Conservationists rally against city plans for dog run near abolitionist site in downtown Brooklyn

Activists have rallied against the city’s plan to install a dog park in a larger park atop a site that would have been part of Brooklyn’s downtown Underground Railroad.

The city has begun building the long-delayed 1.15-acre green space known as Abolitionist Place on land at Willoughby and Duffield streets with a planned dog run next to 227 Duffield Street, a Town-owned historic row once owned by 19th-century slavery abolitionists Thomas and Harriet Lee Truesdell.

The small group of protesters gathered on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and included the family of former occupants of the now dilapidated building and advocates of Brooklyn’s abolitionist history, and they handed out flyers on the project led by the city’s quasi-public Economic Development Corporation.

EDC’s plans include a text-based installation by artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed inspired by that legacy, but a local has lamented that officials refused to erect their planned monument dubbed ‘Sisters in Freedom’ to honor the five pioneering black women Ida B. Wells, Maritcha Lyons, Sarah Smith Garnet, Victoria Earle Matthews, and Dr. Susan Smith McKinney.

“The NYC Economic Development Corporation wants to erase history by rejecting what we proposed with the monument for these five women,” said Raul Rothblatt, who criticized the decision to put a local puppy playpen next door. of the “terrible” historical structure.

A rendering of Abolitionist Place with the dog enclosure in the top right.Hargreaves Jones/New York EDC

Rothblatt’s daughter, Charlotte’s Girl Scout Troop 2663, decided to write a petition encouraging members of the community to learn about the history beneath their feet.

“I want people to know more about the Sisters of Liberty and the Underground Railroad,” the 13-year-old said. “I think people would care more if they knew it existed.”

The Rothblatts were joined by Shawne Lee, daughter of the late Joy Chatel, a local figure who once lived at 227 Duffield, and Lee stressed the importance of keeping Truesdells history alive.

“They not only contributed to the liberation of their people, but also to the suffrage movement,” Lee said. “They didn’t shut down for speaking out about the injustices of their people, and they lived here in Brooklyn.”

Other participants in the rally said public ignorance of the significance of the land prevented the construction of the desired monument.

“I just know that even people walking around in this plaza right now don’t know this story,” said Devan Nelson, a rally attendee and a member of the historically integrated Black Delta Sigma Theta sorority. “If they knew it was an Underground Railroad stop, they wouldn’t let it happen. They just need to know.

Chatel, who died in 2014, believed that in addition to her home, 231 Duffield and 436 Gold Street were other locations connected to the Underground Railroad. When she was still alive, she showed the great tunnel under her house which could have been used to escape slavery.

Surrounded by a green construction fence, the unassuming lot is filled with gravel and debris, and Lee said his mother’s former home should become a museum for the area’s anti-slavery movement.

“My mother, when she was alive, always said she wanted to turn her house into a museum, so having that and the monument would be – in my opinion – a great investment for the city,” Lee said. “And what better way to celebrate these women and this history and the bravery of women of color who have truly fought against oppression?”

Comments are closed.