Volume 17, Number 49 | April 29 — May 05, 2005

Groups sue to remove garbage trucks from Hudson Park

By Albert Amateau

Friends of Hudson River Park on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the city to force the Department of Sanitation to stop construction of the garage it started to build on the Gansevoort Peninsula in January and to remove all Sanitation operations from the 7-acre landfill on the Village waterfront.

The suit charges that the Sanitation Department’s continued use of the peninsula to park garbage trucks violates the 1998 Hudson River Park Act that created the 5-mile-long riverfront park being built from the Battery to 57th Sts.

The action also seeks to get the Sanitation Department off Pier 97 at 57th St. on the Clinton waterfront.

“We understand the city has a tough row to hoe here because they have to find a place for the Department of Sanitation to do its work,” said Daniel Alterman, attorney for the Friends, a community based groups that advocates for the park.

“But the Park Act mandates that the city use its best efforts to get off the Gansevoort Peninsula and Pier 97 and decrease Sanitation uses on the piers. By beginning construction this year of a new garage on the peninsula, Sanitation is increasing rather than decreasing its presence. We had hoped the city would agree to stop construction and not build this garage but they haven’t,” Alterman said.

In January, the city began construction of the two-story, 17,000-sq.-ft. garage, which Dan Klein, D.O.S. real estate director, described in February as “temporary.” But Klein acknowledged the garage would be used for seven years or more until the city finds an alternative site to park garbage trucks.

Kate O’Brien Ahlers, spokesperson for the city Law Department, which represents the Department of Sanitation, said on Wed. April 27 that the city was evaluating the case but declined comment on the pending litigation.

Joining Friends of Hudson River Park as plaintiffs in the case are two community-based Clinton advocacy groups concerned about Pier 97 and several residents of the Village, Chelsea and Clinton who hope to use the peninsula and Pier 97 when they are included in the park.

The targets of the suit in addition to New York City and the Sanitation Department are New York State and the Hudson River Park Trust, the state/city agency building the park.

The suit declares that the city had failed to comply with the Park Act mandate to remove by Dec. 31, 2003, the derelict garbage incinerator and the pile of salt for melting winter ice on Manhattan streets that Sanitation stores on the peninsula.

The new structure the city is building on the peninsula is “in an area that under the Park Act, was and is to be used solely for park purposes,” the lawsuit says. Moreover, the city began to build without first securing a permit and without complying with the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the action says.

Friends of Hudson River Park also want the court to set a fixed schedule for the city to remove the Sanitation garage from Gansevoort. The suit also wants the court to set “a reasonable rent or use and occupancy payment that the city must pay to the Hudson Park Trust for the continued illegal occupancy of Pier 97 and the adjoining land and roadway and of the majority of Gansevoort from Jan. 1, 2004, until such date as the illegal operations are removed.”

Although the Hudson River Park Trust is one of the defendants in the suit, the action wants the court to award the Trust “damages for the increased costs of creating the park that have been occasioned by the city’s violation of the law.”

The suit contends the plaintiffs are damaged by the continued Sanitation uses on the peninsula and by the new building being erected. People who use the current walkway/bikeway along the river inboard from the peninsula for recreation are being subjected to the “continued ugly presence” of the Sanitation garage and Sanitation trucks on Gansevoort, the suit says. Moreover, joggers, bikers and walkers are being subjected to increased truck traffic with added noise and air pollution, the suit says. In addition, construction of the park is being delayed where the Sanitation garage stands, the suit contends.

Among the individual plaintiffs are three Village residents — Kathleen “Keen” Stassen Berger, a Greenwich Village Democratic district leader; Tobi Bergman, former vice chairperson of Community Board 2’s Parks Committee; and Arthur Stoliar — State Senator Tom Duane and former State Senator Leichter — who co-wrote the Hudson River Park Act. The fact that Leichter is also a member of the Hudson River Park Trust board of directors was apparently no bar to joining a lawsuit that names the Trust as a plaintiff.

In another interesting twist, the suit pits the descendants of two prominent Republicans against each other: Theodore Roosevelt IV, great grandson of the former president and a member of the Trust board, and Berger, who despite her Democratic position is the daughter of Harold Stassen, former Minnesota governor who ran for the Republican presidential nomination nine times.


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