We May Have Just Lost Elizabeth Street Garden

Eric Uhlfelder

The New York State Court of Appeals just ruled, on June 18, that the city can go ahead with the destruction of Elizabeth Street Garden.

In a 6-1 ruling, the court denied the Garden’s assertion that the city had inadequately considered the environmental damage that would be done to the community if the city went ahead with its plans to destroy the Garden and build 123 units of affordable senior housing.

The court failed to acknowledge any uniqueness of the Garden and thought of it purely in terms of square footage, as though it was like any other ordinary space in New York.

In its majority opinion, the court wrote, the city “rationally determined that the deficiency caused by the project would be ameliorated by several factors—including the quality of the remaining open space, the project’s addition of a 0.15-acre open space resource for public use, and the proximity of Washington Square Park.”

The court spuriously discounted the impact the loss of the Garden would have to local residents, since there are no quality open spaces near the Garden and especially since Washington Square is more than a half mile away away from the Garden and is full of protests and music nearly all hours of the day. Further, Washington Square is outside the city’s original study area.

The court made a bizarre observation that future residents that will occupy apartments where the Garden now stands wouldn’t miss it. The court wrote: “the population that would be added by the project was unlikely to noticeably affect the usage of open space in the area.”

In her lone dissent, Judge Jenny Rivera, claimed, “the City failed to take the requisite hard look at the climate change impact of the project, including the reduction in open space, and did not provide a reasoned elaboration for its determination. The Appellate Division thus erroneously concluded that HPD complied with both state and city environmental quality review laws. I cannot agree with the majority’s overly deferential approach that allows for less than rigorous environmental assessment. I dissent.” 

According to the Elizabeth Street Garden, two legal cases still remain pending. The Garden’s attorney, Norman Siegel, said there are “other legal strategies to which our team is giving serious consideration.” But he wouldn’t discuss what those options are.

The Garden is hoping strong citizen write-in opposition to its destruction may induce Mayor Adams to reconsider his decision to destroy it. So far nearly 137,000 letters have been sent to Adams asking him to save the Garden.

Please see link below and tell Mayor Adams that after the destruction of East River Park and Wagner Park, the city has to stop tearing down our green spaces.

They are a number of alternative spaces in which the city can build affordable senior housing. Tell the Mayor it’s not too late to do the right thing.


Don’t wait. As early as this September, the city may start demolition of one of New York’s most unique, charismatic green spaces which the city doesn’t pay one penny to maintain. The non-profit, Elizabeth Street Garden, Inc, pays for all maintenance of what is the most community-focused of all gardens.

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