while little children die of starvation?

Peace
remnant143999

Albuquerque, NM

#13 Jan 17, 2012
Catholics are proud that their pope and their vatican should be wealthy and deserve to flaunt their wealth.So why should'nt jw's?

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