Howe’s Brooklyn: Memories of the Bossert Hotel
The imminent return of the Bossert Hotel brings back recent memories of the 1970s, when there were still eight hotels operating within the small historic district called Brooklyn Heights.
That included the Bossert itself, which was operated by an elegant, old-world European who struggled to retain the dignity of the Bossert name in the face of decline in occupancy.
Indeed, the Bossert was the only one of the eight that refused to take New York City’s SRO (Single Room Occupancy) welfare tenants. The other seven — the Montague at 105 Montague St., the Pierrepont at 55 Pierrepont St., the Standish Harbor View on Columbia Heights, the Margaret at 97 Columbia Heights, the Standish Arms at 66 Orange St., the Towers at Clark and Willow streets and the famous Hotel St. George at Clark and Henry streets — each suffered greater declines in revenue and reputation than the Bossert. And all fell into other hands, other uses.
A number of the eight hotels were purchased over a decade and a half by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — the Jehovah’s Witnesses. First, the Towers, then the rebuilt Margaret following a spectacular fire, then the Standish Harbor View on Columbia Heights, and finally, the Bossert. The sale of the Bossert to a private development group signaled the unparalleled retreat of Watchtower presence in Brooklyn Heights. This is an evacuation that continues today and remains the largest single landlord turnover ever seen in Brooklyn Heights.
Of the original eight hotels, three still remain in Watchtower hands and are, presumably, part of the inevitable retreat by Watchtower interests to Upstate New York.
The loss of hard-working, God-fearing neighbors notwithstanding, New York City benefits from transfers of Watchtower properties back onto the tax rolls. It is projected that the renovated Bossert Hotel in private enterprise pursuits will be a plus for Downtown Brooklyn. The watchdog neighbors from the Brooklyn Heights Association will no doubt monitor noise and traffic impact. A new rooftop restaurant will need to work hard to bring to mind the romantic Bossert Marine Roof supper club of the mid-20th century, but even if it does not, it will certainly get huge support from Brooklyn Heights and beyond for its view alone. If the food is great, it might rival River Café … (well, not really). But it will be a welcome part of the amazing cycle of growth and rebirth that is still happening in Brooklyn.