Friday, October 7, 2016

Save the Garden, Save the City – Rally for Elizabeth Street Garden at HPD

October 6th, I arrived at a rally at 100 
Gold Street outside the offices of the 
New York City Department of Housing 
Preservation and Development.  It’s a 
deceptive title for a city agency where
 there is not much preservation going on.   
But there sure is a lot of development – 
consuming nursing homes on Rivington
 Street, hospitals, and even community 
gardens, including our beloved Elizabeth
 Street Community Garden. October 6th 
was the developer meeting for the project,
hosted by HPD.  A group of supporters of
 the garden were on hand, to greet the developers
 making their way inside. 
Standing outside, we passed out flyers declaring: 
Developing Elizabeth Street Garden is a Bad Idea
-          It will reduce senior housing opportunities locally
-          It leaves the neighborhood with a postage stamp 
Why This Project Does Not Make Sense
-          Every other local official supports saving the garden
-          They also support a proposal by Community Board Two 
-          for five times as much housing as an alternative site,
-           which will not be available if the garden is destroyed.  
-          The CB2 lot on Hudson and Clarkson  would be developed 
-          as both housing and public open space, in cooperation with 
-          HPD, DEP and Parks. 
-          Our beloved and heavily used garden space has an
-           overwhelming base of local support. 
-          The RFP is a ruse! It calls for lawn, trees, paths and sitting
-           areas, which space for events and educational events, all 
-          in an area the size of a basketball court. 
Passing out flyers, a few of us talked about what was going 
on here.  
“Five times as much housing is available at the alternative 
explained Sarah, an Elizabeth Street Garden 
supporter. “You can’t recreate a garden overnight.”
Several of the gardeners who had been at Adam Purple’s 
funeral last fall were at the event.  He lost his garden to
 the push for affordable housing too.  It’s a false divide
 that comes up again and again, like Nietzsche’s myth 
of the eternal return. 
“HPD is not telling the truth,” explained Jeannine Kiely, 
president of the Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden. 
“Hold up signs.  Tape them to your body.  Form a 
receiving line for those coming inside, passing them
 flyers,” she asked. 
“The city is showing little regard for affordable housing,” 
explained Jennifer Romine, another garden supported, 
pointing to the loss of units taking place on Elizabeth Street.  
 She elaborated: “Our neighborhood has the lowest amount 
of Green space in this whole borough. CB2 offered its space.  
Why is the city ignoring this other option?  They didn’t want
 our property when things were run down.  They want it now.  
The primary goal is profit.  They want to put in retail store 
fronts.  We don’t want more retail.”
Adam Woodward, another garden supporter, walked by 
chiming in that the business owners should be glad the 
garden is there as it brings in thousands and thousands of
 people a weekend, amazing 
foot traffic.”
“They promised us a space for kids,” Jennifer continued.   
“I have been here for 15 years.  Nothing.  The only
 playground here is on Mulberry and Spring and no one goes there.  
 The kids don’t feel 
safe there.  And if adults sit there they are arrested.”
“There is a document from 1981 when the city sold the 
land to LIRA,” explained Allan Reiver, who started the 
garden in 1991. “It was supposed
 to be maintained as recreation space.”
Jamie Jenson, another supporter walked by. “I want to
preserve the statu quo, 150 units of affordable housing, 
from Section Eight, for the 31 years
 and preserve the garden.  Yet, the city wants to turn
 the garden into a drug store and let 21 Spring go private.
“I urge HPD to reconsider their plans,” declared Brad 
“Do not build on this beautiful space.   In a dense urban
 environment we need green space.  It is lunacy that New 
York would want to demolish 
this  irreplaceable treasure.”
He was joined by Deborah Glick who stood up to remind 
everyone that this was supposed to be an administration 
that listens to the community.  
She was told the garden was going to be taken off the 
chopping block, only to watch the city turn its backs on the
 garden the next day.
Others described him de Blasio a one term mayor. 
“Save the Garden!
We won’t be ignored!”  the crowd screamed. 
The head of the community board stood to remind everyone 
that no one can tell us we cannot win this battle.  No one can
tell us that.  We are not on our heels.  We are standing tall.  
Closer to 10 AM, more and more developers started arriving.  
We passed our flyers to each one.  
“Save the garden, save the city,’ we reminded them. 
The garden helps create a space for rain water drainage, open
 space, combating climate change, while supporting 
neighborhood cohesion.  Spaces like this garden are what 
New York needs. 
Several of us tried to get into the developer meeting.  
But our names were pushed off the list. 
The city does not want to hear from regular people.  
The RFP for the garden is not due till December 14th.  
So there is a lot of time, lots we can all do to slow the 
process down and save the garden once and for all.

Hello Garden Volunteers,

We made the Garden proud today!
Thank You to all who joined the protest to show the City and developers that
Elizabeth Street Garden is the soul of our neighborhood.

Over 200 Garden supporters loudly demonstrated in front of HPD headquarters
wearing green, holding signs, making sure that developers and City workers know that we are not going away!
We handed out 1,500 fact sheets, setting the record straight about the Garden.

Comptroller Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly District Democratic Nominee Yuh-Line Niou and representatives from State Senator Daniel Squadron's office, all spoke eloquently about the importance of listening to you, the community.
We thank them for their continued support.

Most importantly, we thank you!
Your strength and dedication is unwavering.
Together we will show the City that the Garden must be saved.
We will not be ignored!

Over 200 #ElizabethStreetGarden supporters showed up bright and early on a work day to let NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) & Margaret S. Chin know that our community will not be ignored!!!
A big sunflower thank you to all of the community members, volunteers, business owners, public school teachers, students, and elected officials who came to defend the Garden.
Thank you State Senator Brad Hoylman - "The best use of this beautiful space, is as it i...s - as a Garden where thousands of New Yorkers, every year, have the opportunity for a moment of peace, and quiet and solitude."
Thank you Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick - "We are here to raise the voice of the community, and let the developers know that they are not going to take away the Elizabeth Street Garden."
Thank you Comptroller Scott M. Stringer - "This community has a long history of making sure that the community is protected. Our open space is precious. For the children of the community - this is their home, this is where they are going to learn about science, and see the butterflies."
Thank you 65th Assembly District nominee Yuh-Line Niou - "It's a false choice for them to be pitting affordable housing against green spaces, it's very important for us to have both in our community."
Thank you State Senator Daniel Squadron !!
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#ESGSaveOurGarden #Community #activism #greenspace #communitygarden #garden #littleitaly #protest

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