Undergound RR: Consultants Caught In Another Lie

231-235duffield.jpg
The latest in a series of holes-you-could-drive-a-truck-through in the credibility of the ESDC-sponsored report that made the case against preserving the row of houses on Duffield Street with credible links to the Underground Railroad in Brooklyn? The consultants hacks who wrote the report, AKRF, claimed that the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had ruled that the houses were not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places when in fact the Office had never been asked to make determination. According to a press release from City Council Member Letitia James, the only contact AKRF ever had with SHPO was an information request about whether the state agency had anything existing in their files about the Duffield Street houses; the consultants misrepresented a negative response to this question as an explicit rejection of the houses’ eligibility. As a result of the purposefully misleading actions, James has called for a halt to any proceedings relating to the seizure of the properties through eminent domain. In the meantime, as we understand it, anyone wanting to put a statement on record with HPD has until May 30.
Underground Railroad Hearing Set For Tomorrow [Brownstoner] GMAP

47 Comment

  • I really wish Letitia could find something useful to do for us.

  • yeah, because preserving a great piece of American history that could and should become a tourist attraction is just so…useless.

    Never mind all the rest she does.

  • 9:27, I’m sure if she spent every waking moment doing whatever it is you want her to be doing, you’d still complain. Tish James is one of this city’s most effective politicians, whether you like her or not.

  • exactly 9:32.

    plus, akrf seems to have a major stranglehood on these types of consulting engagements throughout the city. i wish i knew why that was. they probably fit into the woman/minority thing, but beyond that, would is it? i’m sick of seeing their name on just about every major report (eis, etc.). it kind of makes people who would consider going into that consulting field, and who live in the city, think that the only place that would have jobs available would be akrf. and who would want to work for them. and would they even give you one?

  • Tish James’s obsession with trying to stop development is ridiculous. I’m glad that she’ll soon be out of office.

  • anon 9:46- could you put that in intelligible terms- that women/minority thing? You know, so we know you at least had a 4th grade education?

  • Tish James for Mayor

  • 10:14, what i meant was that i believe, but am not sure, that they are either a certified woman-owned or minority-owned business. i was referring to the fact that on major public contracts, from planning, design to construction, there are certain set-asides or goals established for the utilization of these types of firms. having been the owner of a “certified” firm in one of those two designations for the past 10 years, i think i have a pretty good understanding of the some (but not all) of the complexities and politics behind the decisions by city agencies to go with one firm or another on projects of the types akrf gets involved (although, to be honest, i do understand them to be more than just a planning firm).

    i guess i was kind of lazy in how i phrased my comment and questions: which is, how is that they have ALL the work (i exaggerate, but it seems that way to me)? and yes i have at least a 4th grade education. dropped out at 5th, but that’s whole ‘nother story.

    and, by the way, i am a firm believer in the concept of creating opportunties for small and disadvantaged businesses in public contracting. i’ve benefitted from it (but, lacking the political savvy i admit i haven’t exactly prospered the way other firms have).

  • 10:14, I think that 9:46 was implying that AKRF gets so many of these jobs because it is a minority or woman owned business eligible for contract preferences. Don’t know if that is true, although I do know that there work is highly respected by government officials. Ironic, I know, given the errors in this study and the FEIS for Atlantic Yards.

    Oh, and not to get all semantic on ya 9:40, but Tish James is NOT one of this city’s most effective politicians. She may be one of the city’s strongest advocates, or most moral, or whatever you think. But effective means that she accomplishes her goals, and she hasn’t.

  • Tish James has been a tireless supporter of issues that affect the everyday people in this borough. She has fought for keeping firehouses open, and keeping development deals above board, and trying to make sure that those who feel disenfranchised from the system get a voice. She’s worked to get rid of the brothel on Lefferts place, and to help clean up Clinton Hill drug spots. That’s just a few projects that have been in Brownstoner’s blog.

    I am not her staff member or her mother, I don’t even particularly like or trust most of our politicians, but Tish James has impressed me for her seemingly tireless pursuit of the things that are of interest and importance to her constituents. Of course there are some that won’t be happy. But considering the size and complexity of diversity amongst those constituents, she’s amazing. If anyone thinks they can do or be better, they are welcome to run for office.

  • so let me get this straight. the SME FIRM is hired to conduct seemingly flawed studies for both Atlantic Yards and the Underground Railroad Safehouses.

    And both projects involve the use of eminent domain.

    And in both projects the ‘flawed’ studies paved the way for the destruction of these properties and the forced takeover of individual citizen’s properties?

    Is there a correlation here or am I just mis-reading the facts?

  • not this property but across street from is this mention of development in NYPost today-
    http://www.nypost.com/seven/05242007/news/regionalnews/bklyn_biz_is_razing_big_stink_regionalnews_rich_calder.htm

    As to issue of this site- it is difficult to consider possibilities and realities. You do have to wonder why all this outcry now about the significance when for decades a dreary commercial street. Someone mentioned a potential ‘tourist attraction’. How likely and viable is that? (as where would this money come from and do you really think it can take in money after 1st year). With all the historical sites in NYC, how often do you folks visit them? Is there a more documented and significant example of underground railroad that exists in NYC now that would be better site for some sort of museum site.
    I guess I’m weary of can’t touch anything because of connection to history – or because ‘sacred ground’ a.k.a. WTC.

  • 10:31, there is only so much any politician, or for that matter, any other citizen, can do when the deck is stacked so firmly against you. I don’t see the war in Iraq ending anytime soon, for example. Considering politics tends to draw the more egotistical and power hungry among us, it’s a welcome change to see someone who is actually out there pounding the pavement, no matter how effective some may perceive her to be. Better to tilt against windmills, than sit in your office being wooed by lobbyists all day.

  • If the Underground Railroad Safehouses are indeed legitimate and part of the abolitionist movement, I believe there would be some historical draw for tourists. Especially if we tied these safehouses to lets say a tour of the homes in Weeksville that were a part of “the second largest known independent African American community in pre-Civil War America” (quote from http://www.weeksvillesociety.org/node/3)

  • I agree with 10:41. How many people here have ever visited any of these sites?

    http://www.heritageny.gov/Maps/mapNysUR.cfm?topic=ur

    There’s also the fact that the report says that they are NOT underground railroad sites. I would think people interested in preserving history would be interested in the truth.

  • “the second largest known independent African American community in pre-Civil War America”

    So it’s quite likely that some of the runaway slaves that went through the Underground Railroad Safehouses (if they are legitimate safehouses) eventually settled in the Weeksville community of freed African Americans (before slavery was abolished).

  • 10:41 … preserving an important part of our nation’s history does not require that it become a “tourist attraction” or that there be a return on the investment towards that preservation. we want it to be a public place, and possibly (i say possibly) self-supporting. but, ultimately, we preserve it because it is part of who we are as a nation, a reminder of our past. and, in this case, a hidden part of our past, which makes it even more important preserve. we live in a time where an awful lot of people need to be reminded of the roots of our national identity. you can’t put a price on something like that. economically, it probably makes far more sense to develop it. what’s ultimately done says a lot about our priorities as a city.

    and, by the way, i think the undeground railroad example is quite different in signifcance from the WTC site (no offense to the families here … but it just is).

  • Tish James rules.

  • but it hasn’t yet been established that the report that AKRF submitted was ‘the truth’. In fact, many people see a whole slew of inconsistencies. Some have even argued that facts and testimonials that were included in the initial interviews were ‘deleted’ from the final report.

  • but it hasn’t yet been established that the report that AKRF submitted was ‘the truth’. In fact, many people see a whole slew of inconsistencies. Some have even argued that facts and testimonials that were included in the initial interviews were ‘deleted’ from the final report.

  • How about the fact that it’s ugly…Would a beautiful midrise glass condo look great there??

  • please get this straight – these buildings are proposed to be demolished for an underground parking garage for the nearby hotel. Trying to save them is not standing in the way of progress – it’s standing in the way of community-destroying.

  • BRAVO, Anon 10:56 (“preserving an important part of our nation’s history does not require that it become a “tourist attraction” or that there be a return on the investment”). Beautifully put, very true, and incomprehensible to the turn-a-quick-buck crowd. The Post link, however, activates my few pro-development molecules; the endangered little businesses on Duffield between Bridge and Willoughby are an underwhelming lot, with the notable exception of Bagel Guys, who are wonderful.

  • I hope Bagel Guys can find a nearby spot to relocate. I’d hate to see them go, but the rest of that block is kind of a mess.

  • Bravo, encora, to 10:56, from me as well. Well said. The WTC site is another argument altogether, and is much more complex, especially since it involves so very much money, and as we know, vast sums of money can supercede good taste, good sense, history and morality eight days a week.

    Brenda, I tend to agree with you more often than not, and love your sense of humor. I think downtown could use some judicious development, but some kind of reconpense or break needs to be given to viable small businesses that have been in an area for years, and have often been the only thing in that area that has prevented it from looking like a ghost town. They may be underwhelming, but they are someone’s life dream and work, and small business employers, and businesses that serve a need for someone, or they wouldn’t still be there. Kicking someone to the curb with only a month or two’s notice is just wrong.

    I’m all for making Brooklyn a first class city in every way, but I’m getting more and more disheartened by the sheer savagery in the way it is being done. Our shared history, livelihoods and very homes are being bulldozed into oblivion in the name of progress.

  • Bagel Guys should move to Fulton Street in Clinton Hill, they’ll make a killing.

    Bstoner – you should plant the seed for them…

  • former mayor-wannabe Ruth Messenger (remember her? a real red-diaper baby)
    wanted to impose commercial rent control.That would be a way to preserve small businesses forever, even after they stopped being any good. This was a serious discussion in the city not too long ago. No wonder we voted for a republican governor and two republican mayors in a row.

  • Unfortunately, 10:56, you can put a price on preserving history … it’s called heat, insurance, maintenance, etc. That’s why house museums and other tourist attractions are created, to generate the revenue needed for upkeep.

  • “Some have even argued that facts and testimonials that were included in the initial interviews were ‘deleted’ from the final report.”

    Doesn’t that constitute supression of evidence and tampering with court documents?

  • If all of us created a company, we could use someone elses money to target these developers’ families homes and property for eminent domain, or we could encourage blight where they live.

    There’s no other way to actually fight back against this sort of things unless you have the same capital to put into it. The only real alternative is to focus on legislation that removes the ability for this kind of eminent domain to happen. Battle by battle, these developers disperse and wear out their opponents until the community at large take these developer rights for granted.

  • Tish James is useless. She’s great at yelling, screaming, and raising her fist, but has accomplished very little for her district. Hopefully the next council member will be better.

  • Regardless of what you think about Tish James, this isn’t even her district! Where is David Yassky in this? Great that he pushed for hybrid cabs, but what about helping some of his own constituents?

  • Tish is amazing! I admire her courage and commitment to her constituents. She’ll continue to get my vote everytime.

  • david yassky’s probably thinks he should be in washington, not brooklyn any more.

  • I’m one of her constituents. Commitment to what? Can’t wait for her replacement.

  • I’m one of her constituents, too (not by choice, since I did not vote for her). She refuses to accept that her district is changing and acts as though she’s back in the 60s. Furthermore, all of the high-rise developments she’s opposed have been built or will be built anyway, so what good has all of her yelling accomplished? Bye-bye, Tish! Hope you’re more qualified for your next job.

  • Tish has integrity. I’ll vote for her anyday.

  • I’m not a Tish fan. Tish negotiated a “slap on the wrist” sweetheart deal for the hotel/brothel owner on Lefferts Place. In that case, she sold out the entire community. The hotel is still open for business as usual, albeit a little more discrete. She could’ve taken a strong and firm moral stance against the hotel but when the time came for her stand for justice and “family values” she cowered and gave the hotel a free one year pass. I think Ms. James’ heart is in the right place but she certainly does not have the fight in her. She’s not a closer!

  • David Yasky is a putz.
    He’s available for purchase or lease.

  • I walked down this block last evening.
    Hard to imagine you entice or interest too many people with this as an historic site. What are you going to do? Say, maybe some fugitive slaves seeking freedom were harbored here? Not like place is going to have anything from that period. Block is anything but pleasant.

  • remember, these houses aren’t just about fugitive slaves. They’re also about the abolitionists, people who sacrificed and placed their welfare on the line to help another human being when they really didn’t have to.

    The abolitionists and runaway slaves transcended the barriers of race and class; they found a common ground to work towards a common cause for the betterment of society. I think they serve as a great role model for current day Brooklyn.

    Downtown Brooklyn, Forte Greene and Clinton Hill were the homes to many abolitionists and there are rumors that a network of tunnels can be found throughout these neighborhoods.

    I wonder if there are any records of abolitionists on Duffield street in the Weekesville records (if there are any) or in some of the historical newspaper archives.

  • oops…meant to write Fort Greene

  • Let’s replace Tish James ASAP. As one of her constituents and former tenant (yes she does own property and treats her tenants like crap), she is not at all for the disenfranchised. She absolutely does not practice what she preaches. I initially supported her based on her rhetoric, gave her the benefit of the doubt, but not only does this POLITICIAN provide un-affordable, decrepit housing, but she also had the audacity to berate us when we signed a petition to get another candidate on the ballot. She marched up to our apartment (2F) and demanded to know why we signed a petition that would allow another candidate to run against her. I suppose she was that threatened by this gentleman and democracy took a back seat. I do hope she finds a job in which she’s able to realize some success, perhaps replacing Rosie on the View…doing what she does best, blowing a lot of hot air.

  • speaking of underground tunnels, did you know that there was an atlantic ave. tunnel? It was considered urban myth for a long time. Check it out:
    http://www.nyc24.org/2003/issue2/story1/
    http://www.andrewraff.com/weblog/2002/11/19_tunnel_vision.php

  • check out this continuing drama. Put up some $$ and you can carry out the anti-eminent domain, build your own museum fight.
    http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=27&id=13110

  • I am one of the home owners on Duffield street.1.AKRF took 6 hours of my oral history this was 60 pages of type writen testomoney and not one word was attributed to me in that report from my oral History
    2. there was ablack jeweler who rented a store in the building at 233 Duffield street he decovered artifact atributed to the underground railroad his Jewelry shop was called FUN JEWELRY AKRF changed fun to Joker Jewelry and then said there is no such shop at 233 duffield street that is one of hundreds of errors that AKRF put into there 500,000 dollar pack of untruths
    3. they said there were no abolitionist who lived on the block Walt whitman lived on the block he was aknown abalishonist
    4. they said there were no known abolisonistic activities on the block
    Reverend peck,The Tappen brother, Frances loyd Garrison and the Truesdale all known abolishist met at 229 duffield street durring pre civil war period. Check it out!
    need I go on further? check it out for your self
    Just remember no one in NYS is safe from Eminent Domain Abuse where a developer can get any municapality to take your property for develpment without your permission
    check it out!
    don’t have to believe me
    New york Stare has been given a rating of “F” by the Castle coalition a national non for profit foundation who monitors eminent domain abuse in the USA
    check it out!
    there are 41 state who have taken steps to lesson the abuse under eminent domain New york is one of nine who did not. and they are considered theworst affender check it out!

  • I am one of the home owners on Duffield street.1.AKRF took 6 hours of my oral history this was 60 pages of type writen testomoney and not one word was attributed to me in that report from my oral History
    2. there was ablack jeweler who rented a store in the building at 233 Duffield street he decovered artifact atributed to the underground railroad his Jewelry shop was called FUN JEWELRY AKRF changed fun to Joker Jewelry and then said there is no such shop at 233 duffield street that is one of hundreds of errors that AKRF put into there 500,000 dollar pack of untruths
    3. they said there were no abolitionist who lived on the block Walt whitman lived on the block he was aknown abalishonist
    4. they said there were no known abolisonistic activities on the block
    Reverend peck,The Tappen brother, Frances loyd Garrison and the Truesdale all known abolishist met at 229 duffield street durring pre civil war period. Check it out!
    need I go on further? check it out for your self
    Just remember no one in NYS is safe from Eminent Domain Abuse where a developer can get any municapality to take your property for develpment without your permission
    check it out!
    don’t have to believe me
    New york Stare has been given a rating of “F” by the Castle coalition a national non for profit foundation who monitors eminent domain abuse in the USA
    check it out!
    there are 41 state who have taken steps to lesson the abuse under eminent domain New york is one of nine who did not. and they are considered theworst affender check it out!