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Elizabeth St. Garden Headed for Demolition by 2018, City Says

 More than 100 people showed up to oppose the city's plan to build on Elizabeth Street Garden.
More than 100 people showed up to oppose the city's plan to build on Elizabeth Street Garden.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

SOHO — The Elizabeth Street Garden will be destroyed for affordable housing and retail within the next two to three years, officials said Wednesday night.

Under the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s proposed timeline, outlined for the first time at a public meeting Wednesday night, construction on the garden would commence in spring 2018.

A 7-story building with about 12,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and between 60 and 75 below-market rate apartments would stand on that lot by spring of 2020, HPD officials said. They hope to include a minimum of 5,000 square feet of public open space next to the building.

The building has always been discussed as senior housing, but officials said that won't necessarily be the case. They are fully committed to it being entirely affordable housing, though.

"The overall justification is that we are in desperate need of affordable housing, including senior housing," said HPD deputy commissioner David Quart.

Quart and two other HPD staffers presented the information at a meeting attended by more than 100 people, the majority of whom vehemently opposed building on the garden.

"Would you consider tearing down the High Line to build affordable housing?" asked Renee Greene, 84, who lives across from the garden and said she has found it a comfort since her husband died and her arthritis worsened. "Why, then, even think about destroying the magical space that is the Elizabeth Street Garden?"

The meeting was moderated by Community Board 2 chairman Tobi Bergman, who is heading up a working group focused on affordable housing development in Greenwich Village and SoHo.

CB 2 pushed HPD for months to consider building affordable housing on a much larger and vacant lot on Hudson Street, and the officials said, publicly for the first time, that the site is under review for that purpose.

But Bergman said CB 2 will rescind their support for that site if HPD moves forward with building on the garden. He believes the board can successfully hamstring the agency's efforts, because building residential on that lot will require the City Council's approval through a process known as ULURP.

“We will not support housing on the other site unless this garden is saved,” he said. “And we believe the City Council will not approve a ULURP for the other site without Community Board 2 support.”

Quart and his colleagues gave no indication that they would back off of the Elizabeth Street site.

"It’s about meeting our affordable housing goals," Quart said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to preserve 120,000 units of existing below-market housing and create 80,000 new ones by the year 2024.

HPD will spend the rest of winter and spring developing a request for proposals that will welcome both senior housing and general affordable housing. They are hopeful they will receive proposals that will exceed their expectations, potentially allowing for more open space or more than 60 apartments.

The RFP will be released later this spring, giving developers three months to submit proposals for the agency to review in the summer and fall. They anticipate selecting a developer for the project by the end of this year.

Once a developer is selected, another public hearing will be held. The project then enters the official approval process, or ULURP. HPD expects the City Planning Commission to certify the ULURP in the summer of 2017. The final phase will be a review by the City Council, and HPD expects them to approve the project near the end of that year.