Allan Reiver, Who Built a Little Urban Oasis in New York, Dies at 78

Allan Reiver, who in 1990 salvaged an deserted lot in Little Italy and remodeled it into the tiny city oasis now known as the Elizabeth Street Garden, which for almost a decade has been locked in a contentious battle with town for its survival, died on May 17 at a rehabilitation facility in Manhattan. He was 78.

His son, Joseph Reiver, stated the trigger was cardiac arrest. His loss of life was not extensively reported at the time.

Well earlier than Mr. Reiver turned the long-white-haired steward of the Elizabeth Street Garden, he was recognized for having an eye fixed that noticed issues others couldn’t.

In the 1970s, he was an antiques vendor in Denver who specialised in gathering artifacts like gargoyles and stained glass home windows from historic buildings that have been set to be demolished. He then turned a actual property developer and made a identify for himself for his skill to identify alternatives in run-down neighborhoods. In his 40s, Mr. Reiver (pronounced REE-ver) headed to New York to open an antiques gallery, and he began salvaging treasures from deserted Gold Coast mansions on Long Island. In 1989, he moved into a loft on Elizabeth Street.

As he settled into his house, he observed a destitute lot simply throughout the road. It had as soon as housed a public faculty’s playground, however it was now a picture of spoil, stuffed with trash.

Mr. Reiver in 1993. He moved to New York in his 40s to open an antiques gallery and began salvaging treasures from deserted Gold Coast mansions on Long Island. Credit…Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

“Here’s a vacant lot full of overgrown grass, a couple of old cars, and it had been sitting there for 10 years just going to waste,” Mr. Reiver stated in a 2019 interview with the Cultural Landscape Foundation. “I thought I could make something beautiful out of it.”

Mr. Reiver approached the local people board to precise his curiosity in renting the lot, which was owned by town. An settlement was brokered stipulating that he may lease it for $four,000 a month so long as he maintained it as a parklike surroundings. Thus, Mr. Reiver turned the backyard’s caretaker, and he spent a yr changing it into the quirky marvel of D.I.Y. city landscaping that it’s right this moment.

He utilized sod, laid gravel walkways, put up a fence and planted two pear bushes. He crammed the house with sculptures, rows of columns and a grandiose stone balustrade. He additionally put in an iron gazebo designed by the Olmsted Brothers that he obtained from a Gilded Age property. Today, poetry readings are held there on summer time afternoons.

Throughout the 1990s, Mr. Reiver used the house as an outside showroom for his gallery and the park was not open to the general public. As time handed, the little backyard’s idyll blossomed, however the neighborhood started to alter.

Little Italy began to shrink, and folks started to name the realm NoLIta. In 2005, when Mr. Reiver purchased the firehouse abutting the backyard as his new dwelling and relocated his enterprise onto its floor ground, the backyard turned accessible to those that wished to enter by means of his gallery.

In 2013, Mr. Reiver discovered that town needed to construct inexpensive housing on the backyard’s web site. The battle for the park’s survival was ignited.

The ensuing proposal, generally known as Haven Green, can be a seven-story constructing providing 123 items to older residents, and the plan has pitted advocates of open house in opposition to these of inexpensive housing.

The backyard’s defenders say that inexperienced areas are important to town and demand that an alternate web site for the constructing could possibly be discovered. The different camp says that offering housing for low-income seniors who want it takes priority, and that the backyard shouldn’t get particular therapy.

In 2013, Mr. Reiver discovered that town needed to construct inexpensive housing in the positioning of his backyard, igniting a battle over its future that has but to be resolved.Credit…Aaron Zebrook for The New York Times

In response to the information concerning the metropolis’s plan, Mr. Reiver swiftly opened the park as a full-fledged neighborhood backyard, and volunteers began operating it yr spherical. By 2019, the destiny of the Elizabeth Street Garden had turn out to be an impassioned native trigger, and a lawsuit was filed in opposition to town to cease the proposed constructing’s improvement. The park’s future stays in authorized limbo, with a choice awaited from New York State Supreme Court.

“I did what I did as a developer, which was change the character of the neighborhood, improve the character of the neighborhood and do something that no one had thought of doing,” Mr. Reiver instructed The Daily News in 2018. “All of a sudden the neighborhood changed.”

Allan Shelton Reiver was born on Dec. four, 1942, in Washington. His father, Oscar, ran a pizza parlor and a liquor retailer. His mom, Mary (Wishnia) Reiver, labored along with her husband. As a boy, he appreciated to gather ornate door knobs from outdated buildings in his neighborhood, and he’d strive promoting them.

He graduated from the University of Maryland and the University of Houston Law Center. In 1970 he settled in Denver, the place he began an architectural salvage enterprise that additionally operated as an antiques dealership. He later expanded the corporate into a actual property improvement agency known as Realities Inc. and commenced discovering success with initiatives in depressed areas.

In the 1980s, he helmed a multimillion-dollar luxurious retail and workplace improvement undertaking known as Broadway Plaza that deliberate to revitalize a Denver neighborhood. But the undertaking ended in disaster and failed to realize traction. Mr. Reiver and his enterprise have been named in greater than 30 lawsuits. He then headed to New York for a contemporary begin.

“My father was a private man, and most people didn’t even know he built the garden,” stated Joseph Reiver, who’s the chief director of the nonprofit that manages the park. “When he first came to New York, he was rough around the edges, and this neighborhood was also rough around the edges. I think how the neighborhood changed is reflective of how he changed. He built himself up here just like this abandoned lot.”

In addition to his son, Mr. Reiver’s survivors embrace a daughter, Jackie.

As he grew older, Mr. Reiver was troubled by the park’s undetermined destiny.

“This is my soul,” he stated in a 2019 interview for the web site 6sqft. “This was supposed to be my legacy to the city.”

But he discovered peace in the backyard.

He eagerly awaited the figs every summer time from a tree his son planted years in the past. And similar to the stone lions that guard the park, he may dependably be seen sitting on the identical bench most afternoons. Occasionally a customer enchanted by the backyard would method him.

“Who built this place?” the customer would ask.

“I built it,” he would reply.