To save Nolita’s Elizabeth Street Garden, a nonprofit wants to take ownership from the city

January 9, 2018

Sketch of Elizabeth Street Garden’s Site A courtesy of Ella Barnes/ESG

A nonprofit with a mission to protect and preserve the Elizabeth Street Garden in Nolita released on Tuesday a plan to designate the park as a Community Land Trust (CLT), meaning it would no longer require funding from the city. The group, aptly named Elizabeth Street Garden (ESG), unveiled renderings of what the park could look like as a CLT, including a new composting station, solar panels, a volunteer work shed and more. The proposal from ESG comes after the city announced last month plans to demolish the garden to make way for an affordable senior housing development.

Four proposed sites via ESG

A CLT is a nonprofit organization that develops spaces on behalf of the community and can be a part of existing nonprofits like ESG. If the status of the Elizabeth Street Garden is changed, ESG could own the land through a lease agreement, a public land sale or a land easement.

As a CLT, the park would be open to the public during its current hours or more. According to the nonprofit, ESG could focus on funding the garden instead of fighting the city to save the garden. The park’s unique architecture and statues could remain if it becomes a CLT.

The plan from ESG divides the space into four separate sites- A, B, C and D. At Site A, ESG proposes a greenhouse conservatory be built as a place to grow local food, flowers, and houseplants all year round. The conservatory could be used for planting workshops for the community, including local schools.

Sketch of Elizabeth Street Garden’s Site B courtesy of Ella Barnes/ESG

Sketch of Elizabeth Street Garden’s Site C courtesy of Ella Barnes/ESG

Sites B and C focus on environmental sustainability. There will be a composting station at Site B which would possibly hold a local compost program for neighbors and volunteers, who would bring food to be composted on designated days. The existing shed structure will be updated and used as a work and storage area for both garden workers and volunteers.

Site C’s lean-to structure will have a solar-paneled roof. It will be developed into a year-round area open to the public that will feature a banquet table, seating and a small lending library. Site C will also have space for student workshops and an outdoor gallery.

Haven Green, Curtis + Ginsberg, Elizabeth Street Garden, senior housing Nolita
Rendering of Haven Green courtesy of Curtis + Ginsberg Architects

The city’s affordable housing complex, dubbed Haven Green, calls for an energy-efficient passive house with units set aside for seniors earning between $20,040 and $40,080 as well as seniors who were formerly homeless. The city says there will be a publicly accessible green space measuring a little over 7,600 square feet, smaller than the original site.

Commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Maria Torres-Springer, said the proposal, “strikes a balance between the desperate need for affordable senior housing and dedicated public open space, making this a win-win for the neighborhood.”

ESG disagrees and announced on Tuesday that it has hired an attorney to prevent the city from demolishing the Elizabeth Street Garden. The Haven Green still requires approval from the city’s Land Use Review Procedure.


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