The Jehovah's Witnesses organization is moving forward with its plans to move its world headquarters to the Town of Warwick. As a precursor to that move, the organization has scooped up a piece of nearby Tuxedo real estate that has sat vacant for years.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York — part of the global Watchtower organization — recently purchased the former International Paper building and 50 acres of land on Long Meadow Road for $3.2 million, according to Steve Perfit of the Cushman and Wakefield-Pyramid Brokerage Co., the firm that represented Watchtower in the deal.
That site is about six miles from the International Nickel Co. site in Warwick, where the Jehovah's Witnesses want to relocate from the current headquarters in Brooklyn.
"Our Brooklyn footprint is large, (and) not efficient anymore, and the work we do now is administrative, office-related, there's no industrial component anymore," Watchtower spokesman Richard Devine said. "As a result, it seemed like a good fit to consolidate and create a much more efficient, much more environmentally friendly complex."
Property in two towns
Watchtower intends to use the International Paper property to support construction efforts at the Warwick property it acquired two years ago. Long-term plans for the International Paper property remain unclear.
"It seemed ideally suited for staging a lot of the temporary construction facilities we would need in order to build the site down the road," Devine said. "It seemed like a good fit for us."
International Paper wound down its operations at the 184,900-square-foot facility — part offices and labs and part warehousing and factory floor — in mid-2004, amid layoffs and an overhaul of its product development operations. It's been empty since 2007.
Watchtower has applied to the Warwick Planning Board to demolish two existing buildings on the International Nickel site and build eight new buildings — an administrative office building, four residences, a maintenance building, a vehicle maintenance building and a three-level, partially enclosed parking garage.
The organization also proposes several small outbuildings for recreation, recycling, visitor conveniences and maintenance. The buildings, to be constructed on about 45 of the former International Nickel property's 253 acres, are intended to be sustainable and eco-friendly.
Environmental review process
The proposal is going through the state's environmental review process. Only Warwick officials commented on a draft environmental impact statement during a public comment period that ended Aug. 3, and Watchtower is in the process of answering those comments in a final impact statement.
Since the review process is ongoing, the group has yet to set a target date for when it would move into its new Warwick headquarters.
Should development be approved, that would mean most — if not all — of Watchtower's operations would be located in the Hudson Valley. Watchtower moved all of its printing operations to a facility in Shawangunk in 2004, and also maintains properties in Putnam and Rockland counties.