At least one branch of Brooklyn Heights’ not-so-secret tunnels is gone. For years, four private underground tunnels have connected numerous Jehovah’s Witnesses buildings in the neighborhood.
The one leading to an apartment building at 124 Columbia Heights was filled in with Foamcrete, a low-density mixture of concrete and plastic, on Monday, April 17, longtime Brooklyn Heights resident Andrew Porter told Brownstoner.
“I walked by, and the sidewalk in front of 124 Columbia Heights was closed, with a concrete truck pouring into a structure on the sidewalk, presided over by Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he said.
Later, he confirmed what he had seen with Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Peter Bray.
The 10-story 20th-century red-brick Jehovah’s Witnesses dormitory building at 124 Columbia Heights overlooks the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and has incredible views of Manhattan.
Originally the site of a brownstone occupied by Plymouth Church’s famed reverend, Henry Ward Beecher, the property is part of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, according to city records.
In 2016, Virtu Financial head Vincent Viola and interior designer Teresa Viola bought 124 Columbia Street from the Jehovah’s Witnesses for $105 million, according to a Real Deal story at the time. No applications for demolition or new-building permits have been filed.
Altogether, four subterranean tunnels lie under Orange Street, Columbia Heights and Willow Street and connect numerous Jehovah’s Witnesses properties in the Heights.
They are the subject of much neighborhood speculation and urban myth. The private pedestrian walkways appear very ordinary, with linoleum flooring and fluorescent lights resembling a hospital corridor, according to one image published in the New York Times.
It was expected that a buyer of the residential property might opt to fill in the tunnels for reasons of security and bureaucracy. The Witnesses pay fees under an arrangement with City departments, which would have to be renegotiated.
At one point, the Jehovah’s Witnesses owned more than two dozen prime properties in Brooklyn Heights, but they’ve slowly been selling off their holdings and have moved operations upstate to Warwick, N.Y.
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
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- What Will Happen to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Brooklyn Heights Tunnels?