To watch towers rise

DUMBO neighbors rip Witnesses’ plans for 4 bldgs.

Evelyn Carr was happy, and why not? She had just put a down payment on a $375,000 loft apartment – with views of the waterfront – on Bridge St. in Brooklyn’s trendy DUMBO neighborhood.

Then she heard the news: Those waterfront vistas will be blocked by four residential towers – the shortest, 14 stories; the tallest, 20 – proposed for the vacant 3-acre lot across the street.

“My heart sank,” said the 32-year-old marketing assistant. “Right now, I have really great views of the Manhattan Bridge and this great expanse of sky, and all of that will be completely blocked.

“It makes me really sad, not just for me and others in this building, but because [the towers] would dramatically change the tone of the neighborhood.”

Carr is not alone in her criticism of the plan by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society – the legal entity of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group – to develop a 1,000-unit apartment complex on the lot at 85 Jay St.

Nancy Webster, president of the DUMBO Neighborhood Association, says the proposed towers are too tall and would be “out of context and incompatible with existing buildings in DUMBO and Vinegar Hill.”

While the tallest buildings in DUMBO are 12 stories high, Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman Richard Devine said that other, taller residential buildings also are being planned.

The towers “won’t be the tallest buildings in the immediate area, by any means,” he said.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses originally intended to build a printing plant on the Jay St. site when they began buying parcels of land there in the 1980s, Devine said. But as the neighborhood experienced a rebirth as an enclave of trendy restaurants and lofts with panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, the religious group shifted its focus, he said.

Now, Devine explained, plans call for the development of a large residential complex that could house up to 1,800 Jehovah’s Witnesses, many of whom now live in smaller buildings scattered about Brooklyn Heights.

The complex, which Watchtower Society officials hope is completed by 2006, would consist of four towers – rising 14, 16, 18 and 20 stories, respectively – and a 700-car underground parking garage.

The religious group submitted an environmental assessment statement last week, said Regina Myer, director of the Brooklyn City Planning Department.

The statement is the first step in a months-long land use review process that will ultimately decide whether 85 Jay St. – now a light-manufacturing area – will be rezoned for residential use.

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