Partial Report from the Duffield Street Houses Hearing
First, read this Council hearing on Underground Railroad homes and this Lawmakers To Consider Fate of Seven Brooklyn Houses. Then if you really want to understand, read this: DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN UNDERGROUND RAILROAD REPORT
I just got back from the City Council hearing and I was amazed. Because of a schedule conflict, I left after the first 45 minutes (AKRF was still doing their presentation) and didn’t get back until close to 1pm (hearing started at 11 am Council time). CM Letitia James was methodically going over all her issues with the 700-page report, item by item. To call this unusual would be an understatement. It was great – she questioned specific issues and concerns that had been brought up with alacrity. Even more surprising was that Council members Liu and Yassky also took their turn at bat. CM Liu hounded the reps from EDC on whether or not the Downtown Brooklyn Plan could go forward without this piece (the answer, finally, was “yes” but this part of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan – the parking lot and the “open space” for commercial tenants couldn’t) and CM Yassky was strong on taking a hard look at these historic structures. I was part of the first panel to speak and engaged the CMs in a discussion of the importance of these buildings to the Undergrounhd Railroad History/Abolition history of NYC, which they responded to. Also on the first public panel were Christabel Gough from the Society for the Architecture of the Society, who read a masterful summation of her extensive 10-page critique of the Report, as well as Richard J. Hourahan, co-author of “Angels of Deliverance” who had served as a peer reviewer of the report and a person representing a church in Fort Greene with Abolitionist ties. Mr. Hourahan was merciless in his critique of the report as well, driving home the point that he had been engaged as a “peer reviewer” and that this report was not up to the standards he expected. We’ll see what happens, I’m not even sure what kind of decision the Council could render and what its effects would be, but it was exciting to see the Council members engaged with serious questions for the Administration.
For more in-depth coverage from someone who braved the whole meeting, see www.undergroundrailroadsafehouses.org