Volume 78 - Number 37 / February 11 - 17, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Opponents dump a lawsuit on Spring St. megagarage

By Albert Amateau

The neighborhood groups opposed to the Department of Sanitation’s proposed three-district garage on Spring St. filed a lawsuit on Feb. 3 to block the $500 million project proposed for the UPS property between Washington and West Sts.

In addition to the Sanitation Department and the City Planning Commission as defendants, the lawsuit names the Hudson River Park Trust, the state and city agency scheduled to take jurisdiction of the Gansevoort Peninsula where Sanitation facilities are currently located.

The suit seeks to set aside a 2005 settlement agreement that requires the city to relocate all of its Sanitation facilities and salt shed from the peninsula to Spring St. by 2013, claiming that alternative sites for the new Sanitation Department garage have not been adequately considered.

The suit filed in State Supreme Court also seeks to set aside the 2008 City Council and City Planning Commission approval of Sanitation’s Spring St. project on the grounds that the three-district facility is a violation of the City Charter’s Fair Share Criteria.

The lawsuit also seeks to block transfer of the title of the property from UPS to the city, “until such time as [the city and its agencies] comply with the Hudson River Park Act including considerations of alternate sites in coordination and consultation with relevant community boards and interested parties.”

Kenneth McCallion, an environmental lawyer, brought the suit on behalf of Tribeca and Hudson Square groups, including the Tribeca Community Association, Canal West Coalition and Canal Park Conservancy, in addition to private property owners, including 304 Spring St. Condominium, 530 Canal St. Realty Corp., The James Brown House, P.J. Charlton restaurant, Elba Parking and the Urban Glass House condominium.

The St. John’s Center, the blocks-long, four-story building covering 4 acres and enclosing more than 1 million square feet of rentable space at 340 West St., just north of the Sanitation site, is also one of the plaintiffs.

The 66-page petition was accompanied by 34 documents and affidavits that follow the course of the controversy over the proposed facility. The suit seeks a Feb. 25 hearing on the various injunctions.

In a response to the suit, Susan Amron, deputy chief of the Environmental Law Division of the city Law Department, said, “We think the city has acted appropriately, and we are responding through our litigation papers. Since the case is pending, we decline to say more.”

The suit contends that the selection of the Spring St. site was really based on the 2005 settlement of a lawsuit filed by Friends of Hudson River Park, a community-based park advocacy group, against the city. The court-approved settlement calls for the Sanitation Department to vacate Gansevoort Peninsula by the end of 2012 or pay heavy fines to the Hudson River Park Trust.

That “private agreement” was illegal, the suit says, because it did not involve the community review required by the 1998 state Hudson River Park Act.

The suit also says the city did not seriously consider viable alternatives to the Spring St. site, including one approved in a 2005 land-use review for what is known as Block 675, between 11th Ave. and West St. from 29th to 30th Sts.

In an affidavit submitted with the suit, Eugene Grant, partner and managing agent of the St. John’s Center, said the project was “an unfair burden foisted upon this neighborhood and will result in significant impacts including aggravated traffic congestion, noxious air quality, unsafe crossings, noise pollution, vermin and odors.”

The planned, 120-foot-tall garage “is oversized and out-of-scale. It will dwarf and shadow our surrounding properties and is a dangerous neighbor to the Holland Tunnel Vent building,” the Grant document says.

The St. John’s Center was seeking new tenants to fill a large space vacated by Merrill Lynch in October 2007 when “DSNY and the Hudson River Park Trust had ideas to build a grossly oversized [Sanitation] Truck Garage butted up against my St. John’s Center,” Grant said, adding, “This has resulted in a ‘virtual condemnation’ of our property and has stymied our attempts to replace Merrill Lynch and plan for the long-term future of our building.”

In another affidavit, Maria Passannante Derr, former chairperson of Community Board 2, said, “What is unequivocally clear…is that the present DSNY plan for a consolidated three-district garage at Spring St. expressly contravenes and negates nine resolutions issued by three independent community boards, 1, 2 and 4, over a period of nine years, 1999 through 2008.”

Richard Sloan, a resident of 530 Canal St. and a Columbia University biomedical researcher, said in an affidavit that the project’s environmental review failed to adequately estimate the amount of fine-particle (2.5) diesel emissions that would pollute the air when the project is operating. Those particles, which go deep into the lungs when inhaled and are not readily expelled, have been associated with asthma, heart disease, emphysema and certain cancers, Sloan said, noting that New York City leads the nation in total deaths associated with diesel emissions.




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