Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dissolving businesses in the name of economic development

In order to promote business, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is displacing businesses. Today's example comes from 223 Duffield Street, where A&B Distributors have been thrown into uncertainty. The EDC has bought their building, and now this long-standing enterprise must pay its "occupancy fee ("rent")" to the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). Of course, since the EDC is so good at economic development, it has not told this business how long it will hold this business in limbo before demolishing the building.

This is all part of the Downtown Brooklyn Rezoning— neighborhood activists have accused the EDC of displacing entrepreneurs and long-time residents without any sort of compensation or plan. A&B Distributors are guilty of several sins, according to critics, since it is both an independent bookstore, and its focus is on African-American literature.

Download a PDF of the letter from HPD here.

This is a video of the proprietor of A&E Distributors:

You can see the same video by clicking here.

Oh, and what does the EDC report from spring of 2007 have to say about this property built around 1847? Below is an excerpt from Appendix B of the EDC report on Duffield, a section submitted by A.J. Williams-Myers, a professor from SUNY-New Paltz and member of the New York State Freedom Trail Commission:

With what Ms. Chatel and Mr. Greenstein have shared, both orally and in a tour of their buildings, as well as the building at 223 Duffield Street, I now need to modify my “no Underground Railroad connection,” and instead indicate a high probability of an Underground Railroad/Abolitionism/Antislavery connection. The Duffield Street buildings, along with the one on Gold Street, are not only situated in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, adjacent to what were known establishments in the Underground Railroad movement, like the African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church on Bridge Street, but 227 Duffield Street housed the Truesdell family which, because of their associations, put them “solidly within the Antislavery inner sanctum.” I left the Duffield Street buildings having been touched by what I saw and upon that which I stood. I saw what indeed may have been the very secreted, below-ground facilities used by those in search of freedom far from the brutal hand of American slavery. And it was the brave souls of the building owners who put their own lives in jeopardy in order to ensure the life and freedom of fellow human beings. I truly stood on ground where humanity joined together against inhumanity.
We hope to provide more information about the historical significance of this building in the coming weeks.