City pledges not to take ‘Underground Railroad’ house

November 30, 2007 02:54PM

The city has settled a lawsuit over a Downtown Brooklyn house said to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad and has pledged not to take 227 Duffield Street by eminent domain.

Under the city’s Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan, the house was to be cleared to make way for underground parking for more than 4 million square feet of new retail, commercial and luxury housing.

A city study had found that the there was no conclusive evidence that seven historic Duffield Street homes were used to move runaway slaves. The homes, which house 40 rent-stabilized apartments and businesses, would be cleared to make way for Willoughby Square Park and 700 underground parking spaces.

The lawsuit was filed by Joy Chatel, an owner of 227 Duffield Street, South Brooklyn Legal Services and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE). The plaintiffs said that the homes at 227-235 Duffield Street have “unexplainable architectural abnormalities in the sub-basements.” The 1848 home at 227 Duffield Street was owned by abolitionists Thomas and Harriet Lee-Truesdell.

Nearby, developers with plans for a 22-story boutique hotel recently closed on 237 Duffield Street for $9.5 million. Another combined hotel, a 325-room Sheraton and a 175-room Aloft, is being built across the street.

Raul Rothblatt of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, which has fought to preserve the homes, said the new developments will benefit from the neighborhood’s historic character if the Duffield Street homes are preserved.

“We’ve never been opposed to the changes going in Brooklyn,” he said. “We just hope that doesn’t step on the rights of people who want to keep their properties.” TRD