Demonstrators rally to oppose demolition of historic Downtown abolition house

Dozens of protesters demanded the city preserve the historic townhouse 227 Duffield St., which used to be owned by abolitionists and might have been a stop on teh Underground Railroad.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Protesters rallied last week in opposition to a developer’s scheme to raze a historic Downtown townhouse formerly owned by prominent abolitionists.

The June 25 gathering drew attention to an effort to topple 227 Duffield St. — located between Willoughby and Fulton streets — after owners filed for permits to demolish the mid-19th century home to anti-slavery activists, which may have served escaped slaves as a stop along the Underground Railroad, according to one demonstrator.

“This was America’s first civil rights movement. This was blacks and whites working together to end slavery — and in Brooklyn,” said the Jacob Morris, director of the Harlem Historical Society who came from the distant isle of Manhattan to join the demonstration. “It’s very important to have this consciousness. It’s so easy for people to forget and for history to get lost.”

Abolitionists Thomas and Harriet Lee-Truesdell lived at the three-story townhouse, which sits atop a network of tunnels that once likely hid black families fleeing southern slave catchers, according to Morris.

“Personally, I’m absolutely positive there was an underground railroad there,” said the historian, who got the city to co-name two blocks between Willoughby and Fulton streets “Abolition Place” in 2007.

Current owner Samiel Hanasab bought the property piecemeal from the late Joy Chatel and her family, known locally as “Mama Joy,” who got the city to back down from its plan to raze the structure in 2007.

A contractor for the landlord filed for permits to demolish the building on June 5, and the owner has been busy issuing eviction notices to three tenants, but activists and historians are holding to hope that a review by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will result in a special landmarking designation that would prevent its destruction, and do-gooder group Circle for Justice Innovations is asking locals to sign an online petition supporting the preservation effort.

A lawyer for Hanasab did not return a request for comment by press time.

A lot adjacent to the historic house recently became home to a temporary “pop-up” park being managed by the Economic Development Corporation, which the organization plans to transform into a fully fledged park over the coming years.

The agency is also hosting a competition to erect some sort of abolitionist artwork to accompany the new green space.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Posted 12:00 am, July 30, 2019
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Joe Fodor from Flatbush says:
How many protestors?
July 30, 2019, 10:18 am
Nina from Sunset Park says:
With Bloomberg’s help, NYCs wave of construction has been a brutal hit to the genetic makeup of the streets. Not to mention the wave of gentrification that came after it-
July 30, 2019, 11:21 am
Felicia Reynolds says:
Of course the immigrant who bought it has no appreciation of history!
July 30, 2019, 1:18 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
STFU, Felicia!
July 30, 2019, 2:58 pm
Shamdonkwa Jenkins says:
Tell that RACIST developer that this is not how we do it in this country! If he wants to be like that, he can go back to where he came from!!
July 30, 2019, 5:19 pm
Barry from Kenya says:
STFU, Shamdonkwa! You dumfat jigaboo!
July 30, 2019, 6:35 pm
Lilo says:
Abortion needs to be outlawed.
July 30, 2019, 6:43 pm
Barry from Kenya says:
Lilo needs to be neutered.
July 30, 2019, 7:06 pm
Wheezy Jefferson from UES says:
Al Sharpton for Mt. Rushmore! Sign the petition below
July 31, 2019, 5:43 am
Barry from Kenya says:
STFU, Wheezy! You stoopid jigaboo!
July 31, 2019, 7:07 am
Pro from Downtown Brooklyn says:
Hilarious. Knew this would happen. These people don’t really care. They just read about this on their, “what to be outraged about this week”, blog. I have lived in Downtown Brooklyn for 15 years. Not once have I ever seen a single person taking a picture of this eyesore of a building. Never have I seen a single person taking a moment to appreciate anything about it. No tours come by, no one looks inside. But someone posted something on twitter, so now they’re all outraged. Look at this measly crowd that even showed up to be outraged. Tear it down and put a plaque to commemorate what happened up in whatever takes its place. This could potentially be more parkland for the upcoming willoughby square park. Trust me, that little piece of new parkland would get more use and attention in a single day, than this building has got in 30 years.
July 31, 2019, 10:24 am
Joey says:
Look what they did to South st seaport. Old yankee stadium. Mayor bloomberg.
July 31, 2019, 2:42 pm
Wheezy Jefferson from UES says:
Is Rikers gonna be designated a Black landmark too?
July 31, 2019, 9:17 pm
Hillary from Prison says:
STFU, Wheezy! You stupid ni66er!
Aug. 1, 2019, 8:22 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: