Rendering courtesy of Curtis + Ginsberg Architects
The New York City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to replace a community garden in Little Italy with an affordable housing complex for seniors. The project, first introduced by Council Member Margaret Chin in 2012, will rise on the site of Elizabeth Street Garden, a quirky green space created in 1991 by Allan Reiver, who owns the gallery next to the garden. The complex, dubbed Haven Green, will include 123 affordable apartments and ground-floor retail. Originally, developers agreed to keep 8,000 square feet of public space at the site, but on Wednesday Chin said she reached an agreement to incorporate more open space at Haven Green through a courtyard next door.
Photo © James and Karla Murray for 6sqft
“All of us want what’s best for our neighborhood,” Chin said before Wednesday’s vote. “This collective effort is what we mean when we say housing justice for all.”
The city revealed in 2017 its plan for Haven Green, a passive house developed by Pennrose Properties, Habitat for Humanity New York City, and RiseBoro Community Partnerships. Residential units are designated for seniors earning between $20,040 and $40,080, as well as formerly homeless seniors.
Advocates for Haven Green argue that the city’s housing crisis and growing senior population calls for more affordable housing. According to policy organization LiveOnNY, found there are about 200,000 seniors on the waiting list for an affordable apartment across the city.
The plan to replace the garden with housing immediately faced backlash from advocates for the Elizabeth Street Garden, including Allan Reiver who has leased the space from the city since 1991, and two nonprofits that support the garden.
“I find the fact that there was a unanimous vote to be indicative of a political problem in this city where Council Members follow tradition as opposed to their hearts,” Reiver told 6sqft. “To me, it’s undemocratic and quite frankly, dictatorial.”
The two nonprofits, Elizabeth Street Garden and Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden, filed lawsuits in March to stop the development. The suits, filed separately but most likely will be heard together, claim the city did not properly evaluate the environmental impact of razing the garden on the community.
“City Council members fulfill their reputation of deference, short of one who abstained, and vote in favor of destroying the Elizabeth Street Garden,” Joseph Reiver, the executive director of the Elizabeth Street Garden tweeted. “None of them including Chin and @CoreyinNYC have been to the garden. This is why we have a lawsuit.”
The original plan from developers included about 8,000 square feet of public green space for the area, much less than the current site’s half-acre. But City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Chin said on Wednesday an agreement had been met to incorporate a courtyard at a building next to the site and run by the DeMatteis Organization. It’s unclear what exactly this will look like, but Johnson did say the two open spaces combined “would be over 20,000 square feet.”
In addition to the extra green space, Chin said the agreement secures affordability for the 152 units of Section 8 residences at the adjacent building. “Together these gains will bring even more benefits and protections to the community,” Chin said in a statement. “I thank my Council colleagues for acknowledging the urgency to take action to address New York City’s housing crisis, and approving this affordable housing project.”
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