A Downtown Brooklyn townhouse with ties to the 19th-century abolitionist movement is at the center of a preservation dispute as its owner moves to raze the property.
Demolition plans were filed with the city’s Department of Buildings for the house at 227 Duffield Street in early June, setting off a flurry of activity among preservationists who think the mid-1800s house, believed to be an Underground Railroad stop when owned by prominent abolitionists Thomas and Harriet Lee-Truesdell, is worth saving.
It isn’t the first time the house between Willoughby and Fulton streets has been at the center of debate surrounding its future. In 2007, the property narrowly avoided being seized through eminent domain by the city, who sought the site in order to build the long-planned Willoughby Square Park. (The park, ironically, is now set to honor the area’s abolitionist history with a memorial.) It isn’t the city that’s at the center of the demolition dispute now but, as Brownstoner reports, small-time developer Samiel Hanasab. Hanasad has yet to cop to his plans for the site.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission refused to consider the site for landmarking in the mid-aughts, but is now reviewing a request to evaluate the townhouse as a potential landmark. Councilmember Stephen Levin, whose district includes 227 Duffield Street, supports landmarking the house, as do Assembly member Jo Anne Simon and Rep. Nydia Velázquez.
Meanwhile, a Change.org petition started last week by Brooklyn-based criminal justice nonprofit Circle for Justice Innovations is well on its way to reaching its goal of 1,000 signers. “The property embodies the role Brooklyn and New York City played in the Abolitionist movement at a time when the Fugitive Slave Act was the law of the land,” the petition reads in part. “We cannot allow such an invaluable piece of our history to be erased.”