Elizabeth Street Garden News
New York City’s Elizabeth Street Garden, a beloved Lower East Side neighborhood park with over 200 years of history as a public recreational space, has operated on a month-to-month lease since 1991. Beginning in 2012, the city targeted the site, created by the late Allan Reiver, for a new mixed-use development, though community resistance and national backlash, including The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s (TCLF) spotlighting the garden as a Landslide site in 2018, prevented the park’s demolition for several years. The non-profit that operates the park, ESG, Inc., sued the city in 2019 to prevent demolition. In October 2021, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development plowed ahead with plans to terminate the park’s lease despite the pending litigation. For many years, development of the garden site was spearheaded by City Councilmember Margaret Chin. In November 2021, Christopher Marte, who has donated to the Elizabeth Street Garden’s legal fund in the past and has expressed a desire to save the site, won the race to succeed Chin, who could not run again because of term limits.
The passing of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s SoHo/NoHo rezoning plan in December further complicated the issues surrounding the park’s protection. The plan, which updates zoning policy from the 1970s, seeks to drastically shake-up the demographic and physical makeup of the neighborhoods by building up to 3,500 new units of housing, of which 900 are slated to be set aside as affordable housing. Although the city and community members alike agree that greater housing availability should be prioritized, advocates of the park argue that the amenities offered by Elizabeth Street Garden are likewise beneficial and highly valued. Since the city first announced its development deal in 2013, the operators of Elizabeth Street Garden have worked with the neighborhood to increase the park’s visibility and accessibility, fostering a strong sense of community within a hyper-gentrified pocket of the city.