Elizabeth Street Garden can become affordable senior housing development, court rules
Photo by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft
An affordable housing development can be built on the site of Little Italy’s Elizabeth Street Garden, an appellate judge ruled on Tuesday, ending a decade-long battle between housing advocates and garden supporters. The project, dubbed Haven Green, will bring 123 rentals for extremely low-, very low-, and low-income seniors, along with 37 apartments for formerly homeless seniors, to one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods.
Photos by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft
Elizabeth Street Garden is a one-acre community garden transformed over the years from a vacant lot into a unique green space by Allan Reiver, who had leased the space from the city since 1991. Reiver, who died in 2021, filled the garden with items found at estate sales, like a gazebo, a 20th-century balustrade, lion sculptures, and more.
The garden was not officially open to the public (Reiver would let people who visited his gallery next door in the garden through the back door of the building) until 2013, the same time plans to build affordable housing on the garden were unveiled.
“The only thing to do was to open it to the public,” Reiver said in a 2019 interview with 6sqft. “Let the public defend it. Let the public fall in love with it.”
After plans for affordable housing on the garden site surfaced in 2012, local residents and businesses formed the Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden nonprofit to not only fight the city’s plan to raze the garden, but also oversee its upkeep and community programs. The group splintered and a new nonprofit, the Elizabeth Street Garden Inc. (ESG), was formed in 2016 to help keep the space open daily and year-round.
Both groups filed a lawsuit over Haven Green in March 2019, claiming the city did not properly evaluate the environmental impact of getting rid of the garden. While a state supreme court judge agreed and halted the project last fall, an appellate court this week overturned the ruling, allowing the development to proceed.
Joseph Reiver, executive director of ESG, told the New York Times the group plans to appeal the case.
“We continue to seek a solution that achieves more of the needed housing while preserving Elizabeth Street Garden for the community,” he said. “This solution is possible without any destruction.”
Rendering courtesy of Curtis + Ginsberg Architects
Developed by Pennrose Properties, Habitat for Humanity New York City, and RiseBoro Community Partnerships, Haven Green will be LGBTQ-friendly, with services by SAGE designed for LGBTQ residents and neighbors. The development includes a 16,000-square-foot public garden space and a new headquarters for Habitat for Humanity.
The 100 percent affordable development includes apartments affordable to individuals aged 62 and older and their families with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median income, which is roughly $60,000 annually.
“The Haven Green development team is thankful for the appellate court’s unanimous decision to advance construction of Haven Green and the establishment of a permanent and publicly-accessible green space in Little Italy,” a statement from the Haven Green team reads.
“We empathize with those who fear losing green space. We are and have been listening. We undertook a comprehensive public participatory design process and will be looking to the community to continue to help us strengthen our collective vision for Haven Green.”