City pulls shell game switcheroo with garages


By Albert Amateau

West Siders from Tribeca to Hell’s Kitchen are frantically seeking ways to ensure the future of a 5-mile park being built along the Hudson River and at the same time safeguard their neighborhoods threatened by Department of Sanitation proposals for a jumbo garage and marine-transfer stations.

Many Hudson Square and Tribeca residents, including members of the Canal West Coalition, made it clear at a scoping meeting at the end of last month that they would fight the Department of Sanitation proposal for a 150-foot-tall garage and road-salt storage for three Sanitation districts on a cluster of sites from Canal to Charlton Sts. between West and Washington Sts.

However, the project is intended to enable the city to take garbage trucks and road salt off the Gansevoort Peninsula, the 8-acre landfill projection into the river between Little W. 12th and Gansevoort Sts., scheduled to become a major part of Hudson River Park.

Friends of Hudson River Park, an advocacy group, sued to force Sanitation to get off the peninsula and off Pier 97 at W. 57th St. in compliance with the 1998 Hudson River Park Act, which created the park. D.O.S. signed an agreement last year to leave the peninsula and Pier 76 by 2012.

One possible solution was voiced at the Jan. 31 scoping meeting when residents recalled that the city’s 2005 approval for the proposed Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project between W. 29th and W. 43rd Sts. included, “the selection and acquisition of property bounded by W. 29th and W. 30th Sts. between 11th and 12th Aves. for use as a sanitation garage and tow pound.”

The original plan for the W. 30th St. property, which is privately owned, was for a Sanitation garage below the surface and a park on top. Housed in this garage would have been trucks and equipment from two Sanitation districts — District 2 (covering Greenwich Village down to Hudson Square) and District 5 (covering the middle of Manhattan from Union Square to Central Park S.)

Arthur Schwartz, chairperson of Community Board 2’s Parks and Waterfront Committee, said Community Board 4 (Chelsea/Clinton) had accepted having the garbage trucks serving Community Board 2 (Greenwich Village/Soho/Noho/Hudson Square) in its district in return for being guaranteed input in planning the future park on Gansevoort Peninsula, which is located in Board 2, but only a few blocks south of Chelsea.

The approval is still valid for the Hudson Yards Redevelopment but the city has apparently decided not to acquire the site, known as Block 675 in the city map.

The Mayor’s Office and Sanitation did not respond to several inquiries for reasons for dropping the site. A Parks Department spokesperson, however, said that the city decided it had “a better deal, or opportunity, at the Spring St. site [in Hudson Square], which is why they are looking to do it down there.”

Indeed, the common assumption is that the high cost of acquiring Block 675 through condemnation proceedings and high construction costs for an underground garage prompted the decision to go with the Hudson Square project instead.

However, speaking in March 2004 at a meeting of the Chelsea Waterside Park Association, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe had vowed that the combination garage and park would be built somewhere in the W. 30s — he didn’t specify where. At that time, the city was still planning a Jets/Olympic stadium over the West Side rail yards. Asked about the stadium plans at the March 2004 meeting, Benepe had announced there would be a 4-acre park on top of a new Sanitation garage to be built somewhere south of the Javits Convention Center: “Whether a stadium is built or not, the garage will be built. We have to get the Sanitation trucks out of Hudson River Park,” he said then.

Speaking this Tuesday, the Parks spokesperson said their understanding is that the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Corporation is still looking into providing space for “active recreation” in the Hudson Yards area.

Most of the Sanitation project at Hudson Square would be on a property between West and Washington Sts. north of Spring St. owned by United Parcel Service and used by UPS for truck staging for loading and delivering from the company’s facility between Washington and Greenwich Sts.

The plan calls for UPS to use the ground floor of the proposed garage, and for Sanitation to use the second, third and fourth floors to store trucks and other equipment for three Sanitation districts — District 1 (covering Lower Manhattan) and Districts 2 and 5.

Reports that The Related Companies is interested in Block 675 are false, Joanna Rose, a spokesperson for Related, said on Tuesday.

Despite the agreement to get garbage trucks off Gansevoort, the city is pursuing a three-year-old plan to build a new marine-transfer station, or M.T.S., on the peninsula to send recyclable glass and paper by barge to Sunset Park in Brooklyn.

Although the M.T.S. would not violate the agreement to get garbage trucks off Gansevoort by 2012, Hudson River Park advocates and most local elected officials say a transfer station with 60 truck trips a day would be incompatible with park use. Christine Quinn, who reserved judgment about a Gansevoort M.T.S. as a councilmember representing the Village, has supported it since becoming speaker of the Council in 2006.

Nevertheless, building a transfer station on Gansevoort would require an amendment to the state 1998 Hudson River Park Act.

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, a co-author of the park legislation in 1998, has vowed to oppose any such amendment. Speaking for Gottfried, who was in Albany this week, Wendi Pastor, his chief of staff, said Gottfried would not support any amendment to the law “that would do an injustice to the park and to the community around it.”

On Feb. 5, however, Mayor Mike Bloomberg went to Albany and in an extensive address to the Legislature, made a brief pitch for an amendment to allow the city “to reactivate” a Gansevoort transfer station. The remnant of a long-unused transfer station — a truck ramp and two barge slips covered by a corrugated plastic roof — remains on the end of Gansevoort, but the proposal is for an entirely new barge facility.

“The mayor glossed over the fact that the amendment would really be an alienation of park land,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who also vowed to oppose any change of the legislation. Any amendment would have to be introduced by members of both the Assembly and State Senate and, if passed, then signed by Governor Eliot Spitzer.

The city’s M.T.S. proposal also includes building a large transfer station at the end of Pier 97 to barge commercial garbage — mainly from Manhattan restaurants — to various disposal sites. Pier 97 is also covered by the state Hudson River Park Act, so the Gansevoort amendment would have to include Pier 97 as well.

But Al Butzel, president of Friends of Hudson River Park, and other members of F.O.H.P. are calling for a marine-transfer station to be built on Pier 76 at W. 35th St. where the current auto tow pound is located and where the police Mounted Unit will have a temporary home.

“Pier 76 is very large and we believe that it could accommodate the transfer station for recyclables and for commercial garbage,” said Butzel. The Friends are planning a study for a Pier 76 transfer station to convince the city of its feasibility. “It’s right on Route 9A, which would reduce truck traffic on local streets,” Butzel said of Pier 76.

In addition, C.B. 2’s Schwartz said some think Pier 76 is, in fact, big enough to be used as a parking garage for Sanitation’s garbage trucks, as well as an M.T.S. — and could house Sanitation Districts 2, 4 and 5 — negating the need to build the new 150-foot-tall garage in Hudson Square.

To accommodate all the garbage trucks, the police Mounted Unit and the tow pound would have to move to new sites, which have not yet been identified.

Opponents of the Gansevoort marine-transfer station have suggested that a rail transfer for recyclables and commercial waste could be built on Block 675. But that would require expensive underground construction.

That still leaves Hudson Square residents demanding that the city find alternatives for the proposed UPS site.

Richard Barrett of the Canal West Coalition noted there was recently a New York Times article hyping all the high-end residential development planned for the Hudson Yards. It’s not a stretch, he feels, to imagine how this glitzy vision for the Hudson Yards must have some connection to the dropping of the 30th St. garbage garage project and its relocation to Hudson Square.

“I think this smacks of some political and real estate deals,” Barrett said. “We already have our fair share of trucks and diesel pollution, Holland Tunnel traffic and exhaust.”

With reporting by Lincoln Anderson