I want to respond to Alec Pruchnicki’s “analysis” of the demographics of those who use the Elizabeth Street Garden. I visited the garden on Saturday, August 5th, a gorgeous day full of sunshine, which made everything look magnificent. I didn’t see any zombies there. What I did see were families, children playing, international tourists (many taking pictures of the flowers), people of all colors strolling through the lanes, and neighborhood residents relaxing, talking, and marveling at the beauty surrounding them. All of these were PEOPLE enjoying a refuge of beauty and nature (albeit very arranged as gardens are), which is a rare thing in Manhattan.
Mr. Pruchnicki seems to feel that if certain percentages of people of diverse ethnic or racial backgrounds don’t show up according to census figures, then the place isn’t welcoming, and is therefore not worthy of existing anymore. This is the worst kind of bureaucratic thinking and would destroy a magical place that is open to all New Yorkers.
Ecologists will tell you that we need green spaces. Gardens provide peace and tranquility, and we need them. We also need affordable housing in a borough where gentrification and overdevelopment have taken a severe toll. But it does seem like there is a better alternative as far as siting is concerned.
Mr. Pruchnicki’s conclusion is not any kind of proof that the Elizabeth Street Garden should be destroyed to make way for senior housing. By the very nature of his article’s title, “Kill the Zombie Park Already,” we can tell that he’s writing from a place of hostility.
— Robert Bunkin
Dear Mr. Capsis, and Mr. Bunkin:
Nostalgia and idyllic fantasies will not get housing built. The image of old folks watching children play does exist on the Lower East Side. But it exists at the DeSalvio Playground, First Park, and Sara D. Roosevelt Park, never at the Elizabeth Street Garden. The old people who can’t walk a few blocks to these other sites actually do pry themselves from their televisions and get there, but they don’t appear at the garden very often.
As far as the good old days of wonderful parks and quality of life, I also remember when New York City built and subsidized hundreds of thousands of apartments for those in need, through NYCHA, rent control, and stabilization. Today’s New York City should be able to build apartment houses throughout the City for those in need. It’s a no-brainer.
I made many visits to the Elizabeth Street Garden, and also to the surrounding parks and did an actual head count of which sites actually served the community best. These other parks, which, for some reason garden supporters judged to be inadequate and unacceptable, do a better job of serving Little Italy and the Lower East Side than the Elizabeth Street Garden.
Don’t believe me? Look at the actual photo provided by Friends of the Garden on page 18 of the August 2017 issue of WestView News. Within the limits of the picture’s details, and of my vision, there are no old people, only one child, and every person whose ethnic identity can be guessed appears white. This neither serves nor reflects the population of the Lower East Side or Little Italy.
Am I hostile to the garden? No. I’ve always said that it’s a beautiful little spot if there were no other pressing needs for it. What I am hostile to is the idea that vulnerable and desperate elderly people suffer from inadequate housing in a city as rich as New York.
— Alec Pruchnicki