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Residents took protest placards and crowded into Elizabeth Street Garden in Nolita on September 26 to push back an eviction notice.
On Sunday, executive director Joseph Reiver sat on a bench in the shade of a tree, reflecting on a nearly decade-long fight to save the garden founded by his father. By joining hands, it’s clear that the fight has taken its toll, leaving him and the surrounding community as a whole emotionally exhausted.
No matter how tired or sorrowful, however, Reiver says he and visitors to the garden will fight so that its greenery can continue to be enjoyed for years to come despite an eviction notice telling staff to leave the grounds by the October 31. .
“They bet we’re tired. And they place their bets on what’s going on and on and we lose our mind, but we’re not going to lose our mind. We’re going to keep fighting for this place because this place is still there and we are there and it’s all a testament, ”Reiver said.
More than 100 residents of Lower Manhattan have filed their cases in Elizabeth Street Garden, located between Prince and Spring streets, in support of their communal green spaces. Already engaged in a legal battle, garden attorney Norman Seagal says the eviction bypasses the legal process by having the garden’s lease terminated by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).
“Very simply, the city is trying to achieve through the termination of the lease, which it was still able to achieve through litigation. So quite simply the city, in my opinion, should wait for the judge to make a final decision, ”Seagal said.
A forest of humanity holding banners reading “Save Our Garden” and “Green Space for Residents, Not for Big Developers” lined the 20,000 square foot space in the hope that their collective voices could raise awareness to avoid a possible destruction.
Supporters of the rally have denounced council member Margaret Chin for allowing the city to continue closing the garden under what they see as a pretext for affordable housing.
amNewYork Metro has contacted Chin’s office for comment. A spokesperson said New York City is facing an unprecedented housing crisis and the only way to solve this problem is to reallocate land.
“During the Rudy Giuliani administration, the late gallerist secured an agreement to lease this city-owned piece of land at a greatly reduced price. The site was never open to the public until the gallery owner heard that the city was planning to terminate the lease in order to build affordable housing. Fast forward to today, our city struggles to house residents as our population grows rapidly. This housing shortage is allowing landlords to drive up rental prices, which displaces low-income New Yorkers, especially seniors who live on a fixed income, ”Chin said. “The need for more housing is an urgent issue not only for newcomers, but also for New Yorkers whose prices are being kicked out of their homes entirely. ”
Additionally, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development says seniors in the Special Little Italy neighborhood are the target group for this new affordable housing project, as they have been hit the hardest by the housing crisis. They say they worked with developers Haven Green and the owner of neighboring affordable housing development Little Italy Restoration Apartments (LIRA) to expand part of their yard.
“We have worked diligently to strike a balance between the need for low-cost housing for seniors and maintaining New York’s vibrant open spaces, which is why we recently negotiated with the neighboring site to nearly double the public space provided for the community while also creating affordable housing for seniors who need it most.
However, Reiver believes the reasoning is invalid. He believes that there is no need to choose between green spaces and housing, the option for both exists.
“The city has been trying for a long time to force a wrong choice on us. And I said it yesterday: any administration, any politician who says you can only have affordable housing or a community garden, one or the other, they’re misleading you. That’s not the truth. It is a false choice. And we need the media to see it too. The New York Times said it, they presented it as a false choice. They said: Would you rather have affordable senior housing or a community garden. We can have both. And we can actually have more of both with the alternate plan, ”Reiver said.
Much to the chagrin of garden lovers, Chin argues that developing a new housing project in the area would greatly benefit businesses, provide affordable housing and elevate the struggling community.
“Haven Green provides the opportunity to build very affordable and much-needed housing for low-income seniors in one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods. This project not only creates 123 new permanently affordable units, but also ground floor storefronts for local retail, and the proposed 6,700 square feet of open space will be available. residents and members of the public in perpetuity. None of this can be said about the current use of this batch, ”Chin said.
Elizabeth Street Garden activists are asking those who wish to see the space survive to write a letter and / or local email to their local representative and HPD, demanding that their lease termination be rescinded.