Judge halts Elizabeth Street Garden-replacing senior housing development

November 2, 2022

Rendering courtesy of Curtis + Ginsberg Architects

Long-stalled plans to build an affordable senior housing development at the Elizabeth Street Garden in Little Italy hit another roadblock this week. State Supreme Court Judge Debra James on Tuesday vacated and annulled the environmental impact statement for Haven Green, a 123-unit mixed-use rental for older New Yorkers approved by the City Council in 2019. While developers determined the building would not have a negative impact on the neighborhood’s environment, the judge disagreed, ruling that “reduction in open space ratios is sufficient to indicate the presence of a significant adverse impact.”

Photo of the Elizabeth Street Garden in 2019 © James and Karla Murray for 6sqft

Opponents of the development have argued Haven Green would take away one of the few open green spaces in the neighborhood. In its “Negative Declaration,” the city’s Housing of Preservation and Development found there would be “no significant adverse environmental impact” because the plan included public green space as well as perks like “bike lanes, other community gardens and the proximity to Washington Square Park.”

In a decision issued Tuesday, James ruled: “The court agrees with petitioners that respondents lacked a rational basis in the EAS analysis to reach such a conclusion of non-significance.”

As the Real Deal reported, it’s unclear whether the city will be able to update the EAS without sending it to the council again, where the development could face difficulty with the area’s new council member, Christopher Marte, a vocal supporter of the garden. The city will likely appeal the judge’s decision.

Photo of the Elizabeth Street Garden in 2019 © James and Karla Murray for 6sqft

The project was first introduced by former Council Member Margaret Chin in 2012 with plans for Haven Green unveiled by Pennrose Properties, Habitat for Humanity New York City, and RiseBoro Community Partnerships in 2017.

Residential units would be designated for seniors earning between $20,040 and $40,080, as well as formerly homeless seniors, as 6sqft previously reported.

The plan to replace the garden with housing immediately faced backlash from advocates of the Elizabeth Street Garden, including owner Allan Reiver who had leased the space from the city since 1991 and who died last year. His son Joseph currently serves as the Executive Director of Elizabeth Street Garden Inc, the nonprofit fighting the Haven Green project in court.

“Elizabeth Street Garden is very pleased with Justice James’s decision. As we have said all along, the City must conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement,” Reiver said in a statement. “The Court agrees with us about the important claim made regarding the reduction of open space in an underserved neighborhood.”

“With this decision, we hope that Mayor Adams and HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrion will meet with us so that we may amicably resolve this issue in a way that preserves Elizabeth Street Garden and achieves more affordable housing at the existing alternative sites, including at 388 Hudson Street.”


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