CPC Holds First Public Hearing on Elizabeth Street Garden Today

Posted on: March 13th, 2019 at 5:05 am by

As two Elizabeth Street Garden nonprofit groups turn to lawsuits to thwart redevelopment of the Little Italy oasis, the Haven Green senior affordable housing complex is proceeding to the next phase of the Uniform Land-Use Review Process (ULLURP). The controversial, 123-unit development appears before the City Planning Commission for a public hearing this morning at 10am.

The highly-publicized lawsuits filed last week contest the legality of the city’s Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS). Attorneys argue that the EAS should have determined an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) was necessary. If actions are successful, the ULURP process would be rebooted to include an EIS, a more expansive analysis on how Haven Green impacts the neighborhood.

Haven Green’s application requires a majority vote from CPC to proceed to the next step in the ULURP, a vote at City Council in June. Expect the EAS and its negation of an EIS to weigh heavily in today’s hearing where the public is invited to give testimony.

The debate over an EIS ignited the ongoing battle between housing advocates and Garden supporters back in June of 2018 when HPD rep Veanda Simmons prematurely declared that an EIS was not required for the proposal.

Veanda Simmons and Karen Haycox

Garden supporters were stunned. For a pre-ULURP meeting, billed as community engagement, HPD’s opening salvo was to deny the document that would provide full disclosure of the cumulative impacts of the controversial project. It was only after Norman Siegel, attorney for Elizabeth Street Garden Inc., threatened legal action before the anxious crowd, that HPD’s Deputy Commissioner Leila Bozorg interjected and walked back Simmons’ opening statements, conceding that an EAS would determine if an EIS was necessary.

Flash-forward to November 2018, when the EAS resulted in a Negative Declaration – aka no EIS was necessary. Haven Green was officially certified, kicking off ULURP. But at this point, HPD’s initial misstep had already reinforced fears that the review process was predetermined and the public’s role futile.

When Community Board 2 held its own ULURP hearing, the only new information gleaned was the fact that Habitat NYC was seeking a zoning distinction as community facility for its 11,200 square-foot office space. The fact that their offices constitute a community facility was not mentioned at the first public engagement, where Karen Haycox, CEO of Habitat NYC, described the new headquarters as follows:

“Habitat for Humanity has the opportunity to be the principal commercial tenant on the main floor … and we would have a long term role in the building, I don’t know how to answer you better than that.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s advisory role in the ULURP resulted in a Yes vote, citing affordable housing as the priority. While the approval wasn’t a surprise, her recommendation confounded both garden and Haven Green supporters as it called for an increase in “open space” without any major changes to the plan. Further, it asked that the open space be dedicated as city parkland. For a Yes vote, it appeared more like a complete indictment of the project!

CB2’s earlier resolution had already explained that Haven Green developers failed to demonstrate how to create privately-owned publicly-accessible space within the confines of the mixed-use complex, let alone parkland. No example of a public park within a private residential complex exists in New York City. CB2 has grappled with the idea of increased outdoor space, yet found that the only way to do so without significantly reducing housing would be to either increase the height of the building, or eliminate most of the commercial square-footage.

Last week, Councilwoman Margaret Chin commented that she will continue to work with Brewer, but only after the ULURP is complete. Developers for Haven Green have not yet commented on the details of Brewer’s input.

To date, it is only at the Community Board level that the public really gained any in-depth information. But what CB2’s final resolution really revealed is that the info withheld from the hearings ultimately proved more crucial to the public than what was presented.

Thus far, the land review process for Haven Green has left the garden supporters looking for real transparency and the public debating over what constitutes open space, office space, community facility, or public parkland. The debate also officially devolved into a war of words that exposes the limits of ULURP and the need for an unbiased, third-party entity to dispense information in a factual term sheet.

Garden advocates aren’t hoping for much relief from today’s hearing, but aren’t holding back either. Supporters of both Elizabeth Street Garden Inc. and Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden plan to attend in full force to contest the validity of the EAS and HPD’s assertion that the garden is “blighted.”

The meeting is at:
City Planning Commission, 10am
Sign up by 9:30am to testify
Commission Hearing Room, Lower Concourse
120 Broadway

Recent Stories

Lower East Side Children’s Halloween Parade Marches this Weekend

Time to test run those kiddie costumes! The Henry Street Settlement’s second annual children’s Halloween costume parade and party is happening this weekend, and promises plenty of spooktacular fun for all ages. The parade route starts at Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand Street) and follows the beats of the NYPD marching band through the streets […]

Here’s Why DOT Shouldn’t Move Forward with Hated Chinatown ‘Gateway’ Art Design [OP-ED]

A glimmer of hope came over me last month when I was informed that Department of Transportation would delay its presentation to Community Board 3 regarding the controversial Chinatown “Gateway” marker. I was cautiously optimistic that Linda Lee’s “Dragon’s Roar” design would be scrapped due to unanimous local outrage and opposition, and that the selection […]

Lebanese Eatery ‘Manousheh’ Signs Lease for Seward Park Location

The year-long dormancy of the former Grand Street 7-Eleven is drawing to a close. In its place, a familiar Lebanese restaurant. Word on the street is that Greenwich Village import, Manousheh, just signed a lease for the vacated space. We’re told that asking rent had been about $18,000, but final price is unknown. Occupancy apparently […]

Game Over for ‘Water World Amusements’ Arcade on Essex Street

Much like the movie of same, Water World Amusements unceremoniously sunk. The arcade, which opened just over a year ago at 35 Essex Street, is no more. Gaming cabinets remain locked in the dark retail space, while leasing signage dominates the store marquee. That this game room failed to hit is not a shock. Water […]

‘Greens and Grains’ Shutters, While Famous Hakki Readies Essex Chicken Spot

Greens and Grains is no more after a year in business, as Hell Square eats another of its own. Instead, the so-called Pizza Champion is opening a chicken-focused eatery. Hakki Akdeniz, who owns a plethora of pizzerias around the neighborhood, is planning to open Essex Chicken at 115 Essex Street. Just a few doors down […]