Our Need for Open Space

  • Little Italy and SoHo account for 23 percent of CB 2’s population but have only 3 percent of its open space, nearly all of which is paved — DeSalvio and Vesuvio Playgrounds, Petrosino Square and Grand Canal Court.
  • The Little Italy and SoHo neighborhood has an open space ratio of 0.07 acre per 1,000 residents (3 square feet per resident), compared with the City’s open space planning goal of at least 2.5 acres per 1,000 residents (109 square feet per resident).

Little Italy & SoHo Open Space MapLittle Italy & SoHo Open Space Map
(Select to enlarge.)

  • The majority of CB 2’s open space is in Washington Square Park, nearly a mile from the Garden, and Hudson River Park, 1.2 miles away.

CB 2 Open Space MapCB 2 Open Space Map
(Select to enlarge.)

  • In our dense, tightly packed neighborhood, the Garden, located between two quiet residential streets, is the only calm green space, providing a much needed sanctuary for local residents of all ages.
  • Green space, once developed, can never be reclaimed, and no one is tearing down buildings to create parks.

Site Location & History

  • 20,000-sq-ft through lot in Little Italy with frontage on Elizabeth and Mott streets, between Prince and Spring streets.
  • Portion of former site of P.S. 106, later renamed P.S. 21 and originally designed by master school architect C.B.J. Snyder in 1903 with public outdoor space that functioned as a neighborhood social and civic center. The school was torn down in the 1970s.
  • In 1981, Little Italy Restoration Apartments (LIRA) were built on the south side of the school lot, consisting of 152 units of affordable housing. Remaining empty northern portion lay blighted through the 1980s.
  • In 1990, Manhattan Community Board 2’s Parks Committee passed a resolution in favor of leasing it to Elizabeth Street Gallery on a month-to-month basis.
  • Since 1991, when the lease began, the Gallery has surpassed CB 2’s requirement to clean up the lot and has created and cared for the Garden.
  • In January 2014, CB 2 passed a resolution in support of preserving Elizabeth Street Garden, in its entirety, as a unique public green, open space and urged the City to transfer jurisdiction over this lot to the NYC Parks Department. Since then, CB 2 has passed three additional resolutions of support.

Volunteer Initiative

  • On June 1, 2013, at an It’s My Park Day event at DeSalvio Playground, while celebrating receiving funding from elected officials to renovate the park, neighbors discussed turning their efforts to Elizabeth Street Garden.
  • Our community learned that the Garden is on City-owned land that had been announced, in conjunction with the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) rezoning in Manhattan Community Board 3, as a site for additional off-site affordable housing development.
  • Since June 2013, neighbors and local businesses have come together to increase public access to the Garden with the mission to preserve the Garden as a unique public green, open space and NYC Park.
  • In August 2014, Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden filed their nonprofit Certificate of Incorporation with New York State.
  • In October 2014, Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden received federal tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status.