A long-standing battle over the Children's Magical Garden at Stanton and Norfolk Streets in the Lower East Side came to a close today as construction workers erected a fence through the middle of the community green space. The garden has been active for more than 30 years, originally created by residents who rescued the lot from drug dealers and neglect. Part of the property is owned by the city's Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development, and part is owned by Norfolk Development, a company that the LoDown says is owned by developer Serge Hoyda. For several years now, there has been talk of a residential development rising on the site, and this morning, the developer sent workers to block off its section with a chain link fence.
When community members heard about the workers, EV Grieve says they rushed to the garden to try to stop them. Even a rep from councilwoman Chin's office tried to persuade the developer to stop and continue discussions with the city about some sort of land swap. But they were unsuccessful. According to the LoDown, the developer's rep, Rex Whitehorn, said, "we have been trying to cooperate for two years? it's common sense. It had to happen." Evidently the fence was constructed for insurance and safety purposes. There were a few confrontations between community members and the workers, and the police eventually blocked off the area with caution tape to let the construction take place without interruption.
The Village Voice reports that garden supporters are still hopeful that a land swap between Norfolk and the HPD can still happen. There's a lot on Avenue D north of Houston that's being considered, so perhaps that magic will eventually be restored to Norfolk and Stanton Street.
· Followup: Confrontation at the Children's Magical Garden [LoDown]
· Updated: Children's Magical Garden under siege on the Lower East Side [EVG]
· Developer Builds A Fence Through The Children's Magical Garden [VV]