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Demolition on Duffield clears way for fourth hotel on block

Workers tore down a 19th-century house on Duffield Street this week to make room for a hotel. Foes say the house was a part of the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.
Raul Rothblatt

A historic Duffield Street home believed to be a hotbed of Abolitionist activity in the 19th century is being torn down, possibly to make way for the fourth hotel on the Downtown block.

On Monday, V3 Hotels, a company led by twentysomething impresario Ben Nash and Borough President Markowitz’s former chief of staff Greg Atkins, started demolishing 231 Duffield St., a few doors away from its planned Hotel Indigo. Sources familiar with the V3’s plans told The Brooklyn Paper the company intends another hotel on the street — which, ironically, was renamed by the city “Abolitionist Way” last year.

“V3 is finalizing its plans for the site, and will share them as soon as it’s possible to do so,” said Atkins in a prepared statement.

It would be the fourth hotel on the one block, between and Fulton and Willoughby streets in Downtown. A Sheraton and W Hotel are also rising on the block.

The city cleared the way for new development, including a park and underground parking lot known as Willoughby Square, after issuing a report in 2007 that downplayed the likely historic significance of 231 Duffield and several other antebellum row-houses on the block.

But scholars scorned the city’s report as flawed. Advocates cite research that suggests that the sub-basement of 231 Duffield is connected to other buildings in the fabled Underground Railroad.

“This is the murder of history and the destruction of a proud moment in American history — people standing up to the odious institution of slavery,” said Raul Rothblatt, vocal opponent of the destruction of Duffield Street’s history.

The physical remnants of the Abolitionist history of Duffield Street could be reduced to just one house — No. 227 — which has more definitive links to the Underground Railroad than its neighbors and may one day become a museum or historical site. The future of that property is not certain though, because its owner, Joy Chatel, faces personal financial problems.

Members of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality will rally at the house on Monday, March 9 at 11 am.

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