Volume 21, Number 16 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Aug. 29 - Sept. 4, 2008
Burden grills Sanitation over garage tower plan
By Albert Amateau
City Planning Commissioners zeroed-in on a few issues toward the end of an all-day hearing on Wednesday on the Department of Sanitation’s proposal for a $429 million garage for three sanitation districts on the UPS lot on Spring St.
The proposed 118 ft. tall garage is intended to accommodate garbage trucks from Districts 1, 2 and 5. The site is in District 2, which covers the Village and Soho and is a block from the border of District 1, which covers most of Lower Manhattan south of Canal St. Downtown opponents have been demanding that an alternate site be found for sanitation vehicles from District 5, which covers Midtown between Eighth and Lexington Aves. from 14th to 59th Sts.
“What is the possibility that District 5 could be eliminated from the project,” asked Amanda Burden, C.P.C. chairperson.
Dan Klein, D.S.N.Y. director of real estate, said any alternative would raise costs considerably.
“We took a look at what it would cost to acquire a site for District 5 and build a new facility and we estimate that it would add $40 or $50 million,” Klein said.
After opponents expressed outrage about a provision in the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement that refueling at the site would serve other city vehicles in addition to Sanitation, Burden asked for specifics.
“We refuel city vehicles at all our garages — police, fire, M.T.A.,” replied Klein. “On July 21 we found that we refueled 142 other vehicles that week at the Gansevoort garage. It’s no more than 150 a week mostly between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.,” he said.
Opponents are also anxious about a proposed salt shed to be built as part of the project across Spring St. directly south of the main site. Neighbors fear that road salt in an open-sided shed up to 75 ft. tall would be blown about by the prevailing westerly wind and become an environmental hazard.
Responding to a question from Burden about the salt, Klein said the shed has not been designed yet, but that it would be three-sided and located just east of the Holland Tunnel vent tower, with the open side facing east and protected from the prevailing wind.
Burden also inquired about another issue that has been outraging neighbors — the provision for employee parking for about 74 cars in the proposed garage. Klein reiterated the position that D.S.N.Y. wants employees to be able to drive to work, especially during snow emergencies. He also said that eliminating employee parking would not lower the height of the garage.
In addition to the employee parking, the D.S.N.Y. garage would have 266 parking spaces including space for 95 large garbage trucks, 33 smaller sanitation vehicles. The ground floor would be owned as a condo by UPS, which will use the area, as it does now, for truck parking and staging area its garage complex on Washington St.
Opponents, including Carol DeSaram of Community Board 1, suggested that sanitation employees should use Pier 40 for parking. “This project flies in the face of good planning,” DeSaram said. She ridiculed the proposal by the architects to use Con Edison steam to heat the building, saying the steam would have to come from the steam plant on E. 14th St.
Paul Bauer, of Dattner Architects, designers of the project, described the proposal for solar fins that would rotate in response to the sun and the proposed green roof that would recycle rainwater for washing sanitation vehicles.
But Richard Sloan, a resident of 530 Canal St. said that talk of solar panels and a green roof “is like putting lipstick on a pig — trying to make it look pretty, but it’s still a pig.”
Anthony Borelli, land use director for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, said Stringer recommended disapproval of the garage unless there is more consideration of alternative sites for a District 5 garage.
Stringer’s letter to City Planning on Aug. 11 cited the D.S.N.Y. Manhattan Borough Repair Shop, a two-story facility on W. 26th St. between 11th and 12th Aves., that does major repair for all Manhattan garages as a location that should be explored for District 5. Stringer pointed out that the facility also repairs Bronx trucks and that a District 7 repair center in the building is slated to move to W. 57th St., two uses which he said could free up enough space for District 5.
But members of Community Board 4, whose district includes the W. 26th St. shop, that they were opposed to putting the District 5 garage there.
“It was specifically designed for repairing vehicles that district garages couldn’t do,” said Lee Compton, a C.B. 4 member referring to the 26th St. shop, “things like straightening the frame of a big garbage truck or replacing an engine. Putting a district garage there would be a terrible waste.”
Sanitation’s Klein also said it would be wasteful to move repair uses out of the building.
The hearing on Wednesday was the midpoint in the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. Burden said the commission would vote on the project in three or four weeks and submit it for final approval to the City Council.