In 2007, a brick building in Downtown Brooklyn with a connection to the abolitionist movement was saved from eminent domain. Now, in a shocking twist, it might be demolished.
This just in via press release: The lawsuit filed by South Brooklyn Legal Services on behalf of Joy Chatel, owner of 227 Duffield Street, has ended in a settlement with the city that will spare the brick building in Downtown Brooklyn from seizure and destruction through eminent domain. Since the city announced its intentions to build an underground garage on the site of the 1848 building back in 2004, it’s been the source of great controversy: The owner, as well as many politicians and historians, has argued that its connection to the Underground Railroad in the 19th Century. As part of the settlement, the city has agreed to redo its plans for this section of the Downtown Brooklyn development plan. Chatel plans to offer tours of the home upon request. There will be a press conference on Monday at noon at the house. Surprised at the outcome?
The Duffield Eminent Domain Battle Continues [Brownstoner]
City Reevaluating Duffield St. Eminent Domain Plan [Brownstoner]
HPD OK’s Seizure of Duffield St. Homes [Brownstoner]
Abolition Panel a Salve for Duffield Street Concerns? [Brownstoner]
Duffield Preservationists Fight Back with Lawsuit [Brownstoner]
In one of the bigger disses we’ve seen recently, Landmarks Preservation Commission head Robert Tierney sent an “unusually prompt and decisive” letter (reproduced on the jump) to the president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy indicating that LPC would not support the preservation of 227, 231 and 233 Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The buildings have been the subject of an ongoing struggle between preservationists who argue that they should be saved because of their role Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad and the city which wants to seize them via eminent domain to tear them down to make way for a hotel parking lot. Tierney doesn’t even suggest any intermediate steps like pushing for more research or documentation or suggesting the houses be moved to an alternate site. What’s his solution? A plaque. “I believe the commemoration of the important role Brooklyn has played in the history of abolitionism will be better served by the program of memorialization referenced by EDC and the City Council than by preserving the thee building,” he wrote. Isn’t LPC supposed to be a non-political group? Sounds to us like Bloomberg’s got Tierney by the balls on this one.
LPC Rebuffs Underground Railroad Houses [Gowanus Lounge]
Undergound RR: Consultants Caught In Another Lie [Brownstoner]
LPC Head Tries To Save Underground RR Site [Brownstoner]
When it rains Duffield Street news, it pours…and this is stuff you can’t make up. According to a Brooklyn Eagle article at the end of last week, 227 Duffield Street, home to one of the most advocates of Underground Railroad crusade, Joy Chatel, has been put on the market by for $4.5 million. How did we get here? Well, in 2004, Chatel signed the deed over to her mother, Arnelda Monroe, who in turn sold a 50 percent interest in the building to investor Errol Bartholomew in 2005 to avoid foreclosure. Chatel told the Eagle that her lawyer, Angelyn Johnson, listed the property three weeks ago without her knowledge. The mother wants it sold, said Johnson. At this point they’ll do anything because they’re kind of in a pickle. Foreclosure perhaps? To cap it all off, Johnson was charged with fraud in February by the Queens DA and is under investigation for other frauds. Nice. BTW, click on the GMAP icon and check out the new Street View feature that lets you do a 360-degree pan of the street. In this case, it’s a great way to get a feel for layout on Duffield Street (which Google calls Oratory Place).
Alleged Underground RR Home On Market for $4.5 Million [Brooklyn Eagle] GMAP
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
The clock is ticking over on Duffield Street, where the city wants to use eminent domain to seize several houses with strong connections to the Underground Railroad of the 19th Century in order to create a parking lot and public plaza. To review, the ESDC hired consulting firm AKRF to produce a report refuting preservationists’ claims that slaves were once spirited through tunnels (like this one in Lewis Greenstein’s basement) in the basements of the houses at numbers 223 through 235 Duffield Street. The report’s flaws have been reported ad nauseum, to the point that it’s hard to believe the city hasn’t just tossed it in the garbage. All the controversy will come to a head tomorrow at a HPD hearing at the Klitford Auditorium of City College of Technology at 285 Jay Street at 10 am. Those fighting to save the houses are seeking prominent historians and African American leaders to assist in the cause. Anyone interested in helping or testifying can contact Barbara Skinner at barbara_skinner AT hotmail DOT com.
Photo by no land grab