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Liz Christy Garden in the "Villager."

  • Subject: [cg] Liz Christy Garden in the "Villager."
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 4 Jul 2005 10:18:35 EDT

"The Villager" - Volume 75, Number 6 | June 29 - July 5, 2005

Liz Christy Garden is being pushed to the edge

By Albert Amateau

The fate of at least eight trees, including a rare 50-foot-tall blue Atlas
cedar, hinges on whether the developer of a Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area
project will excavate 3 feet into the Liz Christy Garden on E. Houston St.

Gardeners, some of whom have nurtured the Liz Christy Garden for decades, met
with the developer, AvalonBay Communities, last week but reached no agreement
and the issue is to be decided soon by the Bloomberg administration.

bItbs a question of money,b said Elizabeth DeGaetano, treasurer of the
garden group, which contends that AvalonBay can build the mixed-use
project just north of the north wall of the garden without encroaching on
zealously defended turf.

The gardeners say theybve come up with an alternative to invading the garden
that would cost AvalonBay an additional $98,000 in construction costs. The
developer, however, said the alternative would add between $500,000 and $l
million to the cost of the project and a redesign would reduce parking and
space in the project.

bThe garden is a major asset for us,b said Maria Masi, AvalonBay
manager. bThe last thing we want to do is destroy the garden,b Masi said.
But she said there was no guarantee that even an excavation that didnbt
on the garden would not damage the towering blue Atlas cedar planted 20 years

Fred Harris, AvalonBay senior vice president, offered on June 23 to pay for
the replacement of trees and plants destroyed by the excavation, Masi said.

Gardeners, however, refused.

bAvalonBay should live up to the promise it made to the community and do
everything possible to preserve the garden,b said Desiree Rodriguez, a Liz
Garden member.

AvalonBay has been working with gardeners to minimize disruption to the
garden during the recent demolition of the former Church of All Nations, which
be replaced by the new project, Masi said. Demolition is finishing on the
last old building on the site, the former McGurkbs Suicide Parlor, a onetime
Bowery saloon and brothel.

But the gardeners say the care that was taken during the demolition would go
for naught if AvalonBay destroys a 3-foot strip totaling 200 square feet of
the north side of the garden. The majestic blue Atlas cedar is 4 feet from the
north wall of the garden and an excavation 1 foot away would destroy it, the
gardeners say. If AvalonBay does not dig closer than 3 feet from the trunk,
roots could be carefully severed and the tree would be more likely to survive,
according to the advice the gardeners received from an arborist.

Shoring for the new buildingbs foundation, which requires the garden
invasion, might not be necessary if an existing building b instead of the
garden b
were adjacent to the location. But the site on the north of Liz Christy needs
shoring to prevent a major collapse of the garden area into the excavation for
the new building, Masi explained.

Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Community Association,
a sponsor of the urban renewal area, said he thought AvalonBay should spend
the money to insure the integrity of the garden.

bAvalonBay canbt look at this solely in terms of finances,b Herrick
said. b
They should be willing to bear the additional cost considering the increase in
the value of property over the bid they made five years ago,b he added.

The urban renewal area involves three sites between Bowery and Second Ave.
from E. First St. to the south side of Houston St. AvalonBay won the right to
develop the current site on the north side of E. Houston St. where the garden
located for $13.5 million, Herrick said.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development has jurisdiction over
the urban renewal area and the Department of Parks and Recreation is the legal
owner of the Liz Christy Garden, which is cultivated by neighborhood
volunteers. Parks and Housing spokespersons said on Monday that both agencies
working on the issue and expect to make a decision soon.

Rodriguez, one of the gardeners who attended a meeting with the developers
and the city last week, said on Monday, bWebve been told that the decision
be made by the mayor sometime this week.b

In addition, according to the gardeners, for 16 months after August, when
construction is slated to start, Liz Christy will only be open to gardeners on
weeknights and weekends to maintain the garden.

Liz Christy Garden is named after the late urban gardening pioneer who was a
founder of the Green Guerillas, an organization advocating for and assisting
community gardens.

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

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