Read Part 1 of this story.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses — aka the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — first came to Brooklyn in 1908, in hopes of having their sermons syndicated in newspapers alongside the writings of the borough’s most famous pastors. It was under the Watchtower’s autocratic second leader, Joseph F. Rutherford, that the religious group truly began practicing the art of Brooklyn real estate.

This is the 100-year story of how the Jehovah’s Witnesses grew to be a global phenomenon and came to own some of Brooklyn’s most valuable properties.


Photo of Bridge Park II by Barbara Eldredge. Rendering of Bridge Park II skate park from the Jehovah’s Witnesses via Brooklyn Eagle

Talk about a quick turnaround. Just three weeks after local pols called for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to make once-promised repairs to Dumbo’s Bridge Park II, the religious organization pledged $5.5 million to overhaul the park.

Or is it a long-delayed turnaround?


Photo of Bridge Park II by Barbara Eldredge

Not long ago, you couldn’t be faulted for confusing the asphalt-covered Bridge Park II for an empty parking lot. But last week, a large-scale activity mural began taking shape at the site, and at the nearby Bridge Park 3.

Regardless of the new paint, a controversy over who is responsible for larger fixes at the park has only just begun.


On left: The local figures calling for a fixed-up park and subway station. On right: Photo of 85 Jay Street via Watchtower

A handful of local figures and politicians — including Steve Levin, Laurie Cumbo, and Letitia James — are calling for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to fulfill promises the group made in 2004 to fix a Dumbo park and subway station.

The politicians sent a letter to Richard Devine, spokesman of the Brooklyn-based religious group, on December 22. You can read the full letter below, but the gist of it closely echoes the call for improvements made by former New York City Council Member David Yassky.