Elizabeth Street Garden lawsuit

Supporters of community garden sue city to block planned senior housing development

  • Elizabeth Street Garden is the proposed site of a 123-unit affordable housing development for seniors. Photo: Brafford33, via Wikimedia Commons

  • A rendering of Haven Green, the proposed senior affordable housing complex that the city plans to build at the site of Elizabeth Street Garden. Image: Curtis + Ginsberg Architects

The long-running dispute over the fate of Elizabeth Street Garden is heading to court.

Supporters of the Nolita community garden filed a lawsuit March 5 in Manhattan Supreme Court in an effort to halt plans to build a seven-story affordable housing building at the city-owned site.

The development, known as Haven Green, would create 123 studio units reserved for low-income seniors, as well as retail and office space. Plans call for the building to occupy roughly two-thirds of what is now Elizabeth Street Garden, a sculpture-filled green space on a mid-block lot stretching between Elizabeth and Mott Streets. The remaining area — roughly 6,700 square feet — would be preserved as publicly accessible open space.

The development has attracted fierce opposition from supporters of Elizabeth Street Garden, who argue that Haven Green would destroy a popular community hub in a neighborhood already lacking in open space. But proponents of Haven Green counter the project is necessary to address the shortage of senior affordable housing in Community District 2, where 4,600 eligible seniors now face average wait times of seven years.

The lawsuit, filed by members of the nonprofit group that manages and maintains the garden, alleges that the city failed to comply with environmental review laws as it assessed the housing development's potential impact. The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development determined last November that the project “will have no significant effect on the quality of the environment.”

“HPD stands by its review of a project which is expected to create more affordable housing,” Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city's Law Department, wrote in an emailed statement. Paolucci said the department will review the lawsuit.

Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden, a separate nonprofit group that supports the preservation of the garden, has announced plans to file its own lawsuit opposing the project.

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