Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mapping the African American Past

Jacob Morris pointed out a great website hosted by Columbia called MAAP— Mapping the African American Past. Here is part of their entry for Abolitionist Place in Downtown Brooklyn:

In the 1800s the harbor nearby was one of the busiest in the world. Hundreds of ships loaded with cotton or tobacco from the South came and went. The ships also carried stowaways bent on stealing their own freedom. Other runaways were brought here by conductors of the Underground Railroad, such as the famed Harriet Tubman. They all found shelter in the neighborhood’s churches and safe houses. In addition, they were given food and clothing collected by local women’s organizations.

There are many interesting tools on the site! It is especially useful for teachers since it includes lesson plans.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Quest for "it": The 227 Abolitionist Place Benefit

The Quest for "it" has a bold-name run-down of the Duffield St. fundraiser on Feb. 29:

The evening was attended by loyal supporters such as Brooklyn based Designer Sena, Historic reservationist Julie M. Finch, and Jumbie Records Partner Raul Rothblatt among others. Libations led by Activist and Author Nana Camille Yarbrough, and Author/Radio Personality Sister Olyade Stokes included thanks and prayer for the ability to be present, and to take part in the recognition of and preservation of African American culture. Words of wisdom were also imparted by guest speakers. Noteworthy speeches came from Activist and Author Kevin Powell (see photo far right), Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Fort Green Councilwoman Letitia James, and of course Joy Chatel herself (see photo, center). Other highlights included a riveting film short entitled Brooklyn's First Subway: The Underground Railroad, which cataloged Ms. Chatel's process in saving the historic site as well as live performances ranging from spoken word to dance.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's not unusual: NY screwing you

What's surprising about the governor getting caught with his pants down is that they've been down for so long. Of course, if Spitzer can spend his own family's money on prostitutes, what do you think he's been doing with yours? If he makes those sorts of deals with his personal finances and as a father, why do you think he will do any better with other people's money?

Spitzer's style of government is not new, and he's pretty much followed an important part of the governing style of the previous administration. New York has the most dysfunctional state government in the country (see the PDF of the Brennan report here). While Spitzer's personal foibles may not have cost the tax payers money, his failures as the leader of the state did cost real money- and real lives.

One thing Spitzer may have learned from our state government is to use shell companies. This is what happened in the disaster known as the World Trade Center clean-up. Our state government, in cooperation with our city government, showed fine partnership by hiring shell companies to hire mob-related companies to dismantle the Deutsche Bank building. The result was not only embarrassing delays, but a fire that cost the lives of two of New York's Bravest.

In the case of the Atlantic Yards, the state is using made-up community groups whose only function is sign on to the supposed "Community" "Benefits" "Agreement." These are shell organizations whose main purpose (this is my own opinion and does not represent the views of all who support 227 Abolitionist Place) is to take real money from the taxpayers and give it to a private developer.

In the case of the Downtown Brooklyn Environmental Impact Statement, the problem was a shell government. The city hired AKRF for its environmental review, and when their own experts concluded that there was powerful evidence of Underground Railroad activity on Duffield, the City simply ignored the experts. They decided to stay in their own fantasy land.

There is so much fantasy in all of this. Spitzer's sexual fantasies haven't cost the taxpayers too much money, but his administration's hiring of the John Galt Corporation did. You might think that our state government would think twice about hiring a company with no track record, especially since it was named after a fictional character thought up by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged.

I once thought that a spectacular disaster at the World Trade Center clean up site would spur New Yorkers to look more carefully at our state government. It did not. But now that all eyes are on Albany, I hope more people realize that Spitzer represents government as usual in this state.

It is time to start demanding real action in Albany. While Spitzer was off on his dalliances, he forgot to work on real reform. I would like to see our governor (whoever that is) work on eminent domain reform. Almost every other state in this country (42 out of 50, according to the Castle Coalition) has tried to limit the state's power to take property from one individual and give it to a preferred individual.

Spitzer's rule has been a huge disappointment, to put it mildly. But at least we can thank him for his novel way of bringing attention to Albany.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

NY Times: Discussing an Underground Railroad museum

The New York Times continues its coverage of the Underground Railroad home on West 29th Street in Manhattan. They published "Retracing the Elusive Footsteps of a Secretive History" on 2/24, and today they published a Letter to the Editor. Here's an excerpt:

In considering the Underground Railroad, people often look at the intake states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, New York’s role was not only vital but has been often overlooked in the city’s history.

New York was a jumping-off hub. Once escapees reached New York, they could often make a single jump to Canada, on boats going up the Hudson River, or even occasionally on trains.

A museum of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad here would be a welcome tool in teaching tolerance, and a way of illustrating that some New Yorkers reached across barriers of intolerance to help others, at great risk.

For the full letter, click here. Our previous coverage can be found here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

New Duffield Street photos

Dana L. Oliver has blogged about 227 Duffield here, and included a new slideshow with the first published photos of the Duffield fundraiser on 2/29. For more photos, click here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Glassy new retail-condo rises on Duffield

In addition to the three hotels rising on Duffield Street between Fulton and Willoughby, other developments are shooting up. Brownstoner reports:

The plan to bring a 600,000-square-foot development to Fulton Street is apparently moving forward. In recent weeks, developer United American Land has filed air rights agreements in city records for the block bounded by Fulton, Duffield, Willoughby and Bridge streets.
As usual, most comments to the post are not worth reading, though one person makes an important observation:
What you don't see in this rendering is the huge tower that will rise on the Willoughby side of this site.
Click here to read "Glassy New Retail-Condo in the Works Downtown."
Curbed picked up on the story, and says the rendering "looks like the Apple cube."

Downtown Brooklyn Housing Sizzle Fizzling?

Curbed reports on questions regarding the Downtown Brooklyn boom:

Is the much hyped Downtown Brooklyn housing boom fizzling? The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which is often exceptionally bullish on development in the borough reports that "construction of market-rate condominiums and below-market apartments has fallen far short of earlier predictions." The paper looked at 58 projects listed with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, accounting for $9.6 billion in investment. It found that of 5,285 market rate condos planned, about 1,400 have come on the market and about half of them are still listed for sale.
For the full Curbed post, click here.

To read the Eagle article, click here.