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The destruction of a row of houses near Fulton Mall would “continue a legacy” of losing valuable bits of black history, a member of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission charged last week.

As reported recently in The Brooklyn Papers, preservationists have stepped up a two-year-old fight to save two Downtown Brooklyn homes where the city wants to build a parking lot, but they claim is a historic site where well-known 19th-century abolitionists lived and harbored slaves on their way to freedom.

In a letter to the consulting team hired by the city to evaluate the site’s history, Christopher Moore urged the city to keep the houses intact.

“Nearly all [Underground Railroad sites] … where most of the African-Americans resided have been destroyed,” Moore, research coordinator at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture, wrote in an April 15 letter to the consultant, AKRF.

“Destroying the houses on Duffield Street would certainly continue that legacy,” said Moore, who claimed in 2004 that the city was ignoring the real history of the site.

Moore says the city is better at preserving history in white neighborhoods than in black neighborhoods.

“My analysis of 34 Underground Railroad-related sites [shows] that almost all still survive in Brooklyn Heights,” he wrote.

Underground tunnels connect the wood-frame houses on Duffield Street. Historic records of the Underground Railroad in Brooklyn show routes that may have included the houses as way station between abolitionist churches and nearby Fulton Street, which served as a conduit for slaves traveling to the Fulton Ferry docks and then to Canada.

As a centerpiece of the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan approved two years ago, the city would seize the property using the power of eminent domain and redevelop it into a parkland-topped underground garage for a Willoughby Square hotel.

“All we’re saying is, ’What’s the rush?’” said Bill Batson, a Democratic candidate for state Assembly. “Why is there such a rush to judgment on things that affect Brooklynit­es?”

But the city said no decisions have been made yet, despite Moore and Batson’s suggestions to the contrary..



Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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