City starts ULURP review for Elizabeth Garden housing plan

At a recent rally to save the Elizabeth St. Garden, a sign pointed out a fact the de Blasio administration refuses to acknowledge: that an alternative site identified for the housing project — at Hudson and Clarkson Sts. — could support five times as much affordable housing. The garden is a unique space in park-starved Little Italy — featuring real greenery, as opposed to local blacktop playgrounds. It also sports distinctive statues and monuments placed there by Alan Reiver, who created the garden more than two decades ago. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | Two nonprofit groups are inching closer to suing to save the Elizabeth St. Garden after the city certified the land-use application for the proposed senior housing complex last week.

“The clock is ticking now,” said Joseph Reiver, the Elizabeth St. Garden’s executive director. “This certification ticked the clock.”

Pennrose Properties, Habitat for Humanity and the Brooklyn-based nonprofit RiseBoro plan to develop the city-owned Elizabeth St. Garden site into a housing complex dubbed Haven Green. The project would have 123 affordable senior apartments and 7,600 square feet of open space. Opponents of the plan emphasize it would slash the existing 20,000-square-foot garden’s space by more than half, plus cast the remainder in shadows.

On Tues. Nov. 12, the City Planning Commission gave the go-ahead for the project as an Urban Development Action Area Project, which now sends the Haven Green proposal through the public review process known as Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP.

Community Board 2 will review the project next.

“Of course, this all happens right around the holiday season — which is also telling,” said Reiver.

Ultimately, the City Council will review the development plan. As a result, Councilmember Margaret Chin — who has long supported the project — is expected to have the deciding vote based on precedent that other councilmembers usually defer to the local councilmember on land-use issues.

A rendering of the Haven Green project that the de Blasio administration and Councilmember Margaret Chin want built at the garden site. Most of the existing garden would be covered over by the new project.

Back in June, Reiver’s group and another group that has been fighting to save the open space, Friends of Elizabeth St. Garden, united in their legal efforts to save the entire garden.

Reiver said that opponents of the housing plan are reviewing the Environmental Assessment Statement, a preliminary environmental review that determines whether a heftier version of review — an Environmental Impact Statement — is necessary. The E.A.S. found a “negative declaration,” meaning an E.I.S. is not necessary.

However, Reiver argued, “This E.A.S. has all types of holes. It doesn’t address a lot of the key issues. There definitely needs to be an E.I.S., and their ‘negative declaration’ is bulls—.”

Reiver said the garden’s two nonprofits will be filing a lawsuit “very, very soon.”

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