Jun 28, 2023
SoHo’s Elizabeth Street Garden approved for affordable housing plan, court rules
The debate about the future of a small section of city-owned land transformed into a leafy haven for Little Italy and Soho residents in Manhattan may have finally come to an end.
A state appellate court ruled Tuesday that City Hall can move ahead with plans to build an affordable housing project for seniors on the site of the Elizabeth Street Garden — ending a saga that has stretched on for nearly a decade.
Petitioners had said they found a New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development review that found the new housing would not negatively impact parkland to be “arbitrary and capricious,” but New York State Supreme Court justices were not having it, writing that they found the arguments “unavailing,” court documents show.
The city-owned space is not so much a garden but a half acre area of grass, flowers, trees, ornate benches and statues that served as an oasis for the park-starved residents of Manhattan’s Little Italy and Soho for the past decade.
However, before then, the lot was used for storage by a local sculpture shop until advocates and volunteers rushed into action to turn it into a public space in reaction to the city’s development plan.
Justices said they agreed with HPD that the loss of the public space would be partially offset by a new .15 acre space that would be set aside next to the building and be open later and more regularly than the garden — which is run by volunteers and only open about seven hours a day, according to its website.
The court also agreed that the “added population of senior adults likely would not overburden existing mostly active open spaces,” and mentioned that Washington Square Park, which is nine blocks away, “would help mitigate the neighborhood’s preexisting open space deficiency.”
Garden officials said they were “very disappointed” with the ruling and were planning to take their battle to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
“The fight isn’t over and we continue to seek a solution that achieves more of the needed housing while preserving Elizabeth Street Garden for the community,” said Executive Director Joseph Reiver in a statement to The Post.
“This solution is possible without any destruction.”
HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. said in a statement that the court’s ruling was a “huge win for all New Yorkers.
“As we reach the end of Pride Month, this moment marks a new beginning for our plan to create new, affordable housing that’s affirming for LGBTQ+ seniors,” Carrión continued.
“The fight over this land highlights how difficult it can be to build affordable housing, especially in neighborhoods that offer strong economic opportunities, but the Adams administration is undeterred.”
The Haven Green development team said it was “thankful for the appellate court’s unanimous decision to advance construction” on the project, which it says will “deliver nearly 16,000 sq. ft. of publicly accessible open green space and 123 LGBTQ-friendly homes for low-income seniors, while preserving over 150 homes as affordable in the neighboring 40-year-old rental building.”