4. The Garden Used to be a Derelict Lot

Columns from Burrwood now standing in the Elizabeth Street Garden

When promised plans for a green space to accompany the affordable housing that replaced PS21 weren’t followed through, the lot on which the Elizabeth Street Garden now flourishes was just a derelict piece of land. It remained largely untouched for a decade until Allan Reiver came along in the 1990s and transformed it into the whimsical sculpture garden we know today.

In 1991, Reiver began to lease the lot on a month-to-month basis. Working diligently, he cleaned up the space, planted a lawn and two large pear trees, and laid out the garden’s foundation. He brought in various sculptural pieces from his collection, including a large balustrade from a Pennsylvania estate and statuary. At first, the garden wasn’t open to the public but was enjoyed by neighbors who found out about it through word of mouth. In 2005, Reiver purchased a gallery space next door, and visitors could access the garden from there. By 2013, the garden had become a beloved space in the community. When plans were announced to build over it, neighbors and local businesses rallied and made the space more accessible to the community.  Elizabeth Street Garden, Inc. (ESG), a nonprofit that manages and maintains the Garden, officially took control of the space in 2017. The 100% volunteer-run organization ensures that the garden is open to the public seven days a week, all-year-round, and facilitates a variety of public programs.