Volume 80, Number 5 | June 30 - July 6, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

C.B. 2 committee vents concerns on Sanitation’s Spring St. project

By Albert Amateau

The Environment, Public Safety and Public Health Committee of Community Board 2 asked some hard questions on June 16 about the impending demolition of the old Department of Sanitation garage at Canal and Spring Sts. where the department intends to build a salt shed as part of its three-district garage project on property owned by UPS.

The committee asked Daniel Klein, Sanitation’s director of real estate, about asbestos removal, soil and groundwater contamination, and the effect of construction vibration at vulnerable locations nearby, including the Urban Glass House residence designed by Philip Johnson and the 207-year-old Federal house location of the Ear Inn.

The committee also asked Sanitation to designate a specific person who would be able to respond to neighborhood concerns during the demolition of the old garage on the south side of Spring St. at the intersection of West and Canal Sts. and the construction of the new garage, to be shared with UPS, on the north side of Spring St. between Washington and West Sts.

Klein agreed to meet regularly with C.B. 2’s Environment and Transportation committees during demolition and construction to minimize traffic problems. He also agreed to provide C.B. 2 with updated staging and subsurface boring plans, as well as a schedule for various phases of the project. The department contractor and the committees will also meet to discuss noise and vibration issues. Sanitation will also consider setting up a hotline during demolition and construction.

But Denise Levine, a committee member, said later that Klein was not able to resolve the committee’s environmental concerns. Removal of asbestos from the concrete flashing of the roof of the old building and the possibility that pipes wrapped in fiberglass might have asbestos between the fiberglass and the metal remained a concern, Levine said.

“The site [of the old garage] has had garage uses since 1905 and we’re worried about remediation of soil and groundwater contamination,” Levine said. The committee was also concerned about the salt shed to be built facing the Holland Tunnel ventilation tower. Levine said that a book published shortly before the tunnel was built in the 1920s showed the air intake to be at the third-floor level and the exhaust at the top.

“That means that salt could be blown into the tunnel,” she observed.

Construction of the garage and salt shed project is likely to be simultaneous with the replacement of water mains on Chambers St., the connection to the city’s Third Water Tunnel and NYC Transit’s emergency ventilation plant at Mulry Square — the latter about 20 blocks away. The cumulative impact of those projects is bound to adversely affect traffic throughout Lower Manhattan, committee members said.

Sanitation hopes to begin demolition of the old garage toward the end of this year and begin construction of the salt shed and the 120-foot-tall combined UPS and Sanitation garage in 2011. The construction schedule is driven by the need to get Sanitation equipment off the Gansevoort Peninsula and into the new garage by the end of 2013 to comply with a settlement of a Friends of Hudson River Park lawsuit to make the peninsula available for park use as part of the Hudson River Park.

A lawsuit by Hudson Square and North Tribeca neighbors seeking to block the three-district Sanitation garage was dismissed early this year. The suit included a petition to cancel the settlement regarding the Gansevoort Peninsula.

But opponents are still trying to sink the project. Michael Kramer, who is a consultant for the plaintiffs and who attended the June 16 meeting, said later that the city is overpaying UPS by about $82 million.

Sanitation is to occupy 360,000 square feet of the new garage site and UPS is to occupy 60,000 square feet. The city is committed to paying UPS about $300 per square foot, but Kramer said the price in the current real estate market is grossly inflated.

Klein estimated the acquisition cost for the property at $110 million and the construction cost at $197 million.

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