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Volume 77, Number 9 | August 01 - 07, 2007

Renderings by the Department of Sanitation showing “possibilities” for how the proposed Spring St. garage’s west exterior, above, and south exterior, below, could look. These are not final renderings, the department stresses.

Critics: Garage colorful but contains too much fuel

By Lincoln Anderson

The Department of Sanitation has made some significant modifications to its plans to build a 14-story, three-district garage at Spring and Washington Sts. But community members still say the project is too big — and a terrorist threat to boot.

Dan Klein, Department of Sanitation director of real estate, discussed the final scoping document for the project at a July 16 meeting of Community Board 2’s Sanitation Garage Subcommittee, attended by about 30 residents.

In January, a public hearing D.O.S. held on the preliminary scoping document for the garage drew intense opposition from community members over the project’s size and potential impact.

In a major change since January, D.O.S. no longer plans to condemn the privately owned parking garage at Clarkson and Greenwich Sts. to use for storing road salt. Instead, D.O.S. now would put the 7,500 tons of road salt — currently located on Gansevoort Peninsula — at the site of the current Sanitation District 1 garage building, located on the south side of Spring St. at Canal St. Keeping the Clarkson St. garage means 400 local parking spaces would be preserved.

Klein said the new road salt facility “would only be used when there’s a snow storm” by salt-spreader trucks reloading with salt. Salt would be loaded off-street in a space between the Holland Tunnel vent and what Klein described as a new “lean-to” built to house the salt pile.

In addition, a refueling station planned at the site of the District 1 garage building would instead be located at the north end of the UPS parking lot — which is bounded by Spring, Washington and West Sts. and the south end of the St. John’s Center building.

The fuel tanks — storing 34,000 gallons of fuel — would be put right next to the St. John’s Center. The previous plan located the fuel depot smack between the Holland Tunnel’s two tubes — the outgoing tube under Spring St. and the incoming tube under Canal St. The fuel tanks would now be 300 feet from the northernmost tube.

However, the project’s main component — a 427,250-square-foot garage that would be built on the 85,000-square-foot UPS lot — remains basically the same. Klein did say the department has lowered the planned building’s height from about 150 feet to just under 140 feet.

“We’ve been working hard to get this [height] down,” he said.

The garage would house a total of 95 garbage trucks and equipment from Sanitation Districts 1, 2 and 5, which serve Community Boards 1, 2 and 5.

Sanitation Districts 2 and 4 are currently based on Gansevoort Peninsula — and Sanitation District 5’s trucks will be moving there soon, too, Klein said. But, under a legal agreement with Friends of Hudson River Park, D.O.S. must get its trucks off Gansevoort by 2012 so the peninsula can be developed into part of the Hudson River Park. If the city stays on Gansevoort past the deadline, it will be fined heavily.

UPS would also have 64 vehicles on the new garage’s ground floor. The garage additionally would include 80 parking spaces for Sanitation employees.

“How come they get to park and we don’t get to park?” one audience member asked indignantly.

Six fuel pumps would be located in the new garage’s northwest corner, according to Klein. After Sanitation workers’ shifts end at 2 p.m., they would queue their trucks in the parking lane on West St. for refueling inside the building. The trucks would then leave in the mornings fully fueled.

Klein said since another location in the West 50s will also be doing refueling, it may be possible to reduce the number of city vehicles gassing up at the Spring St. garage.

“We can work out an arrangement where, short of the Police Department, we’re not going to refuel any other agency [besides Sanitation],” he said.

There would be little operation at the garage on Sundays and reduced operation on Saturdays, Klein said.

The garage would have an environmentally friendly “green roof” — a roof planted with vegetation — meaning there will be no parking on top, Klein said. The building would have no usable cellar.

However, the idea of so much fuel, in both tanks and trucks, struck most residents at the meeting as problematic.

“This is just a crazy question,” said Andrew Azoulay, who recently bought an apartment on Charlton St., “but doesn’t Homeland Security think this is a terrible risk? You’ve got a building with 50,000 gallons of fuel.”

“Diesel fuel doesn’t explode,” Klein noted.

“We know from what happened at Tower 7 what diesel fuel does,” Azoulay said. Former Mayor Giuliani had his emergency command center in 7 World Trade Center, with a backup supply of diesel fuel in the basement, but on 9/11 the diesel ignited and burned uncontrollably until the building collapsed.

Phil Mouquinho, the committee’s chairperson, said, in fact, he had called Homeland Security, about the garage project, but was merely referred back to the New York Police Department. Klein added that in the future the fuel might be biodiesel.

Maria Passannante Derr, a committee member, asked why Sanitation District 5 couldn’t be relocated, for example, to another new garage being planned in the East 70s. But Klein said that the garage, which will be from 150 feet to 200 feet tall, is booked for other Sanitation districts.

A point of contention is that, before settling on Spring St., Sanitation planned to build a two-district garage next to the High Line in Chelsea, at Block 675, between 29th and 30th Sts. and 10th and 11th Aves. Sanitation says the Chelsea site was too expensive.

“I want to know where those figures comes from,” demanded Frieda Bradlow.

Klein said, for Block 675, the city would have to buy that entire block’s development rights, including air rights — or buy 1 million square feet at W. 30th St. versus 360,000 square feet at Spring St.

“Just the acquisition cost is triple,” Klein said.

In addition, if constructed at Block 675, the 11th Ave. side of the garage would have to be built 60 feet to 80 feet below ground, further raising costs, he said.

Klein rebutted suspicions that the Chelsea site is being reserved for a high-priced residential tower, noting that, because of the area’s special zoning, “anything developed there would have to be below the level of the [High Line] Park.”

UPS is on board with the Spring St. project, Klein said. But a garage for just one Sanitation district there wouldn’t be acceptable, he said, “because UPS is looking to pull their value from the site. The understanding is that that this could be some sort of friendly condemnation — with the value decided by a court, between what the city feels the site is worth and what UPS feels it’s worth,” Klein said, regarding how the city would acquire the UPS property.

He showed schematic renderings for a possible design in which the 14-story garage’s exterior would be dressed up with “glass curtain walls” of color bands and vertical concrete slats, plus even some planted balconies. (A Sanitation spokesperson later stressed, “These are not final renderings.”)

John McPeake, a resident of the new Urban Glass House, just south of the UPS lot, noted that the W. 30th St. garage plan included a ball field on top.

“This is just a shoebox,” he said of the Spring St. plan. “Ten stories high. It’s just dropped in the neighborhood with nothing [given] back — except some pretty colors on the side. Why did 30th St. get a recreational area, but we get a big cement block?”

Klein explained the W. 30th St. garage plan — with its rooftop athletic field — tied in with plans for a sports stadium on the Hudson Yards.

Klein added that the uniform land use review procedure for the garage will start in the fall, during which there will be opportunity for the public to recommend “taking things out” of the plan.

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