Letters, Week of Nov. 14, 2013

A new vision for a green space

To The Editor:
Re “Monumental battle in Nolita over fate of garden site” (news article, Nov. 7):

As a resident of Crosby St. in Community Board 2 for the last 17 years, I, too, walked past closed gates for years, wondering — though not enough to find out — “What is that space and who owns it?”

On June 1 this past summer, a group of neighbors and families was gathered at the It’s My Park Day at De Salvio Playground. We were all celebrating the fact that thanks to Councilmember Margaret Chin, Borough President Scott Stringer and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and with support from state Senator Squadron, $1.9 million had finally been secured for the playground’s renovation.

We began to discuss the Elizabeth Street Garden. Someone had heard it was city-owned land, and we started getting excited about the possibility of turning that into a park that would be open to the public. It was then that we learned that it had been included in SPURA as a site for affordable housing.

We decided to form a committee and approach the gallery owner, and he was pleased to make the space more easily accessible to the public. We created a mission statement, which was to preserve the Elizabeth Street Garden as public green open space.

Since June, working together with neighbors and small business owners, we have managed to get the garden open seven days a week from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday entry is through the main gates, and the other four days through the gallery. (Please note that those hours may change with winter’s onset and daylight savings since we do not want volunteers sitting in the dark and cold!)

We hope to have the space open through the main gates seven days a week as our volunteer base expands. And we are actively recruiting volunteers; so if anyone is interested, please sign up at elizabethstreetgarden.org. Our volunteer committee has grown exponentially with volunteers working on gardening, greeting, administration and programming coordination.

In addition to making the space more accessible, with the tireless work of our volunteers, we have been able to offer varied public programming throughout the summer and into the fall.

The point is, we are focused on the future. We hope to see this as a space where anyone and everyone is welcome: a place to sit and be quiet, to meet with friends and neighbors, to participate in community events; or as it has been up until now, a space simply to pass by and enjoy the sight of lush green trees and an empty sky.
Emily Hellstrom

‘Garden’ open for events

To The Editor:
Re “Monumental battle in Nolita over fate of garden site” (news article, Nov. 7):

It is not now, nor has it ever been a community garden. It’s a showroom for the Elizabeth Street Gallery. Years ago, when Allan Reiver and his business partner, Gil, split up, Urban Archeology moved from the Puck Building to Tribeca. Allan opened the Elizabeth Street Gallery and the open space became a showroom for sculpture and garden artifacts that very few of us reading this could ever afford or know what to do with. Now, suddenly, it’s a community garden? I don’t see anything growing there besides grass. His Web site still advertises renting the space for weddings and parties (http://www.elizabethstreetgallery.com/).

I’d be happy to see a real community garden there. But what is Allan Reiver’s status with the space now? I still see his merchandise there.

I’m hopeful (but doubtful) that real affordable housing might end up there. (Go De Blasio!) But I also don’t believe for a moment that the alternative is a real community garden. I’d love to know what the current relationship is now with the city and Elizabeth Street Gallery.
Ted Glass

Not buying ‘compromise’

To The Editor:
Re “Monumental battle in Nolita over fate of garden site” (news article, Nov. 7):

The “compromise” mentioned by Councilmember Chin for a mixed use of housing and open space on the site would only be possible by first destroying the garden as it now exists. Mature trees would be ripped out. The site would be bulldozed. Any new garden would be squeezed between buildings, and in no way would it replicate that very special place that now exists at the Elizabeth Street Garden.

That bad result is not in the public interest of those in the local community, or for parks-deprived residents of Community Board 2 and Council District 1. The goal should be to preserve the existing garden and find an alternative site for affordable housing within Council District 1.
Pete Davies

Serving the greater need

To The Editor:
Re “Monumental battle in Nolita over fate of garden site” (news article, Nov. 7):

My comment at the hearing was that, as the mother of a young child 14 years ago, this “garden” property was inaccessible. But I found a community garden a mere two blocks from this site, the M’Finda Kalunga Garden in Sara Roosevelt Park. I used all the playgrounds nearby and found a wonderful, diverse community of friends in all of those places.

The notion that the Elizabeth St. space was ever open to the public is simply not true. It was never open, there was never any signage posted for a way to enter into it. This businessman has had the use of this space for decades and only opened it this summer when he faced the potential loss of this, almost private, city-owned asset.

But I understand why some want this to become a public garden space. I’m a community gardener. However, when some children don’t have a roof over their head, it becomes harder to justify why we who live with so much privilege have the greater need. Lousy choices, but that is what we’ve been given in Bloomberg’s New York. Many (not all) of the people who spoke in favor of a garden over affordable housing moved into this neighborhood and became a major factor in the rents going up in it and the enforced exodus of some of its former residents. Some who spoke live in housing that is subsidized — but want their view.

More of us need to ask: What kind of community are we trying to maintain and build here? What are we trying to model for our children?
K Webster

No N.Y.U. déjà vu, please!

To The Editor:
Re “Monumental battle in Nolita over fate of garden site” (news article, Nov. 7):

No need to build what we already have, and no need to disenfranchise our elderly either. Councilmember Chin would do Little Italy a real service by turning out all the illegal airbnb hotel renters, many of them in rent-stabilized apartments, and repurposing that housing for seniors who, in deference to their mobility limitations, could be given first rights to ground-floor apartments.

In all cordiality and good will, let’s invite Councilmember Chin to make a fresh start in her new four-year term: No N.Y.U. 2031-like “compromise” on the Elizabeth Street Garden. Except for a handful of people — several members from one family — a community groundswell spoke in a resoundingly clear and unified voice at the Community Board 2 forum: The open green space of the Elizabeth Street Garden is not just something we want, but something we need.
Georgette Fleischer
Fleischer is founder, Friends of Petrosino Square

Want more greenery? Leave!

To The Editor:
Re “Monumental battle in Nolita over fate of garden site” (news article, Nov. 7):

It is ridiculous to be fighting over a for-profit space when we need affordable housing in our community. The Web page is still advertising for wedding parties. Who does that benefit? Surely not the community.

The people who were at the Community Board 2 meeting feel entitled. I would love to see affordable housing once again in a community that has always served people from all walks of life.

Let’s be a part of the solution and come up with a plan that will benefit the community at large. I agree we need green space, but we need housing more. And if you are so in need of greenery, you should not live in New York City.
Debbie Gonzalez

Vet was a triple threat

To The Editor:
Re “Vet never fired a shot but his orders were always on target” (news article, Nov. 7):

Happy Veterans Day, Mr. Smith — and thank you, for your service in the Army, education and the arts. As a physician in the V.A. who learned to love writing in the 1970s and ’80s at New Canaan High School, I owe you for your work in all three areas.
Christie Emler

Will BID help on Broome St.?

To The Editor:
Re “Secret vote on the Soho BID was some tricky business” (talking point, by Sean Sweeney, Oct. 17):

The city has been totally indifferent to Broome St. traffic issues. Margaret Chin was totally unresponsive to requests for help with Broome St. traffic. In fact, after two years of asking to have the Broome St. crosswalks at Crosby St. and at Lafayette St. repainted, I turned to Community Board 2 for help, and got that, at least.

The Police Department, which oversees placement of traffic agents, has refused to send agents regularly for any part of the stretch of Broome St. by Petrosino Square, and from Lafayette St. to West Broadway.

Despite campaign pledges by Senator Schumer and by Congressmember Nadler to deal with the tolls on the Verrazano Bridge, which causes trucks and cars to go on Broome in order to avoid tolls, nothing has been done in more than 25 years to help us with that. But…power talks. … Maybe the Soho Business Improvement District can do something — but at what cost?
Lora Tenenbaum

Soho BID will be a boon

To The Editor:
Re “Secret vote on the Soho BID was some tricky business” (talking point, by Sean Sweeney, Oct. 17):

As a longtime Broadway residential property owner, I am nothing short of thrilled that this business improvement district has been approved.

The tourists in Soho are not going away, but now we have resources and an organization to deal with the ongoing consequences, such as traffic, garbage, food carts and street vendors.

Throughout the legislative process, I found Councilmember Margaret Chin to be extremely fair in addressing both sides’ concerns, and she worked hard to structure fair representation on the BID’s board of directors. Renters will be represented on the BID board. There was total transparency throughout the process. To the opposition, I say, don’t be paranoid. This is a win-win for our neighborhood.
Cheryl Klauss

 

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