Formerly Willoughby Square Open Space, Abolitionist Place Commemorates the 19th Century Abolitionist Movement and its Ties to Brooklyn.
Abolitionist Place Brings Green Space and Community Amenities to Downtown Brooklyn, Further Enhancing the Growing Commercial, Residential, and Cultural Hub.
NYCEDC to Bring on Community Engagement Consultant to Oversee Future Use of 227 Duffield Street; Former Home of Abolitionists Harriet and Thomas Truesdell.

Today, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of Abolitionist Place, a new 1.15-acre public space in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn. The open space is a key component of the Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan, a set of space and infrastructure commitments made in 2004 as a part of a comprehensive plan to facilitate the continued growth of Downtown Brooklyn. In the twenty years since the redevelopment plan was announced, Downtown Brooklyn has experienced sizable growth and development, resulting in a vibrant, 24/7 live-work-play destination.

The new open space, designed by renowned landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Jones, includes a children’s play area, lawn, dog run, ornamental plantings, waterplay feature, and multiple seating areas. Abolitionist Place will be managed and programmed by DBP, an instrumental partner throughout the redevelopment. In 2019, the city renamed Willoughby Square Open Space to Abolitionist Place, commemorating the 19th century Abolitionist Movement and its significant ties to Brooklyn. Planning for the development of Abolitionist Place has been underway since 2010, when NYCEDC facilitated a community design process with residents, stakeholders, elected officials, and city agencies.

“High-quality public spaces aren’t just a luxury — they’re a necessity, and they’re a key to our city’s economic recovery,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Abolitionist Place will provide Downtown Brooklyn with that vital community space while also paying tribute to the role that this neighborhood played in the Abolitionist Movement. Our thanks to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which has been a tremendous partner in creating this new open space and in our efforts to reimagine Downtown Brooklyn into the vibrant, 24-7 neighborhood that it is today.”

“The open space at Abolitionist Place delivers on a long anticipated and critical improvement to quality of life while following through on a key commitment of the Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan,” said NYCEDC President & CEO Andrew Kimball. “We are excited to see New Yorkers of all ages enjoy the open space and have the opportunity to engage with its historical connections to the Abolitionist movement and thank our partners at DCLA and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership for helping this vision come to life.”

“The opening of Abolitionist Place marks a significant moment for Downtown Brooklyn that has been in the works for nearly two decades,” said Regina Myer, President, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Abolitionist Place will bring essential greenspace to our burgeoning population of residents, workers, and students, while also celebrating the neighborhood’s notable history. As we begin maintaining and programming in the park, we look forward to welcoming the community to this long-awaited public square.”

Downtown Brooklyn has undergone significant growth over the past twenty years, resulting in the transformation of the area from a civic district with destination shopping, into one of the country’s most dynamic mixed-use downtowns. While in 2004 it was envisioned that it would mostly experience growth in office space, the result was very different – extraordinary residential growth, the emergence of the Brooklyn Cultural District, a strong and growing education sector, new retail and entertainment venues, and new office space for the tech and creative sectors. This multi-use urban environment serves the residents, businesses, academic institutions and cultural institutions of Downtown Brooklyn and its surrounding communities.

In partnership with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs’ (DCLA) Percent for Art program, artist Kenseth Armstead was selected to design a site-specific public art installation commemorating the Abolitionist Movement. Armstead’s’ proposed installations, “True North – Every Negro is a Star” and “Conductors,” will be presented to the New York City Public Design Commission for conceptual review at their public meeting later in May 2024. DCLA anticipates installation of the artwork could begin in 2026.

Abolitionist Place is adjacent to 227 Duffield Street, home of abolitionists Harriet and Thomas Truesdell from 1851 to 1863. In February 2021 the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Harriet and Thomas Truesdell House an individual landmark with then Brooklyn Borough President Adams’ support. The City of New York assumed ownership of 227 Duffield in March 2021, and completed significant stabilization work in 2023. NYCEDC has begun the process of bringing on a consultant to oversee a forthcoming community engagement process focused on 227 Duffield Street. The consultant will be tasked to fully document the historical significance of the site and develop a long-term strategy to honor that history.

“Downtown Brooklyn was a hub for the Abolition movement, something that this new public space and planned artwork will lift up for generations to come,” said NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “We’re excited to work with the artist, community members, and EDC to realize a public artwork that both commemorates this important past and continues to inspire us to work toward a fairer, more just future together.”

“Abolitionist Place is a symbol of Brooklyn’s role and commitment to the abolitionist movement and equal rights for all,” said U.S. Representative Dan Goldman. “I applaud our City for its commitment to providing residents with spaces to enjoy all its wonderful different neighborhoods. Downtown Brooklyn has already undergone unprecedented growth and Abolitionist Place will only add to the charm of our neighborhood.”

“Abolitionist Place enshrines in our cityscape the bravery of past Brooklynites who stood up for justice and whose leadership reminds us to follow in their footsteps today,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “The pursuit of equity and opportunity in this city is never over, and I’m so proud that Brooklyn is home to a beautiful green space dedicated to that mission. A huge congratulations to the Downtown Brooklyn community, and a major thank you to the Economic Development Corporation, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and the many partners and community members who made this ribbon-cutting possible.”

“I am so pleased that we are cutting the ribbon to open Abolitionist Place. This marks the long-awaited formal recognition of Downtown Brooklyn’s significant role in the Abolitionist Movement and the roles of Thomas and Harriet Truesdell. As the only woman elected official representing Downtown Brooklyn, I want to honor the dedicated work of Harriet Truesdell, who was an officer in the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “I also want to highlight the mother of our local movement to recognize our history, ‘Mama Joy’ Chatel, and the many community members who supported the efforts to preserve the Truesdell’s home. Abolitionist Place is a testament to community then and now.”

“Community Board 2 is pleased to see the opening of Abolitionist Place. After many years of meetings and discussion, Abolitionist Place can now be unveiled to serve as a location for community and collaborations, further enhancing the vibrant landscape of Downtown Brooklyn,” said Brooklyn Community Board 2 Chair Lenny Singletary.