A Bad Sign for Owners of Brooklyn’s Famed Watchtower Building

(Bloomberg) -- It was only a matter of time.

The massive “Watchtower” sign that shined over Brooklyn Heights for half a century was illegal all along, the New York City Department of Buildings has ruled, barring the new owners of the building from replacing it.

The sign, which loomed up at neighborhood residents and at drivers crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, is a powerful branding tool. When it was originally installed, in 1961, it cried out “Squibb,” after the drug company that owned the property. The building later became the headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which changed it to “Watchtower” in 1970. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania is an arm of the religious group.

The new owners, which include Los Angeles-based CIM Group, paid $340 million for the New York City property two years ago and took the sign down. They have renamed the building Panorama and are seeking to fill it. They brought the decision to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, which held a hearing on the matter Tuesday. The Buildings Department said in an email that Squibb failed to obtain the necessary permits for the sign to begin with.

Kushner Cos., then run by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, was a member of the partnership that acquired the property in 2016. It later sold its interest.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the dispute Wednesday.

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