Activists are still putting in their all to save what many say is one of the last pieces of the City’s history of fighting slavery. On the outside, and perhaps the inside too, a dilapidated house located at 227 Duffield St., in Downtown Brooklyn, is believed to have been part of the Underground Railroad.
“This building is hanging on by a string, barely standing right now,” amateur historian Raul Rothblatt told local news. “It makes you want to stand on the mountaintop and scream something important happened here and it’s going to get lost.”
Before the Civil War, this downtown Brooklyn address was the home of abolitionists Harriet and Thomas Truesdell. The couple is not in history books, not that it should be surprising, but many activists believe that the couple was an influential part and played an important role in the Underground Railroad. Historians believe that the couple hid and fed escaped enslaved people making their way to freedom.
Historians take some of their information from stories of African Americans (who were seeking refuge) that have been passed down to the house’s longtime residents. In 2007 there was also a report commissioned by the city which reported signs of underground connections to neighboring buildings which have since been destroyed. Over the years, artifacts that would have been used to cook and make food have been found at the property.
“Mamma” Joy Chatel, who owned the three-story brick home, wanted the house to be preserved. Under the Bloomberg administration, the city tried to take the house through eminent domain so that it could be developed as part of Downtown Brooklyn. At the time, the city claimed that there wasn’t enough proof to verify the building’s history. Ms. Chatel recently passed-away and the house has become the property of a developer who filed for demolition permits last summer. Samiel Hanasab, who is reportedly the building owner, would not reveal his plans and would not speak to reporters.
Now, activists are fearful that destruction is imminent. Aleah Bacquie Vaughn, who heads the nonprofit Circle for Justice Innovations said, “It is just unthinkable that you would bulldoze the last remaining symbol, especially in this political climate, of the fight against white supremacy in the United States in Downtown Brooklyn to build a 13-unit luxury building.”
A request to evaluate the property again was put to Landmarks Preservation Commission, although there has been no response. Activists fear the worst and are planning rallies to save the building.
We will certainly be keeping an eye on this story!
CEO of Douglas Elliman and "Eye On Real Estate" Radio Host Interviews Jennifer Polovetsky About Eminent Domain
There was excitement around the office at Sanchez & Polovetsky, as partner Jennifer Polovetsky was interviewed by Dottie Herman about eminent domain on her show “Eye On Real Estate” which airs on AM 970 and is also a podcast. Dottie Herman, as most of you will already know, is the CEO of Real Estate brokerage firm Douglas Elliman Real Estate LLC.
So, if Dottie wanted to chat with an expert about eminent domain, we are quite pleased that she asked one of the best in the industry, our very own Jennifer Polovetsky.
Dottie was joined by her co-host, Real Estate Attorney Andrew Lieb, to learn more about eminent domain and what a person who owns a business should do when they find out that their property is being taken.
As an introduction, Attorney Andrew Lieb said, “Everyone needs to know Jennifer Polovetsky because they don’t realize that the government can come and take your property.” Andrew and Dottie started the conversation with Governor Cuomo’s Penn Station expansion plans. The hosts asked, “Can Governor Cuomo just take the property?”
Jennifer explained that Governor Cuomo is not taking the property, but he can direct the Empire State DevelopmentCorporation, or another government agency, to take additional property by eminent domain in order to increase the tracks at Penn Station. Jennifer explained that transportation is considered a public use, and the State is allowed to take private property for public use under the 5th amendment(s) to the US and NYS Constitutions, provided that the government provides “just compensation” to the owner of the property or the affected business tenant.
Dottie and Andrew wanted to know how eminent domain affects business owners. The co-hosts mentioned that business owners need to know that the government has to pay just compensation. “Do you just wake up one day and your property is gone? How does it work? What do people need to know?”
Jennifer explained that “It depends what agency is doing the taking.” The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) will notify the business tenant or the business owner of a taking. The business will be sent a notice that explains that the property is going to be taken by eminent domain. Once the notice requirements have been fulfilled, an initial offer is made. Afterwards, the DOT will file acquisition maps and notice(s) of acquisition with the County Clerk, and the State effectively owns the property as of that date. Copies of the notice of acquisition are then mailed to property owners and affected business tenants, who have three (3) years from the date that the notice of acquisition was mailed to file a Claim in court for additional compensation.
Business owners are advised to hire an attorney so that they can be sure to enforce their rights to file for additional compensation (over and above the initial offer) and, in most cases, relocation benefits.
How can you file a claim for additional compensation and ensure that you are not waiving statutory interest that accrues on any additional monies your eminent domain lawyer can obtain for you in Court? Listen to the interview!
Keep in mind that eminent domain cases where the condemnor is the City of New York, the ESD, or the MTA work a bit differently than pure State of NY cases; as the City and the quasi state agencies need to go to court to file a vesting petition, and the time to file a claim on those cases generally ranges from one to two years. It is important to hire a competent eminent domain lawyer who knows the ins and outs of this field.
To learn more…listen to the show!