Volume 18 • Issue 25 | November 4 - 10, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Gary He

The Gansevoort Peninsula, home to a decommissioned incinerator, currently serves as a sanitation district garage.

City agrees to remove garbage trucks from park

By Albert Amateau

The eight-acre Gansevoort Peninsula, used for decades to park garbage trucks, burn trash and store highway salt, will be ready to become part of the Hudson River Park in January 2013, according to an agreement last week settling a lawsuit by Friends of Hudson River Park and a group of elected officials against the city.

The agreement, signed Oct. 28 by representatives of the Department of Sanitation, the Hudson River Park Trust and Friends of Hudson River Park, a community-based advocacy group, also requires the sanitation department to get off Pier 97 at 57th St. by May 1, 2008, and deliver it to the Trust for the five-mile riverfront park currently under construction.

Under the settlement, approved by State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman, the city will pay the Trust at least $21.5 million for rent and use fees, with the sum devoted entirely for the capital costs of redeveloping Gansevoort Peninsula and Pier 97 as parkland. The rent will be paid in annual installments of several million dollars.

Moreover, the city agrees to bear the entire cost of the environmental cleanup of the two Hudson riverfront sites. Because the settlement requires spending city funds, Comptroller William Thompson also has jurisdiction and signed off on the agreement on Oct. 27.

The cleanup of Gansevoort Peninsula, to be completed before the Dec. 31, 2012 delivery date, will involve the sites of the long-unused garbage incinerator, the highway salt pile and truck parking and removal of the unused marine transfer station except for the supporting piles. The Pier 97 cleanup would involve removing a salt pile and a department operations center.

But the agreement allows sanitation to complete a half-built garage extension on the peninsula, which prompted the Friends to file the lawsuit against the city earlier this year, and use it as a swing space for garbage trucks until the department acquires and builds an alternative site to replace the Gansevoort facility.

Albert K. Butzel, president of Friends of Hudson River Park and longtime advocate for the park, was gratified by the outcome of the court action.

“We’re very pleased about this win-win outcome,” he said on Monday. “We know the city couldn’t get all the trucks off the peninsula very soon without parking them all over the Village. But we have a timetable, and this agreement provides $21.5 million in addition to cleaning up the piers,” he said.

Susan Amron, the city attorney who represented the Department of Sanitation, agreed that the outcome was “good for the city and for residents of the community who will eventually be able to enjoy the park.”

Daniel Alterman, attorney for Friends who filed the suit last April, said the outcome showed the advantage of government and community groups negotiating for their mutual benefit without bitterness or rancor. “The only benefit the plaintiffs are getting is the benefit the whole city gets from making sure of a park on the peninsula and Pier 97,” he added.

The agreement identifies a two-acre site on Spring and West Sts. about a mile south of the peninsula as a preferred location for the Gansevoort garbage trucks. It commits the city to working toward building the replacement garage on the site by Dec. 12, 2012.

But United Parcel Service owns the property and the company says it is used for vehicle storage. Diana Hatcher, a spokesperson at U.P.S. corporate headquarters in Atlanta, said on Monday that the lot is an important part of its Spring St. facility. “Our goal has been to protect the site to park our equipment and we have no plan to get off,” she added.

Moreover, a U.P.S. spokesperson said earlier this year that the company had been speaking to residential developers even though the site is in a manufacturing zone. The site is just north of a former manufacturing district rezoned last year for residential use. More than 200 units of luxury housing have gone on the market in the area, with condos selling for more than $2 million and many more are on the way.

The agreement notes that the Spring St. alternative garage would require the full range of state and city environmental and land-use reviews, and delays “due to litigation or other developments” are possible.

If Friends of Hudson River Park determine that the Spring St. alternative space is delayed by more than a year, the agreement says the Friends may apply to the court for “any remedy available in law,” presumably for more money for the park and a new enforceable timetable for getting sanitation trucks off the peninsula.

The Friends, along with other waterfront groups, residents and elected officials, filed the suit charging that continued use of the peninsula for garbage trucks violates the 1998 state Hudson River Park Act that created the riverfront park. The legislation set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2003, for removing a derelict garbage incinerator and a shed for highway salt from the peninsula, and mandated that the city exert “best efforts” to eliminate all sanitation uses from Gansevoort and from Pier 97.

The suit also called for an injunction stopping construction of the new two-story garage that sanitation began on the peninsula. As it turned out, the settlement allows sanitation to complete the garage and use it until Dec. 31, 2012.

The Trust issued a prepared statement on Tuesday affirming the agreement.

“This settlement will be very helpful to the Trust’s future ability to construct both the Gansevoort and Pier 97 areas of the park as they are currently unfunded. This will allow the city to utilize those areas for a certain time period that are currently needed for their operations and will allow the Trust to be able to specifically plan for and be in a better position to build out those areas once they are vacated,” the statement said.

In addition to Friends, other plaintiffs are Friends of Clinton Cove, a group of Clinton residents advocating for park use of Pier 97; Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association; State Senator Tom Duane; Franz Leichter, former state senator and current board member of the Hudson River Park Trust; Kathleen Stassen Berger, Village Democratic district leader; Tobi Bergman, former Community Board 2 member; and West Side residents Kristen Dionne, John Garcia, Nicholas Haber, Cory Olicker Henkel, Lauren McGrath, Darci Oberly, Shelly Seccombe, Peter Siris, David Tillyer and Arthur Stoliar.


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