Elizabeth Street Garden
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ELLA BARNES | KINDNESS
Ella Barnes, Panic Brand's official photographer, has chosen Elizabeth Street Garden as one of the recipients of our Kindness Initiative. Ella created an original piece of art for Panic Brand to help raise money for this beautiful park. 30% of all proceeds generated from the sale of this piece will be donated directly to ESG. The Elizabeth Street Garden site has a nearly 200 year history as a public space! From the 1800's till the present, the site has been an outdoor recreational and educational place for the people of the community. And for the first time ever, the garden is having to fight for it's place among the high rises of NYC. This non-profit is committed to exploring every option available to preserve and protect the Garden and save their much needed community green space in Little Italy.
Protect & preserve the magic of Elizabeth Street Garden as a public community green space and to determine how NYC parks & recreation together with the community can protect the space for generations to enjoy.
It's important to remember that giving doesn't always require money. Many of the charities we work with benefit from volunteers helping out, and from those that can assist in raising awareness. So for us, we wanted to make sure that when you make a purchase you understand where that money is going and how you can show your support. We were fortunate enough to have a chat with Joseph Reiver from ESG to learn more about what all of us can do to help this treasured local NYC park.
For the uninitiated, what is Elizabeth Street Garden and what's your backstory?
Elizabeth Street Garden, Inc (ESG) is a community-lead, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to protect & preserve the magic of Elizabeth Street Garden as a public community green space and to determine how NYC together with the community can protect this space for generations to enjoy. City-owned and privately leased, the Garden is open to the public daily, weather permitting. Neighborhood volunteers operate the Garden all year-round and program more than 200 free, public educational, wellness and arts-related events annually for children, seniors and all who live and work in the community.
Can you explain why Elizabeth Street Garden is so important to the communities of Little Italy & SoHo?
Elizabeth Street Garden was built in 1991 by Allan Reiver, who moved his antiquity gallery next door in 2005 and began opening the garden to the public through his building. In 2013, after learning of the City's plan to destroy and develop the Garden for affordable housing, members of the community worked with Allan to make the garden more accessible to the public. The front gates were open by volunteers, free public programs started, and more greenery was planted. Since then the Garden has grown significantly. ESG now has over 100k visitors every year.
Aside from being a beautiful gathering place in the middle of the city, what else can people expect to find at the garden?
Neighbors, visitors, and workers of all backgrounds meet each other and enjoy open air and nature in the middle of Manhattan. The Garden is one of the only real public green spaces in Little Italy and Soho with unique pieces of art where the community can come together and share the space. Because of this, a real sense of community has been rekindled. Along with being a center for the community, the Garden attracts people from all over the world to the neighborhood which in turn supports local businesses, many of which donate to ESG and participate in our public events.
Along with a beautiful combination of nature and art, visitors can find hundreds of free public programs and a welcoming and diverse community.
Could you explain the trouble that the garden is now facing and why public support is more important now than ever?
The City wants to destroy the Garden to build a mix-use building that would include 123 units of non-permanent affordable housing, luxury retail, a small privately owned public space, and 11,200 sq ft of office space for one of the developer partners. An alternative site plan that can provide up to 5x the amount of affordable housing has been proposed to the City. By building the housing on this alternative, city-owned gravel lot, we would not only achieve more affordable housing but also save Elizabeth Street Garden entirely. Unfortunately, the City has not accepted this plan yet, and ESG has been forced to file a lawsuit with our attorneys Norman Siegel and Kate Fletcher.
If the donations are going towards your fight to preserve this special place, how is the garden itself funded?
While the majority of funds raised goes towards legal expenses, there is a portion that does go to the maintenance of the garden. Because the Garden is maintained by volunteers, our maintenance expenses are not as high and we are able to operate the garden and provide free public programs at a reasonable cost. If the garden was not under threat, we would be able to redirect all of our funds towards expanding upon the Garden. You can read more about our future plans here: /future
For those that are not local to NYC and also do not have the ability to make a financial donation, are there other ways that they could help?
There are many ways you can help save Elizabeth Street Garden. Here is ESG's Call to Action:
- Donate to the legal fund: /donate
- Send the letter to developer partner Habitat NYC: /write
- Sign the petition: /petition
- Spread the word! Share this call to action with at least 5 friends! #SaveESG #ElizabethStreetGarden
Would you mind letting everyone know what you personally find so special and compelling about this lesser known park in amongst the high-rises of NYC?
The Garden is truly a magical place - a wonderful blend of a community garden where people can grow food and plants, a park where people can lay out on the grass in the sun, a museum with unique statuary and architectural elements, and a center for the community. All of these qualities make it a truly iconic New York City place unlike any other in the city, all of which is run not by a city agency, or for-profit corporation, but by the people in the neighborhood. I could write forever about the magical qualities, but the best way to understand is to come and experience Elizabeth Street Garden for yourself.
If you'd like to show further support, please follow Elizabeth Street Garden on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. Thank you to our Panic Fam for being the key to our success and for helping us to give back!