Volume 78 - Number 27 / December 3 - 9, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

City tidies up some issues as it O.K.’s garbage garage

By Albert Amateau

The three-district Department of Sanitation garage on Spring St. received final approval from the City Council on Nov. 19 by a vote of 40 to 1 with 1 abstention, but the Bloomberg administration made commitments to Council Speaker Christine Quinn to work during the next six months to make the project more acceptable to neighborhood residents.

The project, budgeted at about $500 million, is intended to serve Sanitation Districts 1, 2 and 5. Village and Tribeca residents have protested that three Sanitation districts are at least one too many, and have pleaded with the department to find somewhere else for District 5, which serves Midtown between 14th and 59th Sts.

But Chelsea residents and Hudson River Park advocates rejoiced at the approval of the project, which will enable Sanitation to move its garage and salt pile off the Gansevoort Peninsula — located between Little W. 12th and Gansevoort Sts. — and allow the 8-acre manmade peninsula to become part of the Hudson River Park.

The Bloomberg administration’s last-minute commitments include a promise to discuss with local city councilmembers and community boards alternative sites for Sanitation District 5.

“These discussions will conclude within six months of the City Council’s approval of the proposed garage, when we expect that design and final bid documents will be finalized,” the commitment letter says.

The city has previously resisted efforts to discuss alternative sites and opponents have vowed to sue if the project is approved.

The administration’s letter also changes the design of the salt-pile shed proposed for the area just west of the Holland Tunnel vent tower between Spring and Canal Sts. The current design is for a partly open shed, but the promised new design will be completely covered, enclosed on all sides, with a loading door facing the tunnel ventilation building. There will be no ventilation openings on the sides of the shed, and deliveries of salt and filling of salt-spreading trucks will occur off the street between the shed and the ventilation tower.

The new commitments address another sore point with residents: The project will reduce the number of private parking spaces for Sanitation employees inside the garage from 74 to 34.

The administration also promises to eliminate fueling for agencies other than the Sanitation Department, except in an emergency. The commitment letter estimates the change would result in 38 fewer vehicle trips to and from the garage per day. The letter also said that queuing of Sanitation garbage trucks at the garage would not extend beyond the length of the new building along West St. or south of the north side of Spring St.

The city also made green-space commitments regarding the project: A total of 17 new trees around the garage site and about nine new trees around the salt shed. The garage’s proposed green roof will cover about 62,500 square feet, or about 75 percent of the new garage’s roof.

The letter did not rule out the possibility of joining the garage’s green roof with any publicly accessible space that may be proposed for the top of the St. John’s Center building to the north, provided that any primary public access to the joint roof levels would be through the St. John’s Center.

The administration also promises to look into the feasibility of adding a new pedestrian crosswalk at the West Side Highway at the north side of Canal St. or the south side of Spring St., and to pursue any proposal with the state Department of Transportation. Any proposal would proceed independent of the garage or the salt shed, according to the commitment letter.

Hudson River Park advocates and Chelsea residents heaved a sigh of relief at the City Council’s approval of the garage. The Department of Sanitation proposed the Spring St. project because the Friends of Hudson River Park sued to force the department to move its garbage trucks and salt pile off Gansevoort Peninsula in compliance with the Hudson River Park Act. The lawsuit was settled with a court-ordered agreement that Sanitation uses would be off the peninsula by the end of 2013.

Members of the Chelsea Waterside Park Association have been opposed to a suggestion that the District 5 garage could be accommodated in the existing Department of Sanitation Repair and Maintenance facility between W. 25th and W. 26th Sts. and 11th and 12th Aves.

In a letter to the editor in last week’s issue of The Villager, Robert Trentlyon, a founder of the association, noted that Sanitation District 4 — which covers Chelsea and Clinton between W. 14th and W. 59th Sts. — will have three Sanitation districts with 146 vehicles, including District 5’s 27 street sweepers, in a new garage at W. 57th St. and 12th Ave. scheduled to open this July. District 4 is also the home, at W. 30th St., of the 47 trucks of Sanitation District 6, which covers East Midtown between Lexington Ave. and the East River. Those two facilities are in addition to the W. 26th St. facility that repairs and maintains city garbage trucks servicing the Bronx and Manhattan.

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