Council Member Margaret Chin, alone among the local representatives, opposes the community garden under a misguided sense of what “livability” entails.
By Aziz Dehkan
Oct 7, 2016
The coalition of advocates for Elizabeth Street Garden demand the land be dedicated as parkland. Today Elizabeth Street Garden enlivens Soho with year-round programs and sculpture. The City, in a weak effort to assuage the community, asks developers to reserve barely a quarter of the existing garden site for future open space. Operation of the diminished space will be a challenge to integrate into the community and serve the actual needs of visitors.
Privately owned public spaces throughout Manhattan have attracted criticism for using unwelcoming designs and restricting, or effectively eliminating, public use. Our City made this same deal for open space within developments without ensuring accountability decades ago. We should know better than to accept a plan that will wrest land from its public stewards.
The New York City Community Garden Coalition seeks the development of policies for creating community gardens and against their removal. Politicians too commonly position open space against housing, driving a wedge that need not exist. The two are essential aspects of healthy neighborhoods that side-by-side serve long-term needs of a community. Promoting a falsehood that affordable housing and open space are incompatible is disingenuous to the complicated negotiation around the City’s distribution of public land. The Mayor can do better to promote livability by preserving Elizabeth Street Garden in a park-starved neighborhood and redirecting efforts to the larger alternative site.