McNally Jackson has entered the fight over the Elizabeth Street Garden. A New York appellate court ruled on Tuesday that the proposal for an affordable-housing development on the site, now a decade in the making, could move forward. The bookstore quickly sounded the alarm: “URGENT: Join us … for an urgent press conference to learn how we can take action to save this green space.”
The Elizabeth Street Garden has been around since the 1990s, when a neighboring antiques store leased the land from the city to use as an outdoor showroom; former city councilmember Margaret Chin proposed the site as a spot for affordable housing in 2012. Haven Green, which is the name of the proposed housing project, would provide 123 affordable apartments to seniors and includes a large outdoor garden space. But in the years since the project was first announced, residents of Nolita and Soho — as well as celebrities like Patti Smith and Bette Midler — have fought against it, pushing for alternate sites and filing a lawsuit. “We’re talking about a place where the community can come together,” actor Gabriel Byrne said in a video defending the space. But the Elizabeth Street Garden wasn’t always public — it was only after Chin began pushing for housing on the city-owned space that Allan Reiver, the owner of the Elizabeth Street Gallery next to the garden, opened it up to more general use. (Reiver died in 2019 and his son, Joseph Reiver, is now the executive director of the garden.) These days, the space holds Sky Ting yoga classes and readings, including some co-hosted by McNally Jackson, but as Chin told Curbed in 2019, members of the community board said that the garden used to be only accessible through the gallery and that entry was a matter of whether or not “the gallery owner liked you.”
There are some 200,000 seniors on waiting lists for housing in the city, and Haven Green would provide housing for those making less than 60 percent of the area median income. Thirty percent of the spots would be reserved for formerly homeless people. (Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson, sold her Greenwich Village apartment last fall for $1.75 million.) The garden’s defenders say they will continue fighting and are now seeking to appeal the case.