Landslide Update: Elizabeth Street Garden
The Elizabeth Street Garden (ESG), recognized as an at-risk Landslide site by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) since 2018, remains involved in two pending lawsuits aiming to preserve the community sculpture garden, a rare oasis of green space in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan. The first suit was filed with the N.Y. State Supreme Court in 2019 to halt a proposed development that would destroy the garden. The second suit, filed in Housing Court, responds to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s attempt to evict the garden back in September of 2021.
While both cases await a response from the court, ESG’s nonprofit of the same name released a new report envisioning the garden preserved as a Conservation Land Trust.
"With both court cases pending, it's important to recognize that there is still hope in envisioning a bright future for the garden and our community,” wrote Joseph Reiver, executive director of ESG. “We are optimistic about the new administration and for the first time in nearly 10 years, we have a supportive City Council representative, Christopher Marte.”
At the end of 2021, City Councilmember Margaret Chin, the representative who first slated the garden for development in 2012, ended her final term. Chin’s successor, Christopher Marte, is the district's newly elected City Councilmember and, crucially, a long-time supporter of Elizabeth Street Garden.
“No matter where you live in the city, you know ESG, you know the magic of this space … This is a magical space,” said Marte back in September 2021 during a rally against the eviction notice.
The Conservation Land Trust report defines the function of a land trust and outlines how the model could be used to protect the garden for community use in perpetuity. The report also points out the ancillary benefits of preserving the garden as a land trust, such as protecting the unique statuary and architectural elements, establishing neighborhood governance, and securing financial independence from the City’s municipal budget.
"Saving the garden as a Conservation Land Trust means preserving all of the unique qualities, community involvement, and magic at no cost to the City. We hope you will join us in upholding this positive vision of preserving the garden in a way that is true to its enchanting nature,” wrote ESG Executive Director Joseph Reiver.
According to the report, approximately 75% of ESG’s budget currently goes to legal fees to protect the garden. Once saved, these funds could be redirected to improve and expand operations exponentially. Financial independence would also allow NYC Department of Parks and Recreation funds to be allocated to other green space initiatives across the district and the five boroughs, increasing park equity for all.
The report is supported by more than 120 local organizations and businesses, including TCLF.
Around the same time that the report was released, the New York Daily News published an Op-Ed by Reiver titled “Green space vs more housing is a false choice.”
You can support Elizabeth Street Garden by donating here.