Residents Protest Plans to Turn Elizabeth Street Garden Into Housing Development

A small park in Little Italy is at the center of a big community fight as the de Blasio administration plans to turn Elizabeth Street Garden into a housing development. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report.

For many local residents, Elizabeth Street Garden is a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle around them. But now, the de Blasio administration says this greenspace on city-owned land must go to make way for an apartment building for seniors.

On Wednesday, residents gathered to fight the plan, just days after the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development issued a request for developers to present proposals. 

"New York City Parks Department, on official New York City websites, say this neighborhood is underserved by open space, yet another city agency wants to destroy this garden," said Jeannine Kiely, president of Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden.  

For 25 years, the city has leased the space to a gallery owner who turned it into a sculpture garden, which until recently was only accesible through his gallery. The city says it wants a private developer to put up some 75 apartments here, all of them for low-income people 62 and over, part of the mayor's drive to build affordable housing across the city.

The project would include stores and some open space.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin has championed the project.

"There's so many seniors living in the neighborhood, and some of them are living in these tenement buildings, fifth-story walkup, they can't come down, and a lot of them have been on waiting lists," Chin said.   

Supporters of Elizabeth Street Garden think the housing should be built elsewhere, specifically about a mile west, on a vacant lot at Hudson and Clarkson Streets.  

"It's a better site mostly because five times as much affordable housing can be built here as at Elizabeth Street Garden," said Tobi Bergman, chairman of Community Board 2.  

The city says it is looking to build affordable housing on that site as well.

Back at Elizabeth Street Garden, the man who created it all is sad it may come to end.

"I never envisioned when I built this that it would be destroyed," said Allan Reiver, who developed the park.

But as the city grapples with a lack of green space and affordable housing, it appears housing has won out. 

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