Volume 19 Issue 50 | April 27 - May 3, 2007

Garbage tower foes look for dirt on Spring St.

By Albert Amateau

A coalition of civic groups in the Hudson Sq. and Tribeca neighborhoods are stepping up efforts to turn back the Department of Sanitation’s plan for a jumbo garage for three sanitation districts on United Parcel Service property just north of new high-end luxury residences.

The newly organized Community Sanitation Steering Committee is raising environmental, fair-share and land-use objections to the D.S.N.Y. project that the department outlined at a contentious January hearing.

“There’s a ton of questions about the project and the biggest is why Block 675 [a square block bounded by 29th and 30th Sts. between 11th and 12th Aves.] was withdrawn as the sanitation garage site,” said David Reck, president of Friends of Hudson Sq., and a member of the Sanitation Steering Committee.

Block 675, which is used by Greyhound to park buses and also currently has garbage trucks from Sanitation District 6 — covering the East Side between 14th and 59th Sts. — was approved as a combined sanitation facility in a 2004 land-use review for the 36-block Hudson Yards redevelopment. The approval, valid to this day, included authorization for condemnation proceedings. The facility was supposed to include a rooftop park.

Another question the committee is raising is why and how the U.P.S. site on Washington St. near Spring was specified in the October 2005 settlement of a lawsuit that Friends of Hudson River Park filed to force D.S.N.Y to get sanitation uses off the Gansevoort Peninsula to allow the peninsula to become part of the five-mile long riverfront park by the end of 2012.

The committee — through its lawyer David Snyder — last week filed a seven-page Freedom of Information Law request to the Department of Sanitation regarding those and other questions.

At the same time, the committee filed freedom of information requests to the Port Authority and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for auto traffic and air quality information in the area of the proposed sanitation garage, which includes a Holland Tunnel ventilation tower.

“Air pollution is one of our biggest concerns,” said Richard Barrett, president of the Canal West Coalition and a member of the Sanitation Steering Committee. “Manhattan is not in compliance with federal air pollution standards and we want data on emissions from stationary sources like the tunnel vents and from moving sources — cars,” Barrett said.

The D.S.N.Y. proposal, which requires an Environmental Impact statement before it can be built, calls for a three-level, 150-ft.-tall garage on the U.P.S. site that would accommodate department trucks and other equipment for Sanitation District 1, covering Lower Manhattan up to Canal St. The garage would also accommodate trucks from District 2, covering the Village, Hudson Sq. and Soho to 14th St. and District 4, which covers Chelsea and Clinton between 14th and 59th Sts.

At ground level, the proposed garage would also allow U.P.S. to continuing using the site as a staging area for delivery trucks entering the U.P.S. building to the east for loading. In addition, the project calls for using a triangular site on Spring, Canal and West Sts., currently used for District 1 trucks, for fuel storage and truck washing for the three districts and a private garage on Washington and Charlton St. that accommodates parking for 400 cars to be taken by condemnation proceedings.

The project is the source of bitter conflict between Hudson Sq., Soho and South Village residents, and members of the same neighborhoods with shared interests and who are members of Friends of Hudson River Park.

Last month, Al Butzel, president of the Friends, and Reck had a loud public argument at a Community Board 1 hearing over the fact that the much-reviled D.S.N.Y. Spring St. project is specifically mentioned in the 2005 court-approved agreement to get District 4 garbage trucks off Gansevoort to make way for an eight-acre extension of the park.

In a telephone interview on April 24, Butzel recalled that during negotiations in 2005 D.S.N.Y. agreed to find an alternative site for the District 4 trucks to free the peninsula. “We expected it to be Block 675 but they said they were dropping that site and would choose another. We were unwilling to sign any settlement that did not specify a site and they finally said they would go to Spring St.,” Butzel said.

The 1998 legislation that created the Hudson River Park called for municipal uses to vacate the peninsula in 2004, and Friends insisted on a specific city commitment to another site for its trucks.

The Department of Sanitation has said the cost of condemnation of Block 675 would be prohibitive. However, sanitation committee members ridiculed the D.S.N.Y. estimate of $700 million as the price of Block 675. “It’s completely absurd. You could build the entire Hudson River Park and have money left over for that much money,” said Reck.

Tobi Bergman, president of Pier Park and Playground, the not-for-profit Pier 40 recreation complex and a Community Board 2 member, recalled the board in 2000 had approved the Spring St. site as a District 2 sanitation garage but no one expected it to accommodate three districts. “There is no way the community board would have approved it if they knew it would have a 150-ft. building,” said Bergman, a Friends of Hudson River Park member who made it clear that he did not speak for the group.

“It was a bait and switch,” Bergman said, “Sanitation was able to pit one community group against another and they may never get approval for the Spring St. site and might have to stay on Gansevoort.”

The Friends agreement also calls for Sanitation to pay $21 million to the Hudson River Park Trust, the city-state agency building the park, as rent for Gansevoort until the end of 2012 and if Sanitation fails to get off the peninsula by then, the Friends can go to court again to seek other remedies — presumably more money to fund completion and operation of the park.

Michael Kramer, a member of the steering committee who represents property owners in the Spring St. area, has circulated a list of 13 alternatives to the Spring St. sanitation facility.

The first alternative on Kramer’s list is the Block 675 location in the Hudson Yards.

The second is Pier 76 at 35th St., excluded from the Hudson River Park and currently the site of the city auto tow pound and the temporary home of the N.Y.P.D. mounted police unit. The pier has also been suggested as a possible site for a sanitation marine transfer station.

Some of the other Kramer alternatives, however, appear far-fetched. Kramer suggested that Pier 40, the 13-acre structure at Houston St., which must have 50 percent of its space devoted to public recreation, could also accommodate the sanitation garage. The Hudson River Park Trust is now considering a proposal for a theater complex on the commercial half of Pier 40. Kramer also proposes a site at 147 Watts St. in Tribeca, where the Jack Parker Corporation is already building a residential complex. He also proposed two recently rezoned Tribeca sites at 281-7 West St. and 445-7 Washington St., which are potential residential development sites.

The committee hopes that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will call for a Council hearing soon to consider alternatives to the U.P.S. site. Committee members, however, are ready to mount a court challenge to the city if all else fails.

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