The Downtown Brooklyn Plan will destroy a historic way station on the
Underground Railroad, residents of homes near the Fulton Mall claimed
The city has said it will tear down homes on Duffield Street, near Willoughby
Street, to make room for a new hotel, according to Louis Greenstein, owner
of 223 Duffield St.
Greenstein, along with fellow Duffield homeowner Joy Chatel, are spearheading
the fight to preserve their homes — and their place in American history
— by demanding that the city fully investigate the historical claims
before swinging the wrecking ball.
On Tuesday, Greenstein and Chatel — and a handful of supporters —
marched from Duffield Street across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall to
ask Mayor Bloomberg to step in.
Chatel gave reporters a tour of the sub-basement where she says slaves
were hidden on their way to freedom. A dark, dusty and narrow stairwell
led into the cellar below her storefront beauty parlor into a tight space
with little light. Cobwebs swayed from the low ceiling and the dirt floor
contributed to omnipresent dust.
Chatel crouched and pointed out a wall underneath the circuit-breakers
that she claims concealed a hiding place. Nearby, a second entrance to
the sub-basement led to an underground tunnel that connected several Duffield
Street houses. Greenstein said his research revealed that abolitionists
lived in at least five houses on the block.
“We need to investigate with archeologists, not consultants,”
said Bill Batson, a candidate for the state Assembly, who helped organize
The Downtown Brooklyn Plan, which rezoned a large swath of Brooklyn’s
central business district in 2004, will result in 4.5 million square feet
of new office space, several skyscrapers and a park.