Walking down Soho’s Elizabeth Street can feel like a neverending vortex of high-class retail, where the designer clothing racks outnumber the people. That is, until you arrive at the lush, green Elizabeth Street Garden, between Prince and Spring Streets. The green “oasis” (as many have dubbed it) and community hub is once again being actively considered for a site for affordable senior housing, a decision that has long been opposed by Community Board 2 but supported by the area’s City Council member Margaret Chin.
The 20,000-square-foot garden is city-owned, but privately leased by gallerist Allan Reiver, who initially planned to use it to store his sculptures but opened it up as a unique respite from the city’s concrete surroundings, full of colorful flowers, green grass, seating areas, and many eye-catching sculptures. Volunteer-run, the garden has been used for community events, education, performances, film screenings, and an annual Harvest Festival. Some of these events draw hundreds of people, located in a neighborhood the NYC Parks Department has previously identified as “underserved by open space.”
Last week, news surfaced that the NYC Housing and Preservation Development (HPD) had officially issued a Request for Proposals to develop the land the garden stands on. Wednesday afternoon, dozens gathered in the garden for a press conference, bearing signs and passionately asserting their garden’s right to remain where it is.