Garden protest ‘horns’ in on mayor’s workout

Elizabeth St. Garden volunteers traveled out to Park Slope bright and early to make sure the mayor got their message. Photos by Rebecca White

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Members of the Elizabeth St. Garden stretched out the reach of their activism Tuesday morning — taking their fight to save their beloved but embattled Nolita green oasis to the Prospect Park YMCA in Brooklyn. Mayor Bill de Blasio goes there most mornings to stretch.

De Blasio, along with Councilmember Margaret Chin, has been pushing an affordable housing plan for the garden, located between Prince and Spring Sts., despite massive opposition from the community, including Community Board 2 and all of the area’s local politicians. In addition, two citywide politicians — Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James — are also siding with the neighborhood against the incredibly unpopular plan.

Mayor Bill de Blasio shook hands with Christopher Marte and other Elizabeth St. Garden volunteers Tuesday before entering the Prospect Park YMCA for his regular morning workout. Marte is running for City Council against the incumbent, Margaret Chin, who has broken sharply with the community in her plan to build housing on the property. Marte is a strong supporter of the garden.

The scheme was originally snuck under the radar by the Bloomberg administration as an add-on to the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area development plan in Community Board 3, and later quietly rubber-stamped by de Blasio.

Yet whereas SPURA had years of public review to obtain consensus among all stakeholders, de Blasio and Chin — in a textbook top-down land grab — completely bypassed C.B. 2, leaving the board in the dark until after the fact.

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De Blasio arrived at the Y in his workout clothes. He later left in a suit and waved goodbye to the gardeners.

The city has already accepted developers’ responses to a request for proposals, or R.F.P., issued for the site, but the gardeners are hoping for a miracle.

On Tuesday, de Blasio arrived in gym clothes and shook hands with the garden volunteers on his way into the Y.

One of them, Patricia Squillari, told him, “Please come to the garden, then make a statement,” to which the mayor responded, “Fair enough.”

Jeannine Kiely, a leader of the Elizabeth St. Garden, center, and other garden volunteers called for Mayor de Blasio to visit it before he seals its fate forever.

On his way back out, now wearing a suit, de Blasio waved goodbye.

A trumpeter, Takuya Nakamura, played “Reveille” to “wake up” de Blasio and get him to realize how great the garden really is and why it must be saved.

C.B. 2 has identified what it says is a far better alternative site on Hudson St. where five times as much affordable housing could be built, allowing the garden in the open-space-starved neighborhood to be saved.

A trumpeter played “Reveille” to “wake up” the mayor and make him see that the garden is something special and rare amid the concrete jungle of Downtown Manhattan.