One balmy October day, while riding a CitiBike from the lower Bowery to Sheridan Square, I came across an arresting garden called the Elizabeth Street Garden. It is the former site of a large, important school house. The now vacant lot was reclaimed in the 1990s by a local artist/merchant who reorganized it into a sculpture garden filled with his architectural reclamations posed as sculptures, and which is now busy with people calming themselves, eating their lunches, performing fashion shoots and otherwise utilizing the grounds in a way that I see only in New York.
To be honest, I don’t really see evidence of the kind of energy it takes to reclaim such a site, or the creativity it takes to develop it, in other, younger cities I visit. Not really a destination, it serves as a point of (self) discovery and, perhaps, chance meetings with others who live or work nearby, or who have also stumbled upon it.
The site is located in what used to be Little Italy but is now a kind of no man’s land, neighbourhood-wise, as Little Italy has morphed into something indescribable, ‘rebranded’ as NoLita, Chinatown or some other name that will further rent increases, real estate speculation and development.
It is development that threatens this precious space now. See it while you can because the city issued an eviction notice to the Elizabeth Street Garden in September 2021.