Case Study of Elizabeth Street Garden

Hannah Hunter

29 September 2015

Reaction Paper #1

Affordable Housing and Community Gardens

Throughout the past couple of weeks we have discussed community and the desperate need for affordable housing. When watching “Brooklyn Matters” in class we learned that giant projects like Atlantic Yards and the influence the government and big corporations have on them is a common occurrence. When studying the green development zone and looking at the work PUSH (People United for Affordable Housing) did in Buffalo, it became clear the differences between the two community projects. Bruce Ratner, a private developer worked with businesses and the state to create a gigantic space full of retail outlets, residential spaces, and offices, he used eminent domain to remove people occupying this space and made empty promises of jobs to help the economic structure of Brooklyn. The new development promised accessible green spaces, but it became aware that these spaces were enclosed, shadowed, or deep down, not accessible to the public. The fight for green spaces and community gardens continues in cities, where residents feel like they need these small green oasis’s, and these residents know that community gardens provide numerous benefits to the community involved.

NYC Foodscape, a blog dedicated to emerging food and farming enterprises and development wrote about the death of Adam Purple the “godfather” of New York City’s urban garden movement. Purple peaked New York City’s interest in the combination of community gardens and affordable housing, and with his death, New Yorkers continue to advocate for the preservation of their cities gardens. New projects for affordable housing have been brought up by New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which consequently include areas occupied by community gardens. The development plan would provide 60-75 units of affordable housing, and the area would be built on a popular community garden in the area, one of the very few remaining.

Elizabeth Street Garden, a heavily-used and popular green space is being fought over in terms of protection and utilization. The community fighting to protect the space has written letters to the Department of Housing Preservation and is working towards finding shared housing and park alternatives. They provided a list explaining the many positives of community gardens, including the fact that they make cities greener, more livable, and healthier overall. Community gardens are an essential component of a healthy urban food system, they teach children about food, gardening, and the environment, and they give the community a green oasis in a busy city lifestyle.

NYC Foodscape explained that affordable housing must focus on “creating housing that minimizes the environmental impact of housing, improves air and water quality, preserves and even creates open space and community gardens and improves the overall quality of life and health of residents.” PUSH (People United for Affordable Housing) practices just that. PUSH’s Green Development Zone “combines green affordable housing construction, housing weatherization, green jobs training, and urban agriculture toward the goal of creating pathways to employment for neighborhood residents” (Bartley 10). The idea of the Green Development Zone addresses social, environmental, and economic injustice.

Bartley, the author of “Building a ‘Community Growth Machine’ The Green Development as a Model for a New Neighborhood Economy argues for promoting “triple bottom line” (Bartley 13) the fight for environment, equity, and economy, the principles of sustainability throughout communities and their planning processes. PUSH partnered with the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) a nonprofit promoting food security and food justice by managing urban farms, developing sustainable fish production systems, and supporting community gardens (Bartley 15). PUSH celebrates the community growth machine, a member-led community organization, fighting for infrastructure and employment needs of low-income communities.

Local residents are fighting hard to maintain Elizabeth Street Garden, while local seniors wanted affordable housing to take up the area. During a public hearing last week, it was made apparent that the Elizabeth Street Garden had strong community support, while seniors argued that the land needed affordable housing. There is a blurry line between having affordable housing, as well as green space, and PUSH worked hard in Buffalo to make this possible. The Elizabeth Street Garden debate is under review, and while things are different in New York City due to the higher rent and limited space, in a dream scenario, there would be a way to implement social, economic, and environmental justice through a development project all could be on board with. When comparing the two development projects and advocacy, it is clear that PUSH worked well in Buffalo and fought for equity, and the community surrounding Elizabeth Street Garden want to keep what little they have left.

Bartley, A. (2011). Building a “Community Growth Machine”. Social Policy, pp. 9-15.

Tcholakian, D. “Local Seniors Want Affordable Housing Over Elizabeth Street Garden.” DNAinfo New York. 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.

“Affordable Housing and Community Gardens: Can They Co-Exist? Three Events Tonight Address The Future of Each.” NYC Foodscape. 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.

One thought on “Case Study of Elizabeth Street Garden

  • October 2, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    It is interesting to see that each with alternative development plans, affordable housing is still questioned. It the green movement not working with local officials at all? Because you mentioned that PUSH does focus on affordable housing in relation to the green movement, yet the city’s department overlooks this. Now with this alternative development plan PUSH and the city government are conflicting each other, yet they seem to have similar goals. In my opinion, even though the local community has been self- sufficient, it takes away from business opportunities that the elite would have doing their own development project.

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