Thursday, May 03, 2007

Duffield St. Underground Railroad Houses Have Hearing; Consultants Paid $500K to Write Report


The buildings believed to be Underground Railroad sites on Duffield Street in downtown Brooklyn had their day before the City Council on Tuesday in what turned out to be a marathon hearing that ran from 11AM-3PM. At issue is whether the city will demolish them in order to build an underground parking garage that will serve several developments, including hotels that are rising across the street. A $500,000 consultant's study that weighs in at 700 pages that was commissioned by the city says there is no hard evidence that the buildings were part of the Underground Railroad. (Someone from the AKRF firm that did the study said the firm devoted 3,000 person hours to the report, which works out to $166.67 an hour.)

We couldn't attend, but there are at least two reports that convey the substance of the meeting, which included a lot of serious questions from council members, most notably Letitia James. The Historic Districts Council Blog offers this description:
CM Letitia James was methodically going over all her issues with the 700-page report, item by item. To call this unusual would be an understatement. It was great - she questioned specific issues and concerns that had been brought up with alacrity. Even more surprising was that Council members Liu and Yassky also took their turn at bat. CM Liu hounded the reps from EDC on whether or not the Downtown Brooklyn Plan could go forward without this piece (the answer, finally, was "yes" but this part of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan - the parking lot and the "open space" for commercial tenants couldn't) and CM Yassky was strong on taking a hard look at these historic structures.
In addition, the Underground Railroad Safehouses site offers a very detailed look at the hearing and at the consultant's report that is now at the heart of the controversy. Even the consultant's report, which argues for demolition--which is what the Economic Development Corp. which paid the firm the $166 an hour--admits that "more information could be unearthed in the future" showing a definitive link between the Underground Railroad and the Duffield Street houses.

The impact of the City Council is uncertain.

Related Post:
Is City Consultant Deliberately Ignoring Underground Railroad Records?

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Blogger Unknown said...

I honestly don't understand the significance of the report indicating that "more information could be unearthed in the future." That doesn't strike me as admitting anything at all; more likely, it was just a way to give themselves an out IF some evidence indicating there was abolishonist activity there *is* uncovered.

Not singling the GL on this - I've seen other blog reports on this hearing focus on the same passage, too.

3:04 PM  

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