Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Another Effort to Save Duffield St. Underground Railroad Houses

June 19th, 2007 · 3 Comments

Duffield Street HouseThere are more developments to report in the ongoing saga of the very threatened Underground Railroad buildings on Duffield Street. As reported on Brownstoner and in amNY yesterday, a lawsuit has been against Mayor Bloomberg and the city–which want to take the buidings via eminent domain in order to building an underground parking garage–alleging they failed to fully examine the history of the site. Today, City Council Member John Liu (who represents Flushing among other Queens neighborhoods) is holding a press conference at 1PM. The release says “Experts to Dispute City Report Denying Existence of Underground Railroad Site.” It reads in part:

On Juneteenth – a national celebration that commemorates the end of slavery – elected officials, historic preservationists, and local residents will rally at Duffield Houses to challenge the conclusions of the City’s Economic Development Corporation report, which denies the existence of a historic Underground Railroad site at this location. Many of the nationally-renown expert witnesses who worked on this report will directly repudiate the City’s conclusions – which will now allow a private developer to demolish the Duffield Houses and build a parking lot at the site.

On January 7, 2004, Duffield Street residents found notices taped to front doors informing them that their historic houses would be taken by eminent domain and demolished to make way for a new parking lot. A growing number of historians, archaeologist, and Underground Railroad experts are outraged at the concocted conclusion of the City’s report by a consultant firm unqualified to make such an analysis. Many consider this Underground Railroad site to be hallowed ground and a
vital cultural treasure that should be preserved. The Underground Railroad was the network of people and places in which fugitive slaves sought refuge when escaping from the plantation system in the South.

The event takes place from 1PM-1:30PM at 227 227 Duffield Street (between Fulton & Willoughby).

Related Post:
State Historic Preservation Office Never Contacted About Underground Railroad Houses

Tags: Downtown Brooklyn · Duffield Street · Eminent Domain

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anonymous // Jun 19, 2007 at 7:23 am

    It’s admirable that JLiu cares so much abt the historic houses on Duffield. Strange, though, that half of Flushing is disappearing under his nose, replaced by fedders buildings in concrete lots.


  • 2 Anonymous // Jun 19, 2007 at 7:44 am

    Again, I ask, what is the evidence that the houses are actually “Underground Railroad” houses? The advocates keep calling them that, and they pick apart the City’s commissioned report. But they don’t seem to be doing enough to actually make a case that they are UR houses.

    The fact that a prominent abolitionist lived in one of the 7 houses doesn’t prove anything about the other 6 (let alone that the abolitionist used the 7th as a stop on the UR).

    I’m in favor of proper memorialization and/or preservation if they are indeed part of the Underground Railroad… but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to assume they are.

  • 3 raulism // Jun 20, 2007 at 7:45 am


    You shouldn’t just assume that the homes are (or are not) part of the Underground Railroad.

    Historians hired by and consulted by AKRF/EDC have found these homes to be THE BEST location in New York City for Underground Railroad research. Dr. Cheryl LaRoche, who has researched other potential sites around the country, went further. She says that this is the best potential research site for Underground Railroad activity that she has ever seen.

    AKRF has spent years researching the issue, and many of the historians they hired came to the conclusion that the property should be preserved so that more research can be conducted. Even the AKRF/EDC executive summary admits that more evidence may yet be uncovered.

    I proposed that the burden of proof is on the EDC, and it should be high. They are the ones who want to confiscated these privately owned properties to demolish them to build an underground parking lot.

    I am not disagreeing with you. I just think that the homes should be researched properly. And I don’t think AKRF is capable of doing the job.