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Garage demo causes alarm

BY Albert Amateau

The environmental committee of Community Board 2 asked some hard questions last week about the impending demolition of the old sanitation garage at Spring Street where the Department of Sanitation intends to build a salt shed as part of its three-district garage project on property owned by UPS.

The committee asked Daniel Klein, DSNY’s director of Real Estate, on June 16 about asbestos removal, soil and ground water contamination, and the effect of construction vibration at vulnerable locations nearby included the Glass House residence designed by Philip Johnson and the 207-year-old federal house location of Ear Inn.

The committee also asked DSNY to designate a specific person who would be able to respond to neighborhood concerns during the demolition of the old garage on the south side of Spring Street at the intersection of West and Canal Streets. The construction of the new garage will be shared with UPS on the north side of Spring Street between Washington and West Streets.

Klein, however, agreed to meet regularly with the environmental and transportation committees during demolition and construction to minimize traffic problems. He also agreed to provide C.B.2 with updated staging and boring plans as well as a schedule for various phases of the project. The DSNY contractor and the committees will also meet to discuss noise and vibration issues. DSNY will also consider setting up a hotline during demolition and construction.

But Denise Levine, a committee member, later said that Klein was not able to resolve the committee’s environmental concerns. Removal of asbestos from the concrete flashing of the roof of the old building, and the possibility that pipes wrapped in fiberglass might have asbestos between the fiberglass and the metal, remained a concern, Levine said.

“The site [of the old garage] has had garage uses since 1905 and we’re worried about remediation of soil and groundwater contamination,” Levine said. The committee was also concerned about the salt shed to be built facing the Holland Tunnel ventilation tower. Levine said that a book published shortly before the tunnel was built in the 1920s showed the air intake to be at the third floor level and the exhaust at the top. “That means that salt could be blown into the tunnel,” she observed.

DSNY hopes to begin demolition of the old garage toward the end of this year and begin construction of the salt shed and the 120-ft.-tall combined UPS and Sanitation garage in 2011. The construction schedule is driven by the need to get sanitation equipment off the Gansevoort Peninsula and into the new garage by the end of 2013 to comply with a settlement of a Friends of Hudson River Park lawsuit to make the peninsula available for use as part of the Hudson River Park.

A lawsuit by Hudson Square and North Tribeca neighbors seeking to block the three-district Sanitation garage was dismissed early this year. The dismissal included a petition to cancel the settlement regarding the Gansevoort Peninsula.

But opponents are still trying to sink the project. Michael Kramer, who represents some of the plaintiffs in the dismissed court action and attended the June 16 environmental committee meeting, said later that the city is overpaying UPS by about $82 million.

DSNY is to occupy 360,000 sq. ft. of the new garage site and UPS is to occupy 60,000 sq. ft. The city is committed to paying UPS about $300 per sq. ft., according to the deal, but Kramer said the price in the current real estate is grossly inflated.

Klein said the estimated acquisition cost for the property to be $110 million and the construction cost $197 million.