Volume 76, Number 48 | April 25 - May1, 2007

Garage foes want the dirt on why city switched site

By Albert Amateau

A coalition of civic groups in the Hudson Square and Tribeca neighborhoods are stepping up efforts to turn back the Department of Sanitation’s plan for a jumbo garage for three Sanitation districts on United Parcel Service property on Spring St. just north of new high-end luxury residential buildings.

The newly organized Community Sanitation Steering Committee is raising environmental, fair-share and land-use objections to the Sanitation project that the department outlined at a contentious January hearing.

“There’s a ton of questions about the project and the biggest is why Block 675 [a square block bounded by W. 29th and W. 30th Sts between 11th and 12th Aves.] was withdrawn as the Sanitation garage site,” said David Reck, president of Friends of Hudson Square and a member of the Sanitation Steering Committee.

Block 675, which is used by Greyhound to park buses and also currently has garbage trucks from Sanitation District 6 — covering the East Side between 14th and 59th Sts. — was approved as a combined Sanitation facility in a 2004 land-use review for the 36-block Hudson Yards redevelopment. The approval, valid to this day, included authorization for condemnation proceedings, and the facility was supposed to include a rooftop park.

Another question the committee is raising is why and how the U.P.S. site was specified in the October 2005 settlement of a Friends of Hudson River Park lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed to force the Department of Sanitation to vacate Gansevoort Peninsula — located on the Hudson River between Gansevoort and Little W. 12th Sts. — to allow the peninsula to become part of the 5-mile-long riverfront park by the end of 2012.

The committee through its lawyer, David Snyder, last week filed a seven-page Freedom of Information Law request with the Department of Sanitation regarding those and other questions.

At the same time, the committee filed FOIL requests with the Port Authority and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for auto traffic and air quality information in the area of the proposed Sanitation garage, which includes a Holland Tunnel ventilation tower.

“Air pollution is one of our biggest concerns,” said Richard Barrett, president of the Canal West Coalition and a member of the Sanitation Steering Committee. “Manhattan is not in compliance with federal air pollution standards and we want data on emissions from stationary sources, like the tunnel vents and from moving sources — cars,” Barrett said.

The D.O.S. proposal, which requires an environmental impact study before it can be built, calls for a three-level, 150-foot-tall garage on the U.P.S. site, on Spring St. between Washington and West Sts. The garage would accommodate department trucks and other equipment for Sanitation District 1, which covers Lower Manhattan and Tribeca up to Canal St., District 2, which covers Greenwich Village, Hudson Square and Soho to 14th St., and District 4, which covers Chelsea and Clinton between 14th and 59th Sts. At ground level, the proposed garage would also allow U.P.S. to continue using the site as a staging area for delivery trucks entering the U.P.S. building on the east side of Washington St. for loading.

In addition, the project calls for using a triangular site on Spring, Canal and West Sts., currently used for Sanitation District 1 trucks, for fuel storage and truck washing for the three Sanitation districts. The project also calls for a private garage on Washington and Charlton Sts. that accommodates parking for 400 cars to be taken by condemnation proceedings for use as a storage facility for road salt.

The project is the source of bitter conflict between Hudson Square, Soho and South Village residents and members of Friends of Hudson River Park, some of whom live in the same neighborhoods.

Last month, Al Butzel, president of F.O.H.P., and Reck had a loud public argument at a Community Board 1 hearing over the fact that the much-reviled Spring St. Sanitation project is specifically mentioned in the 2005 court-approved agreement to get District 4 garbage trucks off Gansevoort to make way for an 8-acre extension of the park.

In an April 24 telephone interview, Butzel recalled that during negotiations in 2005, Sanitation agreed to find an alternative site for the District 4 trucks to free the peninsula.

“We expected it to be Block 675, but they said they were dropping that site and would choose another. We were unwilling to sign any settlement that did not specify a site and they finally said they would go to Spring St.,” Butzel said.

The 1998 legislation that created Hudson River Park called for municipal uses to vacate the peninsula in 2004.

Tobi Bergman, president of Pier Park and Playground Association — a nonprofit organization advocating the expansion of youth sports opportunities — and a Community Board 2 member, recalled the board, in the late 1990s, had approved the Spring St. site as a District 2 Sanitation garage, but no one expected it to accommodate three districts.

“There is no way the community board would have approved it if they knew it would have a 150-foot building,” said Bergman, who is also a Friend of Hudson River Park member who made it clear that he did not speak for the group.

“It was a bait and switch,” Bergman said. “Sanitation was able to pit one community group against another, and they may never get approval for the Spring St. site and might have to stay on Gansevoort.”

The Friends agreement also calls for Sanitation to pay the Hudson River Park Trust, the city-state agency building the park, $21 million as rent for Gansevoort until the end of 2012. If Sanitation fails to get off the peninsula by then, the Friends can go to court again to seek other remedies — presumably more money to fund completion and operation of the park.

Michael Kramer, a member of the Sanitation Steering Committee who represents property owners in the Spring St. area, has circulated a list of 13 alternatives to the Spring St. Sanitation facility. The committee hopes that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will call for a Council hearing soon to consider alternatives to the U.P.S. site. Committee members, however, have been fundraising and say they are ready to mount a court challenge to the Department of Sanitation.


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