Thursday, May 24, 2007

State Historic Preservation Office Never Contacted About Underground Railroad Houses

Duffield Street HouseThere's an interesting development in the case of the buildings on Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn that historic preservationists believe were part of the Underground Railroad network in Brooklyn. As it turns out, the New York State Historic Preservation Office was never contacted to determine whether the buildings are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. You might recall that the city hired a consulting firm, AKRF, which conducted a $500,000 study that determined it could find no evidence of the historic significance of the house, a conclusion with which preservationists strongly disagree. The city wants to seize the property via eminent domain in order to demolish the buildings and construct an underground parking lot. Council Member Letitia James issued a statement calling for a halt to any seizure of property because of what some are calling "a major omission" and "negligent at best."

The Historic Districts Council blog and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn have put up post about the latest development. Here are a few excerpts of Ms. James' release:
The New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had never made a determination on the eligibility of the Duffield Street Houses to the National Register of Historic Places, the country's official list of historic properties. Not only has the agency not issued an official determination (according to their records), but agency staff was never consulted about the possibility of the buildings being eligible nor did it seem that the agency was ever consulted about the larger Downtown Brooklyn Plan...

"This is a major omission on the part of the City and their consultants. The basis of the Research Report is that these buildings should not be protected because they are not eligible for any kind of historic recognition - a point that the majority of the peer reviewers disputed. That the government agency who is tasked to make this exact determination was not even consulted seems negligent at best," said Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council.

"This process, as it has been followed by the Administration and its paid consultants, essentially seeks to undermine federal environmental protection laws, such as the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Transportation Act of 1966 and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969; all of which mandate that consideration of the effect of government actions on historic resources. All proceedings should be halted immediately in light of this disturbing revelation," said Council Member Letitia James.
More developments to follow in this continuing preservation fight.

Related Post:
Duffield St. Underground Railroad Houses Have Hearing

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