It's been a tumultuous year for Nolita's beloved Elizabeth Street Garden. In January, the city revealed plans to replace it with a six-story building holding 60 to 75 units of affordable housing for seniors. After lots of public outcry, community members successfully convinced the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation not to give funding to the project. Consequently, the garden looked safe this spring. The latest turn, however, isn’t a promising one. Reports from DNAinfo and Bowery Boogie note that the HPD has issued an official Request for Proposals to redevelop the city-owned land.
As the RFP announcement states, "The Project must include affordable housing for seniors that both meets the economic needs of the community and furthers fair housing by promoting economically diverse neighborhoods. The Development must also include quality commercial and/or community facility uses, as well publicly-accessible open space."
The garden is located on the eastern edge of the area covered by Community Board 2, but plans to demolish it are connected to the Lower East Side SPURA development, which is part of Community Board 1. One of the main players in the battle now underway is City Council member Margaret Chin, who negotiated plans to build on the site in 2012 before it was developed into a community garden.
Unsurprisingly, garden volunteers have criticized Chin and this latest move by the HDP. In a statement issued by Jeannine Kiely, president of Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden, she says: "We will not back down and allow real estate developers and elected officials to ignore us any longer. Council Member Chin has turned a deaf ear to her constituents, who overwhelmingly support saving Elizabeth Street Garden."
CB2 is also fighting to save the garden, and has proposed that the city instead building on a city-owned water tunnel site on Hudson Street. Chair Tobi Bergman told DNAinfo, "For three years, [the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development] and Councilmember Chin have refused to work with Community Board 2 to save this beloved garden and build five times as much housing at a better site on Hudson Street."
HPD claims that since only 70 new affordable units have been built within CB2 over the past decade, the agency wants to use as many of the city-owned sites as possible "in order to ensure more low-income New Yorkers have access to all our City’s great neighborhoods."