Garbage center plan stinks, Hudson Square residents cry


By Albert Amateau

Residents of Hudson Square and Tribeca expressed outrage and contempt last week for the city’s proposal to build a 150-foot-tall garage for three Department of Sanitation districts on a site just north of new luxury residential development and a Holland Tunnel exit ramp and ventilation tower.

Most of the 200 people at a Jan. 31 hearing were clearly against the project’s threat of an estimated 480 daily truck trips, increased air pollution and the storage of 17,000 gallons of fuel oil in a manufacturing zone adjacent to an area recently rezoned for residential use.

“This is beyond poor planning; it’s ludicrous, and we’ll take every opportunity to see that this project as planned does not move forward,” said Richard Barrett, of the Canal West Coalition, at the Department of Sanitation’s hearing on the scope of the project’s proposed environmental impact statement.

Barrett unfurled a white handkerchief blackened with soot, which he said he wiped from a window that had been cleaned three months previously at his home on Canal St. off Washington St., to show how badly the air is already polluted even without the proposed project. Barrett then read off statistics about diesel-particulate pollution, and at one point Steven Brautigam, one of the Sanitation officials making the presentation, asked him to keep his remarks to three minutes.

“This is about human health!” Barrett protested, to cheers from the audience.

The view northwest from the $14 million, 12th-floor penthouse apartment of the new Urban Glass House on Spring St., showing the UPS parking lot in the foreground and Pier 40 in background. The proposed 150-foot-tall garage on the UPS site would be 13 feet taller than the Urban Glass House, blocking this entire view.

The single voice in favor of the Sanitation project, most of which would be built on a United Parcel Service parking and truck-staging lot between Washington and West Sts. north of Spring St., was Ross Graham, co-chairperson of the Friends of Hudson River Park, advocates for the 5-mile-long riverfront park being built by the state and city.

Friends of Hudson River Park filed a lawsuit in 2005 to get Sanitation facilities off the Gansevoort Peninsula — which is located 20 blocks north of Spring St. — in compliance with the state legislation that created the park.

Last September, the Department of Sanitation signed a court-approved agreement to find alternative locations for the Sanitation uses currently on Gansevoort Peninsula and on Pier 97 at 57th St. to allow park construction to begin on those sites by 2012. The proposed Hudson Square Sanitation project is intended to replace existing facilities for Sanitation District 2 (currently based on Gansevoort Peninsula) and for District 5 (now based on the East River at 73rd St.).

“Friends of Hudson River Park are aware of the issues raised by the construction of a major facility in the area,” Graham said. “But we note it is in a manufacturing district and is mandated by the court settlement. We hope that mitigating arrangements can make it more acceptable to the community but we are adamant that it be finished in time for removal of the Sanitation Department from Gansevoort by the end of 2012,” she said.

But members of Community Board 2, in whose district the new mega-garage is planned, and Community Board 1, whose border on Canal St. abuts the southern end of the project, were dead set against the project. State Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Deborah Glick had serious reservations that they insisted be addressed by the environmental impact statement.

Maria Passannante Derr, C.B. 2 chairperson, noted that the board in 1999 supported a potential plan for Sanitation facilities at the Hudson Square site for two Sanitation districts — District 1, covering Lower Manhattan, and District 2, covering the Village, Hudson Square, Soho, Noho and Little Italy. But the current proposal would handle trucks and salt storage for those two districts plus District 5, which covers the middle of Manhattan from 14th to 59th Sts.: “The eight-year-old resolution never contemplated including District 5,” Derr said.

“I never heard a worse idea in my life,” said Phil Mouquinho, a C.B. 2 member and second-generation owner of P.J. Charlton restaurant on Charlton St. Mouquinho recalled that when the city two years ago proposed a New York Jets stadium above the rail yards in the West 30s, the plan included a new Department of Sanitation garage facility at 30th St. — with a park on the roof — that was supposed to take some of the garbage trucks.

“Where is that offer now?” Mouquinho asked. “This project is a no-win situation for the neighborhood and the city. Let’s scope it somewhere else.”

Sanitation, however, was only there to make the presentation and did not respond to the comments or questions of any speakers.

The plan also calls for creating a new fuel-storage depot on the south side of Spring St. between Canal and West Sts. at the site of the current outmoded District 1 Sanitation garage.

Carole DeSaram, chairperson of the C.B. 1 Tribeca Committee, blasted the proposed storage capacity for 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 4,000 gallons of gasoline, 4,000 gallons of ethanol, 2,000 gallons of hydraulic oil, 2,000 gallons of motor oil and 1,000 gallons of waste oil. Much of the fuel would be stored on this smaller site, which would be used for truck washing and truck refueling.

DeSaram said the proposed increased fuel storage at the site near the Holland Tunnel exit ramp was a potential terrorism target in an area where residents suffered through the World Trade Center attack.

The current District 1 garage at this smaller site, just north of the triangular Canal Park, has a storage capacity for 7,000 gallons of various fuel and waste oils.

In total, there are three sites in the current proposal. The largest is the 85,000-square-foot UPS parking lot, where the four-story, 150-foot-tall garage is planned. UPS would use the first floor for parking and staging 58 delivery trucks per day, and Sanitation would use the second, third and fourth floors for handling 128 pieces of equipment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To the outrage of many people at the Jan. 31 hearing, the Sanitation facility on the UPS site also calls for space for 98 cars, many of them for personal use by Department of Sanitation employees.

The third site in the project is a privately owned parking garage that accommodates 400 vehicles at 575 Washington St., which the city would take by condemnation proceedings. Sanitation plans a shed on the site to store 6,500 tons of road salt and two 5,000-gallon tanks for liquid calcium chloride, also used to melt road ice.

“You’re looking to take my business away,” Gary Spindler, owner of 575 Washington St., told Sanitation officials conducting the hearing. He demanded that Sanitation find an alternate site for the salt storage.

Regarding the UPS site, complex legal issues have not been spelled out yet. Whether the city or UPS would own the parking lot, the question of condemnation or sale of the property and rent issues have not been settled, according to Sanitation and UPS officials. But Leonard Steinberg, representing new residents of the neighborhood at the hearing, demanded to know, “What kind of deal is there between the city and UPS? It could be a dirty deal.”

The area was rezoned from manufacturing to residential three years ago, during which time it has seen seven new residential developments in a two-block radius of the site, with apartments selling for as much as $1,200 per square foot and a total real estate value of $672 million, Steinberg said.

The projects include the recently completed 12-story Urban Glass House at the corner of Washington and Spring Sts., designed by the late Philip Johnson, the 14-story glass-facade residence at 505 Greenwich St. and an 11-story project designed by Winka Dubbledam that combines a new glass house and an old warehouse converted to residential lofts.

David Reck, a C.B. 2 member and president of Friends of Hudson Square, presented a five-page critique of the proposed environmental review to be conducted by the Department of Sanitation. Reck called for the Department of City Planning or the Department of Environmental Protection to replace D.O.S. as the lead agency in the review. Instead of 575 Washington St., Reck suggested a site under the Manhattan Bridge to store road salt. Another problem, Reck said, is that the Sanitation project would have a negative impact on access to both the 5-mile-long Hudson River Park on the west side of West St. and Canal Park, completed 18 months ago, on the east side West St.

A few weeks ago, Reck told The Villager that he and a coalition of the new residents, business and property owners will likely go to court to fight the project.

Barbara Siegel, a member of Canal West Coalition and a board member of the Canal Park Conservancy, recalled that neighbors lobbied for years for the creation of Canal Park, which had been a parking lot for Sanitation employees.

“Now another Sanitation parking lot is going to be built right next to it,” she said.

Michael Kramer, representing Eugene M. Grant Co., owner of the St. John’s Building — a former High Line rail terminal, north of the UPS lot, now occupied by back offices — suggested that the environmental review consider other places for District 5 Sanitation equipment. Murray Weinstock, a musician who has lived in the neighborhood for 27 years, recalled that two decades ago, before the upscale development, he saw rats running in the streets when he came home from a gig. Weinstock feared that with a garage housing garbage trucks from three Sanitation districts, the rat population would flourish again.

The deadline for written public comment on the scope of the project review is 5:30 p.m., Feb. 26. The draft environmental impact statement will begin in May along with the beginning of the city uniform land use review procedure. In June, D.O.S. will hold a hearing on the draft environmental impact statement, and the final E.I.S. is expected by the beginning of September.

C.B. 2 and the Manhattan Borough Board will review the project in the summer and fall of this year and the City Planning Commission and the City Council will vote on final approval in the winter of 2008, with acquisition of the sites to follow. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009; by the end of 2012 the department hopes to complete the project and leave Gansevoort Peninsula to allow construction to begin on the park.