City Moves Forward - Time for Legal Action Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden’s Legal Team is Prepared to Stop the City from Destroying the Garden
Christine Amorose for C'est Christine
New York, NY (Nov. 15, 2018) — New York City ignores Historic Little Italy residents, neighbors and local businesses, and moves forward with its ill-thought-out plan to destroy Elizabeth Street Garden.
Yesterday, the NYC Department of City Planning certified plans to move forward with the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Process. As part of this process, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development completed its Environmental Assessment Statement and issued a Negative Declaration, meaning that HPD believes its planned development will have “no significant effect on the quality of the environment” and that no additional environmental analysis is needed.
“This is the moment when real thought should start about the desirability of such a project,” said Michael Gruen, counsel for Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden. “It’s also,” he continued, “the moment when the city commonly pronounces that the project is a ‘done deal,’ in order to discourage opposition. But there are strong legal reasons why this Garden must and will stay.”
The city's analysis incorrectly concludes that destruction of the Garden will have no impact on this state- and nationally-designated historic community. Nor does it adequately address impacts on noise, air quality or that the remaining minuscule open space will be covered in shadows. Meanwhile, the city disregards the significant lack of open space in Little Italy. "While the NYC Parks Dept defines this neighborhood as 'underserved' by open space, another city agency, HPD, threatens to destroy Elizabeth Street Garden." counters Jeannine Kiely, president of Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden.
The city is also ignoring a better alternative site for housing -- a vacant, gravel-filled, city-owned lot at 388 Hudson St. that can provide up to five times as much senior housing and a 10,000-square-foot park without destroying treasured public green, open space. “Look at any map of Little Italy and SoHo. There is not a single garden or green park from Bowery to the Hudson River, from Canal to Houston streets, except Elizabeth Street Garden. Why would the city ever destroy much-needed open space when a superior housing site is available nearby?” asked Emily Hellstrom, a board member of Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden.
The next step is for Manhattan Community Board 2 to hold public hearings in December and January, on dates to be scheduled. "The Elizabeth Street Garden site is an oasis in a super parched open space area of our community board. CB 2 has long standing resolutions in support of keeping the Garden as a park space and has offered a better, larger affordable housing alternative site, which, for whatever reason, is not being seriously considered," stated David Gruber, Chair of CB 2's Elizabeth Street Garden Working Group.
About the Legal Team Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden (Friends) and Elizabeth Street Garden (ESG), the Garden's managing organization since last year, are coordinating legal efforts to achieve their shared goal of saving the Garden from development. Friends has retained Michael Gruen, president of the City Club, and ESG has retained Norman Siegel of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans, LLP.
Gruen is a land use attorney with a proven track record of litigating against New York City and state governmental entities. He is president of the City Club, a good governance organization that recently won two important land use cases — Pier 55 and Flushing Meadows. He and Norman Siegel, a civil rights and civil liberties lawyer and the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union are coordinating legal strategies.
Garden Supporters Garden supporters include numerous elected officials — Rep. Jerrold Nadler; Rep. Nydia Velazquez; State Sen. Brad Hoylman; State Sen. Brian Kavanagh; Assemblymember Deborah Glick; Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou; NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer; NYC Public Advocate Letitia James; District Leaders Vittoria Fariello, Paul Newell and Daisy Paez; Manhattan Community Board 2; 21 park and community organizations; writers or signers of more than 10,000 letters and statements of support from local residents and small business owners; and hundreds of volunteers.
About the Garden The Garden provides the only open green space in Little Italy and SoHo, a neighborhood with an open space ratio of 0.07 acre per 1,000 residents (3 square feet per person — about the size of a subway seat, and except for the Garden, 100 percent paved), well below the city goal of 2.5 acres per 1,000 residents (109 square feet per person). The Garden is also part of the only downtown Manhattan neighborhood that the NYC Parks Department defines as underserved by open space.
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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