The Elizabeth Street Garden and the Battle of the Nonprofit Prophets

Posted on: June 27th, 2018 at 5:00 am by

Photo: Curtis + Ginsberg Architects

From the outset of Monday night’s Community Board 2 hearing on the Elizabeth Street Garden, it was immediately clear that the City had successfully pitted green, environmental advocates against those in support of affordable housing, senior citizens, and the homeless.

What follows are just some of the more memorable quotes and takeaways regarding the Pennrose Properties plan to redevelop Elizabeth Street Garden into a mixed-use affordable housing complex in the Little Italy Special District. The room was certainly divided.

The opening remarks from Karen Haycox, CEO of Habitat for Humanity NYC, foreshadowed the night – “Unfortunately, the growing scarcity of public land has pitted potential allies, open space advocates, and housing advocates against each other.”


“Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) was very thoughtful and deliberate in requiring that the development team submit a meaningful balance of affordable housing and open, green space.”

-Veanda Simmons, Director of Manhattan Planning, Division of HPD

“You’re gonna go through with this; make my day – We’ll meet you in court!”

-Norman Siegel, attorney for ESG, on challenging Simmons’ official statement that no Environmental Impact Statement would be required for this development

Dylan Salmon (Pennrose), Paul Leonard (CM Chin), and Leila Bozorg (HPD)

“We reject this binary conception of either or, it must be both. The City’s need for affordable housing must be balanced with the need for open green space, this is especially true when it comes to our senior population.”

-Karen Haycox, speaking on behalf Pennrose Properties and RiseBoro, making the case for compromise as the only solution in her opening remarks.

“This development will destroy the garden. This is the garden 100% saved or 100% destroyed, this is not a compromise.”

-Jeannine Kiely, President of Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden (FESG), while pointing to before and after renderings of the garden site. Keily also pointed to a Pennrose rendering calling it deceptive in enlarging the look of the outdoor space. Kiely went on to claim that the Haven Green compromise has no concessions since zoning in the Special Little Italy District prevents building on more than 60% of the garden site.

“Why are we here when right within the same boundaries of the same community board there lies a gravel-strewn lot … that would give our seniors five times more housing? We already have our haven, we already have our green. The soul of our neighborhood – Elizabeth Street Garden!”

-Emily Helstrom, mother of two and outspoken volunteer for FESG.

“We have a simple solution; we are going to continue to fight for that solution. Use the alternative space and solve the problem, it’s simple, it’s simple.”

-Joseph Reiver, president of ESG, making clear that the debate seemed more of a distraction than an actual attempt at solving an affordable housing issue.

“If there’s no garden there, I’m going to fucking plant one myself!”

-Kathleen Webster, member of Community Board 3, was in the audience in fervent support of the housing redevelopment and gave this threat to anyone who was doubtful that the Haven Green will follow through with its plans for a lush, green outdoor space.

Pete Davies with Paul Leonard, Chief of Staff for Councilwoman Chin, laughing as Haven Green avoids the question

“You continue to use the word ‘preserve’; do you know what the word preserve means? The definition of the word preserve is to maintain something in its original or existing state.”

-Pete Davies from the Broadway Residents Coalition, claiming that Haven Green and its supporters have co-opted and manipulated the word “preserve” in their statement and PR publications.

“Senior Housing and affordable housing is worth more to me than a half-a-year’s worth of accessibility to the garden.”

-Eric Diaz, who represented himself as having worked with University Settlement.

“There is no space left. There’s no space to build on in New York City that isn’t contested.”

-Paul Nagel, Executive Director of Stonewall Community Development, an LGBT senior housing organization.

Georgette Fleischer, founder of Petrosino Square, with her 7-week old daughter dressed in green

“This is not a development – it’s a land grab!”

-Georgette Fleischer’s heartfelt plea not to pave over Elizabeth Street Garden for the sake of her 7-week-old daughter.

This story has multiple pages:

Recent Stories

Stringer Punts on East Side Coastal Resilience Contract

For advocates of East River Park, a brief reprieve. City Comptroller, and former mayoral candidate Scott Stringer did not sign the $1.2 billion construction contract with IPC Resiliency Partners that would kickstart city funding for the East Side Coastal Resilience project. It apparently boils down to missing info and the review period having elapsed. “As […]

Restless Soul: Christopher Paul Stelling at Rockwood Music Hall

Christopher Paul Stelling lived in New York City for a few years. He inhabits a restless soul, however. Originally from Daytona Beach, Florida, the artist has lived in Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, and currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina. He spends a lot of time on the road, too, except that last year he had no […]

Wegmans Market to Open at Former Astor Place Kmart

Something rather unexpected. Not two weeks after Kmart terminated its presence in Astor Place, its replacement is announced. From left field – Wegmans is to open its first Manhattan grocery at this location. The well-regarded, Rochester-based chain already maintains a store in Brooklyn. Curb your enthusiasm, though, as the new Wegmans won’t open at 770 […]

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot Wraps its Summer Season

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is wrapping up its latest affair with a lesser known production from the Bard’s canon. Continuing the Lower East Side tradition, the Drilling Company is back at the Clemente for three final performances this week – to perform Two Noble Kinsmen. For this iteration, director Hamilton Clancy has taken the […]

A Grave Marker for a Homeless Man Bludgeoned to Death on the Bowery

It’s been nearly two years since the city was rocked by the fatal bludgeoning of homeless men on the Bowery while they slept. Of the five beaten by 24-year-old attacker Randy Santos, four ultimately died – Chuen Kwok, Anthony Manson, Florencio Moran, and Nazario Vasquez-Villegas. Chuen Kwok was a vulnerable senior who, after the passing […]