WAKE UP #Mayor Bill de Blasio & #Council Member Margaret S. Chin! ELIZABETH STREET GARDEN SUPPORTERS PROTEST MAYOR DE BLASIO AT RIVINGTON HOUSE Release Chart of 746,000 SF of Missed Affordable Housing Options #ElizabethStreetGarden
Friday, March 3, 2017, New York, NY -- Led by Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden, residents from Little Italy, Nolita and the surrounding neighborhoods gathered in front of Rivington House to protest plans by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Margaret Chin to destroy a treasured Manhattan park space. The city is seeking to demolish Elizabeth Street Garden to create a small number of affordable housing units despite the fact that better alternatives exist.
Protesters revealed a chart detailing 746,000 square feet of affordable housing space the city has overlooked, or is currently overlooking. This space would offer 10 times the number of affordable housing that would be created on the Elizabeth Street Garden space. Rivington House alone would provide 150,000 square feet of affordable housing, but Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Chin were asleep when the property’s deed restrictions were lifted to pave the way for luxury condos.
A trumpeter played reveille at the protest in an attempt to ‘wake’ Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Chin.
The group identified five prime sites that could be used, or could have been used, for affordable housing:
·Rivington House itself could have been used for 150,000 square feet of affordable housing. The building still could be used if the city would seek to overturn the deal to sell the property with no deed restriction; (FESG supports Senator Squadron’s call for the New York Attorney General and the NYC’s Corporation Counsel to investigate Rivington House under the State and City’s False Claims Act.);
·A few blocks from the Garden, the city plans to sell an existing building at 137 Centre Street for 100% luxury housing instead of converting it to 41,000 square feet of affordable housing;
·Even closer to the Garden, the 70,000-square-foot city-owned 2 Howard Street remains an underutilized parking facility;
·Adjacent to the Garden, at 21 Spring Street, Section 8 subsidies and a 40-year deed restriction will expire soon and now provide the opportunity to extend 185,000 square feet of existing affordable housing for future generations;
·388 Hudson, a gravel lot, would offer a full 300,000 square feet of affordable housing.
“Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Chin have been asleep at the switch while nearly a million square feet of affordable housing opportunities are being squandered,” said Jeannine Kiely, President of Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden. “Meanwhile, they want to destroy a treasured park in an area starved for open space.”
Residents are outraged that the de Blasio administration and Council Member Chin have repeatedly turned a deaf ear to constituents and local community groups, who overwhelmingly support saving Elizabeth Street Garden. Located between Prince and Spring streets in Little Italy, an area starved for open space, the 20,000-square-foot park is open to the public year round, offers more than 200 free public events annually and attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year.
Neighborhood residents have committed to a long-term “Wake-Up Campaign” directed at educating Mayor de Blasio, local Council Member Margaret Chin and all those seeking to destroy Elizabeth Street Garden. The group will use social media, free media, direct mail, protests, a 7,500-person mailing list and other forms of community outreach to reach all those who are affected by the attack on the beloved park space.
Council Member Chin included Elizabeth Street Garden site in a back-room deal, with no public review whatsoever, as part of the Essex Crossing development in Community Board 3 on the Lower East Side. Since learning about this side deal in 2013, Community Board 2 has held four public hearings during which the overwhelming sentiment has been to save the Garden and supporters have written more than 5,000 letters to the Mayor in support of saving the Garden.
In 2015, the de Blasio administration, with Council Member Chin’s support, sought $6 million in grant funding (later denied) to develop 21 Spring Street. Meanwhile, the city was in process of lifting the deed restriction on a much more valuable property at Rivington House.
“Why, if Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Chin are committed to affordable housing, did they allow the Rivington House to be turned into luxury condos that will profit private developers?” asked Emily Hellstrom, longtime neighborhood resident and Garden volunteer. “There was a clear recommendation to “deny sale” and to support an “affordable housing plan, and yet they let it happen at the same time that they were seeking to destroy a neighborhood park.”
Remarkably, NYC HPD’s plan to develop the Garden is supported only by Council Member Chin. Every other area local elected official supports saving the Garden, favoring an alternative proposal by Community Board 2 for affordable housing at 388 Hudson Street, a vacant city-owned lot just 0.9 mile away, where five times as much senior housing can be built.
Community Board 2 has urged the de Blasio administration to work with them on opportunities they have identified for affordable housing in its District while keeping this much-needed Garden. In addition to the nearly 500 affordable units recently approved at 550 Washington Street, CB 2 supports the development of affordable housing at 388 Hudson Street -- but only if the Elizabeth Street Garden remains a public park in its entirety.
“The city should be doing everything in its power to protect the Elizabeth Street Garden open space, which is an asset to the community and the city as a whole,” Kiely said.
The protesters, who plan to advance their protests in the months ahead, called on Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Chin to listen to their constituents, focus on the better alternatives and preserve the park for generations to come.
Affordable Housing Alternatives Can Provide
More Than 10x Affordable Units for Seniors note activists.
A long time activist and social worker, Benjamin Shepard’s scholarship is based on the ethnographic study of social services and social movements. He has worked on campaigns around public space, including community gardens, bike lanes, and public welfare issues ranging from education to AIDS services. For more info or to contact him visit:
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Community Projects as Social Activism