The tiny sculpture park on Elizabeth Street has been a community fixture for more than three decades, but it's only in the past couple of years that it's seen a new life as a bustling public space (and one of the city's best hidden gardens), with yoga classes, movie nights, and live music all happening on a regular basis. But the city-owned tract of land has been earmarked for affordable housing since 1983, and officials have been clamoring to turn the space into apartments for years. (Most recently, City Council member Margaret Chin proposed transforming the space into affordable units for seniors.)
Now, that may be closer to becoming a reality: As DNAInfo reports, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has applied for a $6 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), with the goal of building at least 75 units on the site. HPD spokesman David Quart told DNAInfo, "The city is seeking support from the LMDC to build that housing, and intends to move forward later in the fall." Quart noted that this has been on the table since 2012 as part of the city's larger SPURA development on the Lower East Side.
There could be one roadblock in this process: As DNAInfo notes, any project applying for an LMDC grant must have "a high level of community interest and support," but that seems unlikely to happen here. Just a few days ago, Friends of the Elizabeth Street Garden president Jeannine Kiely sent out a missive asking for community support, saying, "We think such funding would be improper because no proposal has been discussed with the community." She continues, "We have a plan to fight this, and we will need the support of all the Garden's friends."
Meanwhile, members of Community Board 2 have also argued that there are better spaces in the neighborhood for affordable housing units, including a parking garage at Howard and Lafayette Streets. But all parties involved will have the chance to present their cases in the fall: The LMDC will hold a hearing on the project in September, although the date is still TBD.
· City Moving Forward With Affordable Housing at Elizabeth Street Garden [DNAInfo]
· Discover 30 of New York City's Best Secret Gardens [Curbed]
· All Elizabeth Street Garden Coverage [Curbed]