April 22, 2021

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Home Finishes First

Historians, politicians rally to help you save Washington Heights end on the Underground Railroad from demolition

3 min read

Civic leaders and politicians, in an urgent Friday plea, known as for the town to spare from the wrecking ball a historic Washington Heights prevent on the Underground Railroad.

The dwelling at 857 Riverside Dr., at the time owned by abolitionist minister Dennis Harris, sits over the Hudson River and was reportedly utilized by Black slaves fleeing the south all through the 19th century. But officers claimed the web-site was in risk of demolition to make way for a 13-story high-rise creating, erasing the historic home from the Manhattan landscape.

“We’re below simply because background matters,” stated Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer at a information convention outside the creating. “Landmarks make a difference. Black heritage issues. And Black landmarks matter.”



a man standing on a sidewalk: Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer


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Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (Theodore Parisienne for New York Daily Information /)

Harris, who operated a sugar refinery on the Hudson, owned the home between 1852-54 just before selling the residence to fellow abolitionist Judge John Newhouse. Some historians imagine Harris made use of a steamboat to ferry escaped slaves into Washington Heights on their way to secure haven in Canada.

“This heritage spot correct here … after it is absent, it’s long gone,” mentioned Democratic state Sen. Robert Jackson. “During slavery instances, this constructing was massive in the Underground Railroad. End it!”

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The contested home is a two-story wooden-frame household located at W. 159th St. and Riverside Drive. The Landmarks Commission stated a critique of the website raised thoughts about its use in ferrying slaves to independence, and that “extensive alterations” over the decades negated its “historic cloth.”



a car parked on a city street: The two-story building on the right is 857 Riverside Dr. in Manhattan.


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The two-story developing on the correct is 857 Riverside Dr. in Manhattan.

The two-tale developing on the ideal is 857 Riverside Dr. in Manhattan.

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Harris “did not are living in the home and — and as acknowledged in the report that was submitted to (the fee) — claims that it was utilised in the Underground Railroad are speculative,” reported a statement from the fee.

But community activist Maria Luna, who has lived next door for 60 decades, sent an impassioned get in touch with to spare the developing from demolition and gentrification.

“We require to carry on educating our group about the historic impression of this constructing,” she reported. “This creating needs to keep listed here. We never need to have a 13-tale large increase in our midst … We have to have to make confident the individuals housed here are looking from wherever and stating, ‘Thank you, due to the fact this saved our lives.’”

A demolition allow was issued in August 2020, but there are at present no active building permits connected to its tear-down, according to the NYC Department of Properties.

“To day that software is nevertheless incomplete,” stated DOB spokesman Andrew Rudansky. “To shift forward with the proposed demolition, the owners ought to occur again to us with all of the expected objects wanted to lawfully demolish a developing in New York City.”

Historian John Reddick argued forcefully in opposition to that working day at any time coming.

“Just like my ancestors of 1851, this property is again on the auction block,” said Reddick. “The African-American engagement in American heritage is complicated. It is fascinating. And it usually takes a minimal additional scholarship and a little much more backbone than the Landmark Fee is exhibiting for this residence.”

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