Developer who wants to raze abolitionist home in Brooklyn says he’ll build a museum in basement

August 19, 2019

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Update 8/19/19: The owner of 227 Duffield Street told Gothamist on Friday that he will build an African American museum in the basement of the property which has ties to the abolitionist movement. Samiel Hanasab, who applied for a demolition permit earlier this summer, told the website: “I have a high respect for African Americans. This project will be in the basement.” The developer did not provide any additional details for the museum.

Despite a series of last-minute preservation attempts after demolition plans for 227 Duffield Street were filed with the city’s Department of Buildings in June, the 19th-century Downtown Brooklyn house with abolitionist ties remains endangered. Gothamist reported that the owner, Samiel Hansab, has filed an application with the Department of Buildings to erect a 13-story mixed-use building in its place. The application is still under review and no permits have been issued, but as Gothamist noted, the best chance of saving the building would be an intervention by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The plans name Architecture + Design Studio as the firm of record and plan for a 125-foot-tall, 25,000 square-foot structure with offices on the ground floor, 21 apartments (one or two per floor), and parking for nearly 100 cars.

As 6sqft previously reported, the house was once home to prominent abolitionists Thomas and Harriet Truesdell and believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. It narrowly escaped being seized by eminent domain during the Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan in 2004.

In September 2007, Duffield Street between Willoughby and Fulton Streets was renamed Abolitionist Place. Plans for the much-anticipated Willoughby Square Park across the street include a memorial to honor the area’s abolitionist history.

Last month, 20 local elected officials signed a letter urging the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider granting the building landmark status and more than 3,000 people signed a petition in support of landmarking.

“With a lack of African American historical sites in Brooklyn, we cannot stop at the installation of statues recognizing historical figures,” the petition read. “We must also work to preserve the physical movements of our ancestors.” The LPC says the request is still under review.

“Like all of America, New York City’s relationship to human slavery is more complicated than commonly taught, but the rise of abolition sentiment and activities in the first half of the 19th century was very important to the eventual demise of slavery in our country,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said to Atlas Obscura. “As a singular reminder of this courageous act of defiance, the Truesdell House at 227 Duffield Street should be protected and preserved so that future generations of New Yorkers can learn the enduring importance of political activism.”

[Via Gothamist]


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