Sunday, October 25, 2009

Voice: Duffield St. is "Best Argument Against Eminent Domain"

The Village Voice published its list of the Best of NYC in their October 21, 2009 issue. Here is what they say on page 26.

Argument Against Eminent Domain
As part of the city's revitalization plans for Brooklyn, an eminent domain notice (seizing property for economic development) was served at a downtown building in January 2004- but the city picked the wrong people to mess with. Owner Joy Chatel fought to preserve 227 Duffield Street. Getting help from (among others) activist Raul Rothblatt, she beat back the threat in 2007. They weren't just fighting for a piece of property, but also a piece of history- the building was home to well known abolitionists and noted by historians as being part of the Underground Railroad. The Duffield collective is raising money to turn the building into a museum, which could become quite an attraction. The fight with the city hasn't ended though: Surrounding buildings, which also have abolitionist history, have been bought up by the city for hotel construction or are under threat of eminent domain. Though they'd like to work with the city, Rothblatt insists that the Duffield group will "fight to the end, promoting and protecting the property."

The Voice ends up by giving a link to this blog- Thanks!

Bk Eagle: Abolitionist History in Brooklyn Gets Fed Grants

The Brooklyn Eagles reports about new support for Abolitionist history in "Project To Commemorate Abolitionist History in Brooklyn Gets Federal Grants":

The Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS), the Weeksville Heritage Center and Irondale Ensemble Project have been chosen to receive two major federal grants to fund their joint project “In Pursuit of Freedom,” a multifaceted program that memorializes the history of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad in Brooklyn.

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education’s Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program has awarded BHS $936,000; and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded $400,000 to the program, which was originally announced last year....

These awards complement $2 million already granted by the city in 2008 through a Request for Proposals that was initiated by the Downtown Brooklyn Development Corporation.

The project to commemorate Brooklyn’s abolitionist history stems, at least in part, from a controversy several years ago, over an urban-renewal plan to destroy several 19th century homes on Duffield Street that were reportedly linked to the Underground Railroad. The Duffield Street houses have since been saved.

One of the Duffield Street homes, number 227, was spared in a settlement with the city in 2007. Its owner, Joy Chatel, pledged to continue giving tours of her home and using it as a center where people can learn about the Underground Railroad and abolitionist activity in Brooklyn. Another known Underground Railroad site in Brooklyn is the former Bridge Street A.W.M.E. Church building, now part of Polytechnic University....

All aspects of the project will utilize historic artifacts and documents held by the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Among these are a rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln; original letters written by Henry Ward Beecher and fellow abolitionist William Wilson; propaganda tracts; numerous slave bills of sale; as well as newspapers, anti-slavery pamphlets from the 1840s; and early photographs of the people and places crucial to the story.

To read the original article, click here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Abolitionist homes saved!!

The Underground Railroad homes on West 29th Street in Manhattan have gotten historic protection from the Landmark Preservation Commission. Here is the an excerpt from "Landmark victory for Underground Railroad block" published in Chelsea Now:

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission enthusiastically approved the historic designation of a dozen neighboring buildings on W. 29th St. that played a pivotal role in New York’s abolitionist history.

The Lamartine Place Historic District—which includes a row house that acted as a stop on the Underground Railroad among 12 contiguous properties between Eighth and Ninth Aves.—received unanimous support from the commission, which credited the work of local advocates in pushing for the designation.

“There’s no question that, in my mind, since the first time that this was brought to our attention, there’s an incredibly committed neighborhood group—residents and committed neighbors—who have helped really lead this fight,” said LPC Commissioner Robert Tierney in his remarks, citing the “enormously important history” of the properties. “We live in New York City, and we sometimes don’t see our history as well and as clearly as we should,” he added. “I think this helps clarify that.”

Read more here.