Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Proposal to HPD, Transfer Elizabeth Street Garden to NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

Mott-Elizabeth Streets RFP: Addendum 1 RFP issue date: September 14th, 2016 

Evan Easterbrooks-Dick 
NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
Office of Neighborhood Strategies
100 Gold Street, Room 9X
New York, NY 10038

Name of Organization:  Public Space Party

Contact Person:  Benjamin Shepard

Telephone No.:   718-260-5135


Elizabeth Street Garden:

Elizabeth Street Garden already is a wonderful and unique community park and green space with sculptures and artifacts located in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan, on Elizabeth and Mott Streets between Prince and Spring streets.   Currently, Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden volunteers operate the Garden year­-round and program more than 200 free, public educational, wellness and arts­-related events annually for children, seniors and all who live and work in the community. The Garden's design, size and configuration make it ideally suited for movies, music, yoga, community festivals, arts performances, educational programs, gardening and quiet meditation that are not offered in any other nearby public community space. ​

The Project:

Public Space Party recommends that New York City transfer Elizabeth Street Garden from the Department of Citywide Services to the Department of Parks and Recreation and formally dedicate Elizabeth Street Garden as parkland.   Elizabeth Street Garden is a hub for the community, bringing foot traffic to the neighborhood, increased shopping, community cohesiveness, and storm water retention necessary to prevent flooding like experienced with Superstorm Sandy in 2012.  The presence of this park adds social capital and cohesiveness to the neighborhood.   There also already is a vibrant and active not-for-profit that would be expected to continue to support the park.  Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in 2014 with the mission to preserve Elizabeth Street Garden as a unique public green, open space and NYC Park in perpetuity.  


1.      100,000 Annual Park Users:  Elizabeth Street Garden serves an estimated 100,000 visitors annually, including the 23,000 residents of Little Italy and SoHo, the growing base of employees at neighborhood small businesses, all residents and employees of downtown Manhattan, tourists who visit the Garden and support local small businesses in the surrounding community and all citizens of New York City.

2.      Improved Health and Social Rate of Return:  The creation of a permanent park at Elizabeth Street Garden will continue to support community development for years to come. The social rate of return for a community garden includes: community capacity building, reduce asthma, increase fitness, support social equity, help cool the planet, curb global greenhouse gases, reduce storm water overflow, increase biodiversity, provide fresh produce in “food deserts, etc. The benefits are endless. 

3.      Permanent Solution to Improve Access to Open Space:  Elizabeth Street Garden already is a beautiful park and can be transferred to NYC DPR providing additional park space in the only downtown Manhattan neighborhood that DPR defines as “underserved” by open space.  In fact, Little Italy and SoHo have only 3 square feet of open space per person (the size of a subway seat!) vs. the City planning goal of 109 square feet.  And all of the neighborhood’s parks are paved, except for the planted medians that the City counts as “parks” on Houston Street.

4.      Demonstration of “Grass Roots” Initiatives Driving Mayor de Blasio’s Priorities:  In a speech marking Mayor de Blasio’s 100 days on the job, he said that the “grass roots” of the city would be driving his policy agenda.  

a.      In 2012, Elizabeth Street Garden was included in a behind-the-scenes side deal tied to the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA rezoning on the Lower East Side and in Community Board 3. There was no public review or discussion of this side deal, despite an extensive process of community involvement in CB 3 that began in 2008, nor was any attempt made to reach out to Community Board 2, where the Garden is located.

b.      But, since learning about this side deal in 2013, Community Board 2 has held four public hearings where the overwhelming sentiment has been for saving the Garden.  More importantly, Community Board 2 has identified a nearby site on Hudson and Clarkson streets. The currently city-owned and vacant lot can provide five times as much housing as the Elizabeth Street Garden site, without destroying a cherished and needed public amenity. The CB 2 proposed site would be developed as both housing and public open space, in cooperation with NYC HPD, DEP and Parks.

c.       Elizabeth Street Garden has a tremendous base of community support.  It is a supported by a local not-for-profit, Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden.   The park serves hundreds of visitors daily and has 7,500 email subscribers, 5,500 letters of support and hundreds of volunteers. Supporter s include Rep. Jerrold Nadler, State Sen. Daniel L. Squadron, State Sen. Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, Assemblymember-elect Yuh-Line Niou, NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, District Leaders Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar, Community Board 2, former NYC Parks Comm. Adrian Benepe, The Municipal Arts Society of New York and 16 parks and community organizations listed at

d.     Furthermore, the compromise already occurred in 1981 when NYC sold 62% of the former school site to Little Italy Restoration Association for 152 units of affordable housing at 21 Spring St. and designated the Garden site “exclusively for recreational use.”

Public space is for the people.

Make Elizabeth Street Community Garden a park and all New York will benefit!