Court buries opponents of Elizabeth Street Garden project

Ruling paves way for low-income, senior housing in Little Italy

Developer Prevails in Latest Elizabeth Street Garden Battle
Pennrose's Mark Dambly; Elizabeth Street Garden in Little Italy (Getty, Pennrose, elizabethstreetgarden)

A developer with plans to build housing at the Elizabeth Street Garden essentially clinched victory over garden-loving community groups as the city won a lengthy legal battle.

New York’s top court sided with the Adams administration in a dispute over the Little Italy sculpture garden site, Crain’s reported. The defeat leaves opponents with no apparent place to turn in their lengthy quest to block affordable apartments for seniors at the site.

Elizabeth Street Garden — also the name of the nonprofit responsible for the sculpture garden — in 2019 challenged the city’s approval of a 123-unit, all-affordable building to be developed by Pennrose. The community group argued the city did an insufficient environmental review of the site.

The Court of Appeals ruled the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development “rationally determined” the housing project for needy seniors would not have a significant adverse effect on the environment.

An attorney for the nonprofit said the garden’s backers were “disappointed with the majority decision” and vowed to continue the fight, without elaborating. On the other side, Pennrose’s attorney was elated.

“The case took longer than it should have but the courts got to the right result,” land-use lawyer Ken Fisher told The Real Deal. “Apartments for low-income seniors are needed now more than ever and the sooner they get built, the better.”

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The nonprofit is separately appealing the city’s effort to evict the garden, though a judge recently ruled in the city’s favor in that case, too. The garden received a stay of eviction until September, but is being forced to pay nearly $100,000 in back rent, plus interest.

A group led by Joseph Reiver, the son of a gallerist who began leasing the site from the city in 1991, initiated the case to block Pennrose’s plans. Three years later, a state Supreme Court judge nullified the project’s environmental assessment, agreeing with the group that an environmental impact statement, which is more comprehensive, was necessary, triggering a successful appeal by the city.

The project, Haven Green, has been in the works for more than a decade. It would also have 6,700 square feet of public open space.

Two nonprofits, RiseBoro Community Partnership and Habitat for Humanity, are also part of the development team. The latter group will have headquarters space on the ground floor.

The developers hope to close on project financing this month and deliver the project by 2026.

Holden Walter-Warner

Read more

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