Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
On Jan. 3, the Downtown Brooklyn Star published its countdown of the Top 10 Stories of 2007, and Duffield Street even surpassed the Atlantic Yards. They wrote:
#1: City Backs Down on Duffield StreetJoy constantly repeats that this was not just her victory, but a great achievement for everyone involved, including City Hall. There are many people who helped make this happen, including a vigilant press— such as the Downtown Brooklyn Star.
Who says you can't fight City Hall and win? Don't tell that to Joy Chatel, who was in danger of losing her home through eminent domain so that the city could tear it down and build a parking garage. A bad enough situation as it is, but Chatel's was no ordinary home. She, and may others, contend that the home was a stop on the Underground Railroad, run by members of the Abolitionist movement who were active in Downtown Brooklyn. Late in the year the city did an about face, claiming they no longer needed the home and Chatel saved an important piece of history.
Friday, January 4, 2008
"I commend the City for their flexibility. They have shown that it is possible to do development thoughtfully, in a manner that is responsive to community concerns, and with an eye to preserving our history. "
— Jennifer Levy, quoted by the Historic Districts Council
The Historic Districts Council sent out their Best of 2007, a list of notable preservation victories in New York City over the past twelve months, and Duffield Street made the list:
Historic Duffield Street Residence Spared from Eminent Domain Efforts
Sometimes you can catch lighting in a bottle. In 2004, when Joy Chatel learned that her mid-19th century rowhouse at 227 Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn was to be seized for demolition by the City as part of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning plan, she began a tireless campaign to preserve the building against enormous odds. In addition to her personal connection to the historic building, local legend connected the house and its neighbors with the Underground Railroad and the mid-19th Century Abolitionist Movement. Thanks to Joy’s indomitable spirit and ceaseless efforts, she gathered support from a wide array of community members and organizations, as well as out-spoken champions in public official such as Council members Tony Avella, Charles Barron and Letitia James. Thanks to their support, the City sponsored a study of the properties which showed a direct link with prominent Abolitionists and recommended that further research into this important and largely-invisible social history. Finally in December 2007, after years of struggle and two different eminent domain hearings, the City reversed its decision to demolish the home for a parking lot and announced its plan to look into re-use options for the site. Jennifer Levy of South Brooklyn Legal Services, who brought the legal action against the City which resulted in this outcome, put it best when she said “I commend the City for their flexibility. They have shown that it is possible to do development thoughtfully, in a manner that is responsive to community concerns, and with an eye to preserving our history.” We applaud Joy, Jennifer and everyone else involved in the campaign to preserve these houses for their passion, dedication and fortitude, Hopefully, decision-makers will learn from this that flexibility and community concerns are pivotal in guiding appropriate development within our historic city. There are certainly enough opportunities coming up to exercise this new wisdom; from Admiral’s Row to Moynihan Station to (dare we hope?) Atlantic Yards