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Elizabeth Street Garden Backers Cheer as Housing Threat Gets No Funds

 HPD gave a presentation in February on their plan for the housing, and more than 100 people showed up to oppose it.
HPD gave a presentation in February on their plan for the housing, and more than 100 people showed up to oppose it.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

NOLITA — Garden: 1. Affordable housing: 0.

SoHo residents fighting to preserve the Elizabeth Street Garden were triumphant on Friday after news that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation declined to fund the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development's plan for affordable housing at the site.

"This decision reflects the strength of community support for the garden," said Community Board 2 chair Tobi Bergman, one of the leaders of the fight to save the space.

"This same support will eventually lead to failure of any ongoing effort to develop housing there."

Bergman and the board issued a resolution last month asking HPD to hold off on releasing a request for proposals from developers interested in the site.

Pointing to the LMDC snub as proof of the opponents' strength in fighting the city's plan, Bergman warned on Friday, "If HPD decides to pursue a Request for Proposals for the Elizabeth Street site, it will waste its own resources and those of developers who may respond to the RFP without understanding the costs of the fight they will be investing in."

HPD did not respond to a request for comment.

The plan to building affordable housing on the garden site is the brainchild of Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who secured it as part of the SPURA development agreement back in 2012.

At the time, the garden was underused by the public, accessible only through an art gallery whose owner used it to store large sculptures.

But locals had set their sights on it after discussing the dearth of green space in Community Board 2's district, which spans from Canal Street to 14th Street on the west side.

Little action was taken by HPD until last year, when it quietly applied for $5 million in funding from LMDC. It was one of several applicants vying for funding earmarked for community-supported projects in Lower Manhattan.

On Friday morning, LMDC announced the projects it selected for funding and the Elizabeth Street housing project was not among them, to the surprise and delight of the garden supporters who had shown up in droves to oppose the application at an LMDC hearing in September.

HPD and Chin previously said they did not need the LMDC funding to complete the project, but it would allow them to provide deeper affordability and offer housing to even lower-income individuals.

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

Bergman on Friday "commended" Chin "for her long and passionate commitment to building affordable housing and to the needs of our senior citizens," but said the garden devotees "urge her to embrace the importance of this garden to her constituents and to work with the whole community to find better solutions."

Chin did not to respond to a request for comment.

One of the "better solutions" Bergman and his colleagues have suggested is to build on a larger site currently in use by the Dept. of Environmental Protection at Hudson and Clarkson streets.

That site was promised to the community as parkland more than a decade ago, but Bergman has said they would give up some part of it in exchange for preserving the Elizabeth Street Garden.

(As DNAinfo previously reported, DEP appears to be reneging on that promise. The agency still has not met with the local community board about their plans.)

Two local projects did win LMDC funding: The Jackson Robinson Museum, long in the works but stymied by the economic downturn of 2008, was awarded $1 million, and God's Love We Deliver received $500,000 to finish a major renovation.