Forgive us if we didn’t celebrate alongside city officials at the ceremonial co-naming of Duffield Street as “Abolitionist Place” on Thursday. We couldn’t get past the irony.
After all, Duffield Street is the same stretch of Downtown where the city plans to demolish a row of historic houses that may in fact be the area’s only link to the fabled Underground Railroad....
In a statement, several City Councilmembers said the co-naming of Duffield Street as Abolitionist Place “supports the homeowners on Duffield Street, and the preservation of their homes.”
It does nothing of the sort. In fact, it allows the Bloomberg Administration to make an empty symbolic gesture that will not stand the test of time.
This is more pessimistic than necessary for a few reason. First of all, the "empty symbolic gesture" that the Brooklyn Papers seem to be referring to is Bloomberg's new panel to "commemorate" Brooklyn Abolitionism- while still moving forward with plans to demolish the Abolitionist homes. But the fact that he was forced to even acknowledge Brooklyn's Abolitionist history represents a vast improvement from three years ago. When was the last time Bloomberg responded like this to protest?
Awareness of the importance of these homes has grown dramatically since the homes were first condemned in 2004. Even six months ago, many newspapers were simply reprinting NYC Economic Development Corporation press releases. In the last few months, there has been a steady stream of media coverage, including front page coverage on AM New York.
The co-naming was the work of the City Council and the community board, and it was supported by every local state elected official. Now, both local Congressional representatives support the Duffield homes: Yvette Clarke has written letters twice, and just this week, Ed Towns has officially joined the fray.
If the pro-Duffield fight was limited to a street co-naming, the Brooklyn Paper pessimism would be warranted. Support for Duffield now ranges from all the Brooklyn papers, every blog, to every level of government (except the Mayor's office). That doesn't mean that this is an easy win, but there are more reasons to be optimistic today than last week.