Elizabeth Street Garden Advocates Press Ahead
The Elizabeth Street Garden (ESG), a rare oasis of green space (with an enigmatic collection of sculpture and architectural artifacts) in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan, was recognized as an at-risk Landslide site by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) in 2018. It has managed to stay vital (and well-programmed) despite a multi-year effort by various city officials to replace the city-owned site with Haven Green, inclusive of 123 units of senior affordable housing, luxury retail, and office space. The site is also subject of a lawsuit filed with the New York Housing Court, which seeks to evict the ESG.
There have been several important recent developments. First, ESG’s nonprofit of the same name released a report envisioning the garden preserved as a Conservation Land Trust. ESG Executive Director Joseph Reiver then secured participation from more than 30 mostly local organizations and political figures, along with TCLF, for a joint statement in support of protecting and preserving the ESG as a Conservation Land Trust. The joint statement notes:
“Elizabeth Street Garden ... already fulfills all of the functions of a Conservation Land Trust including keeping the garden open to the public, providing public programs, and managing all garden maintenance and expenses. All of this is provided as a public amenity at no cost to the city whatsoever.
“As a Conservation Land Trust, the organization would require no City funding in order to continue and expand upon the garden’s operations, including public programs and open hours. While there are alternative methods for preserving the garden, such as transferring the land to NYC Parks Department or under the GreenThumb program, continuing to operate the garden independently would save these agencies funds and resources that could be better utilized with other green spaces across the district.”
In addition the Huffington Post recently reported that Dan Goldman, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives (in the district that includes the ESG), has come out in support of retaining the publicly accessible site. According to the report: “Goldman, a former federal prosecutor and heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune who led House Democrats’ impeachment of then-President Donald Trump in 2019,” opposes the Haven Green development project, despite its being approved by the N.Y. City Council. He stated: “I have said I don’t think we should be pitting green space against affordable housing. And that both are too scarce in this city,” adding, “We should be taking every step possible not to sacrifice one for the other.” He believes that alternative sites should be explored. Goldman is favored to win the congressional seat.
Meanwhile, Judge Debra James has yet to issue a ruling, which promoted the Haven Green “development team, led by Philadelphia-based Pennrose ... [to take] the rare step of contacting the judge’s manager in an effort to resolve the case,” reports the New York real estate focused publication The Real Deal:
In a letter to Administrative Justice Adam Silvera, who oversees management and operations of Manhattan’s civil courts, Pennrose’s lawyer, Ken Fisher of Cozen O’Connor, writes that recent economic uncertainty makes it all the more important that the courts wrap up the case. “It is imperative — particularly given the market changes and economic environment over the last several months — to resolve these issues promptly and allow the planned development to proceed,” Fisher wrote.
In addition to widespread community (and national) opposition and the recent declaration by congressional candidate Goldman against Haven Green, the increased costs of lending following several Federal Reserve rate hikes, along with another lawsuit in the N.Y. Supreme Court, makes demolition of the ESG a great deal more difficult.