Exploring Elizabeth Street Garden: Nolita’s Little Gem

Throughout the summer and early Fall I’ve tried to stay outside as much as possible, and New York City has offered up many treasures for me to explore further. One of my favorites is the Elizabeth Street Garden. The Elizabeth Street Garden is unique. I’ve found many beautiful gardens in the city’s public park system, and others that are local community gardens. But the Elizabeth Street Garden is of a different type altogether. Although there are many trees, shrubs, and flowers throughout the garden, the main draw is the sculptures and other architectural details salvaged from torn-down buildings over the years. (Some are evidently reproductions as well.)

The site of the Elizabeth Street Garden has a long history as a public space, tracing back almost 200 years to its time as a public school’s open space. Eventually, the school closed and apartments and other businesses were constructed on the school property, but the open space remained. The property became overgrown, and in 1990 the owner of the Elizabeth Street Gallery leased the space and began using it to display some of the gallery’s sculptures. The garden became a beautifully landscaped space, and it was eventually open to the public during limited hours. Unfortunately, in the past few years local residents have learned of the lot’s inclusion in an urban development plan. The garden’s supporters have organized to find a way to protect the garden for the future, but if something doesn’t change the space will likely become a housing development for senior citizens on limited incomes.

The garden is a magical place, a little wild and eclectic. There’s something delightful to see anywhere you look, and plenty of places to sit down in the shade or sun, depending on your preferences, and enjoy the sights, eat a picnic lunch, or read a book. The Elizabeth Street Garden is a neighborhood space. You’ll find parents pushing their babies in strollers, employees of nearby businesses taking their lunch break, and the occasional wanderer (like me) seeking a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city.

If you want to visit the garden, it is located on Elizabeth Street between Spring Street and Prince Street in the Manhattan neighborhood of Nolita. This website shows its open hours. If traveling by subway, the closest stations are the 2nd Avenue Station (F train), the Spring Street Station (6 train), the Prince Street Station (R or W trains), or the Broadway-Lafayette Station (B, D, F, or M trains).

26 thoughts on “Exploring Elizabeth Street Garden: Nolita’s Little Gem

  1. That’s lovely – and I have conflicting feelings. If you’d said it was going to be replaced with luxury homes I would have been instantly outraged, but it’s a more worthy proposal than that. I’m assuming it’s like here and affordable housing is desperately needed, but hopefully they will find another site that is not already in use as public space. Public space is needed too.

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    1. I know what you mean. That’s always one of the challenges in NYC. Affordable housing is desperately needed, but so is green space. It always seems like there are competing worthy goals when it comes to land use. Here, it seems like such a shame to replace the garden when it really does get a lot of use – the garden’s volunteers also organize a lot of programming for the community, including a harvest moon festival this past weekend.

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      1. You will have to check out Freeman Alley while you are here. It’s right off of Rivington, between Christie St. and Bowery. Some amazing wheatpastes which change regularly. It’s something that visitors to the city rarely see, but locals who love street art visit it regularly.

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      2. I will probably do most of my exploring solo, early in the mornings. My children and long-suffering wife get bored quickly. We will be making tracks for the Tenement Museum though.

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      3. That’s a good one to visit – and there is plenty for you to see on early morning walks. A lot of painted store gates in that area, which you can only really see early in the day or late at night, the First Street Green Art Park, and so much more. You’ve picked the best place in the city to maximize your street art options in a small walking radius.

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    1. I’m afraid that the very site of the garden is the footprint of the proposed building, which is sad. I wish they would come up with a plan that would allow the development to coexist with the garden.

      I didn’t know what wheatpastes were until I started getting into street art a few years ago – now I see it as its own art form (although not often legal, as the artists rarely ask permission before pasting things up).

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