Volume 20, Number 29 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Nov. 30 - Dec. 6, 2007

"Support businesses and organizations that support Downtown Express" WILLIAM BARTHMAN JEWELERS

Gerson unveils bill to battle 60 Hudson diesel

By Julie Shapiro

City Councilmember Alan Gerson announced new legislation Wednesday morning in front of the building that the legislation targets: 60 Hudson St.

Gerson and Tribeca residents have long been concerned about the large quantities of diesel fuel that the telecom hotel stores to power generators that support sensitive electronic equipment.

“We should learn the lesson of 7 World Trade Center,” Gerson told a small group gathered in front of 60 Hudson St. The diesel fuel stored in 7 W.T.C. ignited on Sept. 11, 2001.

Gerson’s bill prohibits the manual transfer of fuel above the first floor and requires fuel to be piped in from a main storage tank. The bill mandates that existing buildings — like 60 Hudson St. — be compliant with these specifications by July 1, 2008.

The bill would make the fuel transfer “seamless from supply to destination,” Gerson said. “It would eliminate one of the sources of hazard.”

Under a Department of Buildings variance, 60 Hudson St. is allowed to exceed the diesel storage limits above the first floor. The Board of Standards and Appeals upheld that variance last year, a measure that also permitted the building to continue transferring fuel by hand rather than piping it directly into containers.

“If anyone thought the granting of the variance was the end of it, we’re not going away,” Gerson said.

However, even if the legislation passes, the current variance will still protect 60 Hudson St., said Brian Maddox, spokesperson for GVA Williams, 60 Hudson’s owner

“Legislation can’t reverse the variance,” he said.

But Paul Nagle, Gerson’s spokesperson, said “Legislation overrides any variance.”

Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of the C.B. 1 World Trade Center Committee, supports Gerson’s effort, especially in light of 7 World Trade Center.

“We must do everything possible to protect the residents of 60 Hudson from similar danger [to 7 W.T.C.],” McVay Hughes said. “It’s an outrage that 60 Hudson continues to operate in this day and age in this manner.”

Deborah Allen, who lives down the street from 60 Hudson, was pleased with the new legislation. Allen is vice president of Neighbors against NOISE, an organization founded to address noise and safety complaints at 60 Hudson

“How dangerous is 60 Hudson?” Allen said. “I can’t tell you… Unbelievably, there’s never been a comprehensive security analysis and risk assessment of this whole building.”

She read an excerpt from Firehouse Magazine that refers to telecom hotels as “a nightmare scenario.”

Maddox attended the press conference and repeated assurances that the building is safe.

“[Gerson] is using the building as a launch pad for a legislative effort,” Maddox said before the conference. “I hope he doesn’t say anything to foment undue safety concerns.” Maddox added that the building has a comprehensive safety plan for “a whole range of eventualities.”

NOISE member Bruce Ehrmann got a few laughs at the meeting when he referred to Maddox as a “male Stepford wife” who describes the building as “absolute paradise.” Ehrmann is also frustrated by the “tremendous amount of noise” coming from the building.

Shaun Mooney, building manager at 60 Hudson St., spoke with Gerson before the press conference. Gerson asked Mooney and Maddox about the building’s emergency plan and the safety of the fuel tanks.

“All of that is taken care of,” Mooney said. He submitted an emergency action plan to the Fire Department and it was approved. “It’s not supposed to be shared with the community,” he said.

“People who live across the street have the right to know [about the plan],” Gerson replied.

The building has followed all of the requirements set out by the variance, Maddox said.

“The law allows you not to comply, so we’ll try to change that law,” Gerson told him.

Mooney appeared skeptical and asked Gerson about the chances of passing the legislation.

“I have good reason to believe it will be approved,” Gerson said.

Gerson said later that he thinks Council Speaker Christine Quinn will support his proposal but “I haven’t talked to her about the particulars of this bill.” Her spokesperson said Quinn does not decide on supporting bills until they go through the committee process.

Gerson said that the city D.O.B. could have imposed the regulations in his bill but refused, so he expects the city will oppose it.

Councilmember Miguel Martinez, chairperson of the Council’s fire safety committee, has been supportive of Gerson’s legislation, Gerson said. Representatives for State Sen. Martin Connor and State Assemblymember Deborah Glick also attended the press conference in support of Gerson.

Gerson has three other related pieces of legislation and a land use resolution pending in City Council. The legislation would require buildings that store a certain amount of diesel fuel to develop a more comprehensive emergency and community notification plan and would also require all diesel storage tanks to be fully encased.

Another of Gerson’s bills would strengthen the noise code. The new noise law, which went into effect over the summer, is an improvement over previous codes, but it is not enough, Gerson said. His bill would set a limit for the total decibels of noise created by a building, not just by a single tenant’s appliances.

Finally, Gerson is advocating a distinct use category for telecom hotels, to oust them from residential areas.

“I do not want any new telecom hotels,” Gerson said. “They need to be located away from where people live… They belong in protected environments.”

Once the bills are assigned to a committee, Gerson will petition the committee for a hearing, which he expects to take place by January.

For Gerson, the battle extends far beyond 60 Hudson St.

“This is not the only building in the Downtown community with significant quantities of diesel stored,” he said.

With reporting by Josh Rogers

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