Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza
Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza is a public park formed in the triangular junction of Trinity Place, Greenwich Street and Edgar Street. It faces the Manhattan approach to the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel. Formerly known as the Edgar street Greenstreet, this park honors civic advocate Elizabeth H. Berger (1960-2013). In her role as president of the Downtown Alliance, she advocated for the fusion of two traffic triangles at this location into an expanded park. The park is located in a former neighborhood known as Little Syria, a bustling immigrant community displaced by the construction of the tunnel in 1953.
At the north side of this park is Edgar Street, reputedly the shortest street in Manhattan. Its gentle downward slope, also visible in the surrounding east/west streets, is the vestige of a ridge or bluff that ran parallel with the shoreline and crested at about Broadway, where Trinity Church is sited. It was a narrow street in its early days, no more than eighteen feet wide, called ‘Tuyn Paat’ or ‘Garden Alley’ in the Dutch period (1624 -1664). When the British took control of the colony in 1664, the street name was changed with characteristic indifference to Tin Pot Alley.
The City acquired the street in 1795, at which time its current name was affixed. Edgar likely refers to the family of William Edgar (1736-1820), a merchant from Detroit who came to New York circa 1780 and established a successful shipping business, with links to India and China. For a time, the street served as a thoroughfare or driveway leading to the Edgar family household located nearby. Until the western shoreline was filled in, this street ran to or very near the water’s edge.
The line of Greenwich Street was the approximate original coastline of Manhattan Island. In 1787, the Common Council, acted on a pre-war proposal to expand the shoreline sixty feet into the Hudson River. Then began the construction of Greenwich Street, which soon hosted a row of Federal-style townhouses. Washington Street followed in approximately 1808 and West Street by 1830. The drop in grade from Broadway to Greenwich Street abruptly evens out where the landfill begins. In October 2013, members of the Washington Street Historical Society, including Americans of Lebanese and Syrian descent, dedicated bench plaques inscribed with the names and quotes of individuals and groups that represent Arab-American culture. Edgar Street Plaza was renamed after Berger on December 16, 2013. With sculptural junipers along the benches, a small piazza surrounds a central planting area with oak leaf hydrangeas, viburnums and river birch trees, shielding park goers from traffic in an expanded green space.
- Dunlap David W. “As Plaza Is Named for Champion of Downtown, Talk of a New Park” New York Times Dec. 18, 2013 https://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/19/nyregion/while-renaming-a-plaza-talk-of-fusing-traffic-islands-to-make-a-park.html?_r=0
- Glassman, Carl “Two Plain Plazas to Be Turned into Single One of Beauty” Tribeca Trib Sept. 16, 2015 http://www.tribecatrib.com/content/two-plain-plazas-be-turned-single-one-beauty
- Plagianos, Irene "FiDi's Once-Vibrant Arab Neighborhood, Little Syria, Remembered in New Park" DNAinfo February 2, 2017 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-02-07. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
- Walsh, Kevin "NEW YORK’S SHORTEST STREETS – three of ‘em" Forgotten-NY March 22, 2009 http://forgotten-ny.com/2009/03/nys-shortest-three-of-em/
- Moscow, Henry, and Thomas Tracy. The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and Their Origins. New York: Fordham University Press, 1990
- Washington Street Historical Society photo album of Arab-American plaques dedication: https://www.flickr.com/photos/106467405@N05/page1