Daily News: Activists fight to stop Chelsea building owner from adding penthouse suite to Underground Railroad landmark

By Laura Dimon & Leonard Greene, September 20

Activists trying to save the last spot in New York where slaves were given shelter urged the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to block the building’s owner from adding a penthouse suite.

Chelsea’s Hopper-Gibbons House is the city’s last link to the Underground Railroad, and to the abolitionists who pushed to end slavery in 19th century America.

A building owner’s bid to add a fifth-floor, rooftop apartment to the renovated structure at 339 W. 29th St. would desecrate a piece of important history, opponents of the addition said.

The building received landmark status in 2010.

(Left-right) NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried at a press conference discuss the fundamentals of maintaining Chelsea’s Hopper-Gibbons House

“We need to remember how far we’ve come and ensure that our children and grandchildren know about their history and the history of America and the contributions of African-Americans,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

“We’re not saying it can’t be lived in. We are simply asking that the owner respect its deep and rich history.”

James joined advocates who presented their case Tuesday at a hearing before the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Julie Finch (c.) and other activists argue, “We’re not saying it can’t be lived in. We are simply asking that the owner respect its deep and rich history.”

Building owner Tony Mamounas could not be reached for comment.

The row house — home to abolitionists James Gibbons and Abigail Hopper-Gibbons in the 1800s — served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and saw guests including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and John Brown.