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Green relief: Elizabeth St. Garden is finally back open

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. …

Elizabeth St. Garden lovers could definitely identify with that plaintive lyric from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” after the Little Italy oasis was closed for months during the pandemic.

To their relief, the beloved green space finally reopened over the weekend of June 27-28.

New York City Greenthumb gardens on Parks Department property, by comparison, only got the green light to reopen just this week. It’s up to the discretion of each licensed garden group whether to reopen.

The Elizabeth St. Garden, on the other hand, is on city-owned land that is privately leased on a month-to-month basis.

For now, temporary operating hours at the Elizabeth St. Garden are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Volunteers keep the Elizabeth St. Garden running, and they’re currently in need of more. (Courtesy E.S.G.)

“With a ‘soft opening,’ we hope to ensure that we have enough volunteers to keep the garden open safely and consistently as we work to resume normal operating hours as soon as possible,” said Joseph Reiver, the garden’s executive director. “This approach also allows E.S.G. volunteers to get a good sense of how everything will be in the garden, considering the last few months.”

“The safety of our volunteers and visitors is a top priority,” he added. “We ask that all visitors respect standard protocols: Wear your mask and practice social distancing.”

In addition, the garden will have less moveable seating to limit the number of shared surfaces.

Gardens are proving invaluable during this time of coronavirus, the executive director said. It’s especially true in open-space-starved Little Italy and Soho.

Enjoying nature — real grass and trees, birds and butterflies — amid the concrete jungle of Little Italy. (Courtesy E.S.G.)

“On our second day of reopening last weekend, a neighbor approached me and said, ‘It was the first time I felt safe outside in a while,'” Reiver said. “Now more than ever, New Yorkers are reminded of the importance of community gardens, parks and open space.  With elected officials bringing up ‘outdoor options,’ local organizations calling for street closures, and restaurants rushing to utilize sidewalks and streets for outdoor dining, it’s clear that New Yorkers need as much public open space as possible. Community gardens and parks offer this vital open space, where the public can safely experience nature, fresh air and a sense of community.

“We will continue to work with neighbors and local businesses to explore how the garden can aid our community’s recovery from the pandemic,” he added. “We’re very excited to welcome everyone back.”

Meanwhile, Elizabeth St. Garden is putting out a call for new volunteers to help keep the garden open. For those interested in volunteering or for more information, click here.

However, the treasured open space remains under threat of demolition for a senior affordable housing project being pushed by Councilmember Margaret Chin and Mayor de Blasio. A community lawsuit was filed last year to block the project.

Reiver said, at this moment, there is no update on the lawsuit.

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