The Elizabeth Street Garden and the Battle of the Nonprofit Prophets
“I’m dismayed to see how many people are in favor of keeping more people homeless and on the street.”
-Alex Walker, one of three young men from a housing organization called Open New York. This opening remark was met with so many wild boos and chants to sit back down, the remainder of his comments could not be heard. But he did manage to call the audience “hypocrites,” not knowing that some of the boos were coming from people who had previously been homeless.
“Habitat for Humanity should change its name to habitat for inhumanity!”
-Ed Morris, a long-time SoHo resident and philosopher.
“I hope none of you garden supporters are ever in a position when you’re desperately looking for housing. If you were, you’d change sides very quickly.”
-A physician in an assisted living facility.
“I can’t quite believe that you, my neighbors, would be this selfish that you can’t think about sharing your space. It’s sad to me that my neighbors are this heartless about the needs that have to be met.”
-Steve, neighbor of the garden, in support of the Haven Green project.
“Why would HPD be afraid of an EIS? Are you really afraid of an EIS because it will show that the need for green space is needed and needed desperately. You’re afraid of it, you’re avoiding it for your own purposes. We’ll go for it through the courts or on our own.”
-The last word from the audience randomly went to Allan Reiver, owner of Elizabeth Street Gallery and lease-holder of the garden site since 1991.
Reiver’s original vision for a beautification lease-deal with the City turned a trash-strewn lot into what Eddie Panta, a long-time resident of Elizabeth Street (and Bowery Boogie contributor) describes as “an organic anomaly, inseparable from the identity and character of the neighborhood itself.”
Leila Bozorg (HPD Deputy Commissioner, Neighborhood Strategies) stepped up after Allan Reiver’s remarks clarifying the confusion over EAS vs EIS by stating that: “If an EAS review determines an EIS necessary then we will do the EIS. This is going to be transparent but we are starting with the EAS.”