Gothamist – Plan To Turn Elizabeth Street Garden Into Affordable Housing Moves Forward

(Carl Boisrond / Gothamist) 

The plan to replace a popular community garden in Nolita with more than 100 “deeply affordable” apartments for senior citizens has taken a major step forward.

“The Haven Green Senior Housing Development was officially certified into the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process,” Council Member Margaret Chin told a crowd of about 60 senior citizens at the Bowery Residents’ Committee Senior Services Center on Monday afternoon. “We are celebrating!”

Chin made the announcement along with members of Haven Green development team, which will put the 123 units of housing at the Elizabeth Street Garden, despite protests from supporters of the garden, which features an array of statuary and unique architectural remnants. The development has been in the works since October 2013.

“The housing that’ll be built here will be attuned to LGBT seniors, the people who made up the Stonewall generation, led our city through the darkest day of the AIDS crisis and fought for equal rights at City Hall,” Chin said. “Finally, after all these years of waiting and waiting, it’s gonna happen.

The neighborhood is one of the most expensive in the city, but the units will be reserved for households below 60 percent of the Area Median Income, according to Dylan Salmons, Senior Developer at Pennrose, one of the project’s developers, along with Riseboro Community Partnership, and Habitat for Humanity. “Over 80 percent of the apartments will serve households below 40 percent of the Area Median Income,” he said.

Sixty percent of the AMI translates to an annual income of $50,100 for a couple; 40% of AMI is $33,400.

The garden’s supporters incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2016 as part of an effort to save the garden, and say they have collected more than 10,000 letters and signatures from residents, community groups, and politicians. They say the senior housing should instead go on a city-owned lot at Hudson Street.

“No one who is fighting to protect & preserve Elizabeth Street Garden is against senior affordable housing or the LGBTQ community,” Joseph Reiver, executive director of the Elizabeth Street Garden, wrote in an email. “True affordable housing is absolutely needed in New York City, but it should not come at the expense of a community garden used by over 100k people year-round, especially when there is a more viable alternative site for the housing.”

Chin responds, “It’s not an alternative, it’s an additional site. We need more affordable units. We gotta build wherever we can.”

The project’s developer, Pennrose, also maintains that Haven Green will include 8,000 square feet of public green space.

The Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, a coalition of community groups that advocates for affordable housing, supports the project. In a statement, the group notes that “New Yorkers over the age of 60 are 55% more likely to be severely rent burdened than residents between the ages of 30 and 59” and that the city’s “decision should be made based on the greatest need for the neighborhood – and the city – and not on the exceptional details of any one garden site.”

On December 5th, NYC Housing Preservation & Development and Pennrose will present their detailed plans to Manhattan’s Community Board 2. The developer hopes the ULURP process will wrap up in May or June of 2019, and that construction will begin by next winter.