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Four tunnels were excavated in the 1960s, after the Witnesses had acquired ownership at 25 Columbia Heights (pictured above) that became the Watchtower Society's headquarters

What lies below an area of ​​Brooklyn Heights, once the headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the state of New York, has been unveiled for the first time.

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The religious movement that dominated a large part of the neighborhood for more than a century has now moved on its way to the state, after making huge profits on their properties that have increased in value in recent years.

Among those features that range from the huge Kingdom Hall on Columbia Heights to five-story brownstones are a number of tunnels that connect a number of Witness properties.

Four tunnels were excavated in the 1960s, after the Witnesses had acquired ownership at 25 Columbia Heights (pictured above) that became the Watchtower Society's headquarters

Four tunnels were excavated in the 1960s, after the Witnesses had acquired ownership at 25 Columbia Heights (pictured above) that became the Watchtower Society's headquarters

The tunnels (one seen above) eventually connected six different properties, extending from Columbia Heights, which runs along the top of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, to buildings on Orange, Pineapple and Clark Streets

The tunnels (one seen above) eventually connected six different properties, extending from Columbia Heights, which runs along the top of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, to buildings on Orange, Pineapple and Clark Streets

The tunnels (one seen above) eventually connected six different properties, extending from Columbia Heights, which runs along the top of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, to buildings on Orange, Pineapple and Clark Streets

86 Willow Street, (photo above) a tunnel ran below to 77-79 Willow Street (also known as 21 Clark Street)
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86 Willow Street, (photo above) a tunnel ran below to 77-79 Willow Street (also known as 21 Clark Street)

86 Willow Street, (photo above) a tunnel ran below to 77-79 Willow Street (also known as 21 Clark Street)

The Gothamist has gained access to hundreds of emails between the Witness leadership and the Department of Transportation, along with documents, videos & conversations with various former Jehovah's Witnesses, to provide insight into the tunnels, why and how they were used.

Where are the tunnels?

The tunnels are connected to each other in Brooklyn Heights:

The original tunnel built by the Squibb family ran under Vine Street, between two of the buildings, in what would become the headquarters of the multi-building building.

97 Columbia Heights to 107 Columbia Heights

107 Columbia Heights to 124 Columbia Heights

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124 Columbia Heights to 119 Columbia Heights

86 Willow Street to 77-79 Willow Street (also known as 21 Clark Street)

The current status of the & # 39; Squibb tunnel & # 39; is unknown. All the rest of the tunnels are filled

The first underground tunnel was built around 1924 by the Squibb family, which runs under Vine Street, between two buildings that would become the headquarters of the multi-building building.

In a petition asking permission for a & # 39; passage & # 39; the tunnel is said to be & # 39; for transferring merchandise & # 39 ;.

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More tunnels were dug up in the 1960s after the Witnesses acquired ownership at 25 Columbia Heights that became the Watchtower Society's headquarters.

The tunnels eventually connected six different properties, extending from Columbia Heights, which runs along the top of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, to buildings on Orange, Pineapple and Clark Street.

How the tunnels were used

The tunnels had offices, a supermarket and laundries.

Meals were also prepared in the tunnels.

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E-mails received by Gothamist describe the official use of the tunnels as a pedestrian passage for transporting supplies to the Department of Transportation.

The tunnels had offices, a supermarket and laundries. Meals were also prepared in the tunnels. A cafeteria is shown above. The first underground tunnel was built around 1924 by the Squibb family who walked through Vine Street, between two buildings that would become the headquarters with several buildings.

The tunnels had offices, a supermarket and laundries. Meals were also prepared in the tunnels. A cafeteria is shown above. The first underground tunnel was built around 1924 by the Squibb family who walked through Vine Street, between two buildings that would become the headquarters with several buildings.

The tunnels had offices, a supermarket and laundries. Meals were also prepared in the tunnels. A cafeteria is shown above. The first underground tunnel was built around 1924 by the Squibb family who walked through Vine Street, between two buildings that would become the headquarters with several buildings.

Gregory Hall, a former Jehovah's Witness who left religion a few years ago, told the Gothamist that the tunnels & # 39; a little scary & # 39; goods. He indicated that they were used for & # 39; privacy, security & # 39; and an easy way to navigate through buildings & # 39;

Gregory Hall, a former Jehovah's Witness who left religion a few years ago, told the Gothamist that the tunnels & # 39; a little scary & # 39; goods. He indicated that they were used for & # 39; privacy, security & # 39; and an easy way to navigate through buildings & # 39;

Gregory Hall, a former Jehovah's Witness who left religion a few years ago, told the Gothamist that the tunnels & # 39; a little scary & # 39; goods. He indicated that they were used for & # 39; privacy, security & # 39; and an easy way to navigate through buildings & # 39;

More tunnels were dug up in the 1960s after the Witnesses secured the property at 25 Columbia Heights, which became their Watchtower Society headquarters. The tunnels were filled two years ago, in 2017
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More tunnels were dug up in the 1960s after the Witnesses secured the property at 25 Columbia Heights, which became their Watchtower Society headquarters. The tunnels were filled two years ago, in 2017

More tunnels were dug up in the 1960s after the Witnesses secured the property at 25 Columbia Heights, which became their Watchtower Society headquarters. The tunnels were filled two years ago, in 2017

The Jehovah & # 39; s Witnesses rented the tunnel sites that were on public roads from the Department of Transportation.

Gregory Hall, a former Jehovah's Witness who left religion a few years ago, told the Gothamist that the tunnels & # 39; a little scary & # 39; goods.

Housekeepers transported laundry and cooked food, Hall said.

He indicated that they were used for & # 39; privacy, security & # 39; and an easy way to navigate through buildings, & # 39; and so protection so that you & # 39; the people from outside & # 39; not have to face.

Hall said the older members of the group were often in the tunnels with the straightening of hangers outside the laundries.

& # 39; These guys could barely walk or talk, and the tours (of visiting Witnesses) would pass. It was a way to supposedly show their elders and their loyal service, & Hall said.

80 Willow St, built in the 1840s and located on the corner of Pineapple Street in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. It was initially taken over in 1986 by Cohi Towers Associates, an entity wholly owned by Watchtower, which displays the reports from the finance department.

80 Willow St, built in the 1840s and located on the corner of Pineapple Street in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. It was initially taken over in 1986 by Cohi Towers Associates, an entity wholly owned by Watchtower, which displays the reports from the finance department.

80 Willow St, built in the 1840s and located on the corner of Pineapple Street in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. It was initially taken over in 1986 by Cohi Towers Associates, an entity wholly owned by Watchtower, which displays the reports from the finance department.

Gregory Hall, a former Jehovah's Witness, said the older members of the group were often in tunnels straightening hangers outside the launderette. & # 39; These guys could barely walk or talk, and the tours (of visiting Witnesses) would pass. It was a way to supposedly show their elders and their loyal service, & Hall said
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Gregory Hall, a former Jehovah's Witness, said the older members of the group were often in tunnels straightening hangers outside the launderette. & # 39; These guys could barely walk or talk, and the tours (of visiting Witnesses) would pass. It was a way to supposedly show their elders and their loyal service, & Hall said

Gregory Hall, a former Jehovah's Witness, said the older members of the group were often in tunnels straightening hangers outside the launderette. & # 39; These guys could barely walk or talk, and the tours (of visiting Witnesses) would pass. It was a way to supposedly show their elders and their loyal service, & Hall said

Hall also claims that an older male member of the religious group once brought him into the tunnels and started talking to him about masturbation

A small part of the tunnels were where the commissioner was located.

Why Brooklyn Heights?

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There were once more than 4,000 Jehovah witnesses who lived in a small part of Brooklyn Heights.

The association's headquarters were originally located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In 1909, Brooklyn Heights was chosen as a new location by founder Charles Taze Russell of Jehovah's Witnesses.

& # 39; In total, after seeking Divine guidance, we decided that Brooklyn, N.Y., with a large population. . . and known as & # 39; The City of Churches & # 39; would be our most suitable harvest center for these reasons, "Russell said JW.org

It was also a seaport city with huge road and rail connections. By 1909, branches were also based in Great Britain, Germany, and Australia.

There were once more than 4,000 Jehovah witnesses who lived in a small part of Brooklyn Heights. The association's headquarters were originally located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1909, Brooklyn Heights was chosen because a new location was chosen by founder Charles Taze Russell of Jehovah's Witnesses
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There were once more than 4,000 Jehovah witnesses who lived in a small part of Brooklyn Heights. The association's headquarters were originally located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1909, Brooklyn Heights was chosen because a new location was chosen by founder Charles Taze Russell of Jehovah's Witnesses

There were once more than 4,000 Jehovah witnesses who lived in a small part of Brooklyn Heights. The association's headquarters were originally located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1909, Brooklyn Heights was chosen because a new location was chosen by founder Charles Taze Russell of Jehovah's Witnesses

Part of the 15-line line of Jehovah's # 39; s Witnesses in the 1950s, estimated at 20,000, lined up at the new Brooklyn printing plant of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

Part of the 15-line line of Jehovah's # 39; s Witnesses in the 1950s, estimated at 20,000, lined up at the new Brooklyn printing plant of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

Part of the 15-line line of Jehovah's # 39; s Witnesses in the 1950s, estimated at 20,000, lined up at the new Brooklyn printing plant of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

There were a number of pools at Brooklyn Bethel. This is supposed to be present in the Kingdom Hall at 124 Columbia Heights. The Bethel was a property on Hins Street 3-17, owned by prominent pastor Henry Ward Beecher, it was a residence for Jehovah & # 39; s Witness staff

There were a number of pools at Brooklyn Bethel. This is supposed to be present in the Kingdom Hall at 124 Columbia Heights. The Bethel was a property on Hins Street 3-17, owned by prominent pastor Henry Ward Beecher, it was a residence for Jehovah & # 39; s Witness staff

There were a number of pools at Brooklyn Bethel. This is supposed to be present in the Kingdom Hall at 124 Columbia Heights. The Bethel was a property on Hins Street 3-17, owned by prominent pastor Henry Ward Beecher, it was a residence for Jehovah & # 39; s Witness staff

The new staff residence in Brooklyn Heights was called Bethel. It was a building on Hins Street 3-17, owned by the prominent pastor Henry Ward Beecher. The former home of Beecher, located at 124 Columbia Heights, was also purchased by the group.

Thousands of witnesses from all over the United States came to volunteer at Bethel.

The former Jehovah's Witness, Amber Scorah, told Gothamist: I think that much of the reason why thousands of young Jehovah's witnesses worked voluntarily for (almost) no payment at Bethel was because it meant that you had to live in New York City. & # 39;

She added that the & # 39; was absolutely disapproved for Witnesses & # 39; who worked there to deal with the outside world except to preach.

Moving from Brooklyn Heights and filling the tunnels

In 2016, the Jehovah's Witnesses paid the city about $ 80,000 in total rent for the tunnels.

In that year, in preparation for a move upstairs, the religious group began unloading their properties in Brooklyn Heights.

At the beginning of 2017, according to emails from The Gothamist, Watchtower architect David Bean informed the DOT that the tunnels would be filled after discussions with potential buyers, as stated in Bean's emails.

At the beginning of 2017, Watchtower architect David Bean informed the DOT, according to e-mails from The Gothamist that the tunnels would be filled, after discussions with potential buyers, as stated in e-mails from Bean

At the beginning of 2017, Watchtower architect David Bean informed the DOT, according to e-mails from The Gothamist that the tunnels would be filled, after discussions with potential buyers, as stated in e-mails from Bean

At the beginning of 2017, Watchtower architect David Bean informed the DOT, according to e-mails from The Gothamist that the tunnels would be filled, after discussions with potential buyers, as stated in e-mails from Bean

By October 2017, Bean insisted on confirmation that the city had filled one of the tunnels.

& # 39; This becomes rather critical as it relates to the sale of the adjacent 15-storey building on 21 Clark Street, & # 39; Bean wrote.

The DOT representative then confirmed the deactivation of the tunnel.

The building was sold for $ 200 million to Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors, a private equity firm that has plans to use it for & # 39; luxury senior housing & # 39 ;.

21 Clark St, a former hotel, and one of the many properties of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn Heights

21 Clark St, a former hotel, and one of the many properties of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn Heights

21 Clark St, a former hotel, and one of the many properties of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn Heights

The tunnels are filled through a metal hatch with double doors on the Columbia Heights sidewalk.

Openings and cameras were installed at the end of each tunnel to follow the casting progress.

E-mails between the DOT and the Jehovah's Witnesses show how the tunnels are hydraulically filled with & # 39; sand and sealed with a steel barrier or concrete wall, depending on the potential for corrosion. & # 39;

According to the documents obtained, four of the tunnels are filled, ie the passages connecting 97 Columbia Heights with 107 Columbia Heights, 107 Columbia Heights with 124 Columbia Heights, 124 Columbia Heights with 119 Columbia Heights and 86 Willow Street with 77- 79 Willow Street , also known as 21 Clark Street.

It is not known whether the first & # 39; Squibb tunnel & # 39; is filled.

The Public Information Office of Jehovah & # 39; s Witnesses did not comment on how and why the tunnels were built.

The new headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses is a 1.6 million square meter headquarters in Warwick, New York. According to the website, it was & # 39; expensive to operate and maintain the facilities in Brooklyn & # 39 ;.

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