‘POPS’ Goes the Elizabeth Street Garden
One of the most hotly contested subjects at the June CB2 meeting was over actual size of the public space versus green space. Flyers for Haven Green boast 8,600 square-feet of “publicly accessible open space,” that can be influenced by public discourse. Architects broke down the actual amount of “garden space” in response to Bowery Boogie’s request as 6,600 square-feet. The remaining square-footage can be influenced, but is dual-use space that acts as both public and enclosed amenity space for the residents and commercial tenants. (ESG is 20,000 square-feet.)
Garden Advocates also bristled at the faux realism of landscape renderings. Specifically, the pathway illustrated connecting Mott to Elizabeth Street, which apparently does not show ADA compliance. A realistic depiction of the garden would include a wheelchair accessible pathway. But then the inclusion of a five-foot-wide hard surface pathway would diminish the green aspect of the architect’s landscape rendering. (DCP zoning rules for a block-through public plaza call for a 10-foot-wide path.)
Whether realistic or idealistic, omitting wheelchair-accessible pathways from an affordable housing project designed for seniors calls into question Haven Green’s ability to lead a public design meeting with reliable and unbiased information.
Haven Green did not respond to the accusation of “fictional renderings” at the CB2 meeting, but has since stated that “the renderings were a placeholder concept of how the garden space could be designed… the final design will be in response to the public design process.” Meanwhile, Haven Green continues using the contested images in its marketing materials.
When asked if the five street trees outside Elizabeth Street Garden will survive the development, Haven Green again deferred to the participatory design process. In fact, most of the questions we posed resulted in deference to the participatory design process.
With almost every query referred to the public’s opinion, Haven Green’s participatory design process can be interpreted as either a hyper-democratic solution to the problem of public space design or a complete reversal of responsibility.
If this seven-story complex ultimately rises on the east side of the city-owned lot as planned, Garden advocates believe that the shadows cast by the structure will eliminate any chance to “preserve the legacy of the garden through direct public engagement” To their credit, though, Haven Green has published a complete year-round shadow survey on its site, which shows that the southwest corner of the lot is lost in shadow throughout most of the day on a year-round basis – this part of ESG is mainly used for composting and storage.
In the above schematic Haven Green claims the benefit of southern exposure but omits the trees in the Little Italy Restoration Apartments (21 Spring Street) courtyard which are almost as tall as the building.
Conversely, when the renderings show the garden, the trees in the LIRA courtyard suddenly returns, giving the space a greener look.
When asked by a longtime resident of 21 Spring Street whether or not Haven Green could provide enough seating, and green space, for residents in the adjacent building, Karen Haycox responded with hope that the 400+ neighbors of Haven Green could have a seat but could not guarantee one. With less than 30% of the ESG space surviving, the consortium of developers is seeking public input on the privatization of city-owned land that may not be large enough to accommodate its own residents, Habitat NY personnel, and retail customers in the public space.