Spring St. garage foes call ruling garbage, fight on

By Albert Amateau

The Tribeca and Hudson Square opponents of the Department of Sanitation’s three-district garage planned for the western end of Spring Street have not given up their fight to block the proposed 120-foot-tall project on the 2-acre site that the city has finally acquired from UPS.

On Monday, October 4, the Tribeca Community Association, the Canal Park Conservancy and several residents and property owners in the district filed a 59-page appeal with the First Division Appellate Department to overturn the Manhattan State Supreme Court’s dismissal in January of their suit to block the project.

“We’re confident that the Appellate Court will reverse the lower court’s decision dismissing our petition to halt the planned consolidated, three-district Sanitation garage on Spring St. in the heart of the Hudson Square/North Tribeca neighborhoods,” said Richard Barrett, a member of the Community Sanitation Steering Committee and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The city’s Law Department in a prepared statement said on Wednesday, October 6, “We believe the lower court decision will be upheld, paving the way for construction of this much-needed facility.”

The appeal was filed 10 days after the city published final notice of the acquisition of the 2-acre site from UPS for $166 million. The garage — for Sanitation Districts 1, 2, and 5, covering, respectively, Lower Manhattan; Greenwich Village and Soho; and the middle of Manhattan from 14th to 59th Streets, roughly between Eighth and Lexington Aves. — is part of the Bloomberg administration’s plan to have each neighborhood share the burden of Sanitation facilities.

However, opponents of the site between Washington and West Streets contend that the proposed garage project — which will also include a new Department of Sanitation salt-pile shed on the south side of Spring Street — would put an overwhelming burden on the neighborhood, which has shifted from industrial to mixed use over the years, including the recent addition of three new, high-end residential towers.

The opponents, who have won celebrities like James Gandolfini, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and John Slattery to their cause, vainly tried to win city approval for their own alternative plan. Known as Hudson Rise, the alternative calls for a smaller two-district garage (just Districts 1 and 2, covering Lower Manhattan, Hudson Square, Soho and Greenwich Village) and includes ramped parkland above the garage.

While the city has modified its three-district plan over the past two years and reduced the height of the garage, Sanitation said its plan is the only one viable and noted that there was no other site for a District 5 garage.

The Sanitation plan, approved by the City Council more than two years ago, is driven by a 2005 court-approved agreement between the Sanitation Department and Friends of Hudson River Park that required Sanitation facilities to get off the Gansevoort Peninsula by 2013. The intent of the agreement is to allow the 8-acre peninsula — currently used as a Sanitation district garage — jutting into the river between Gansevoort and Little West 12th Streets to be developed as part of the 5-mile-long Hudson River Park.

The Tribeca and Hudson Square opponents went to court to overturn the agreement, saying it violated the 1998 state legislation that created the Hudson River Park. The plaintiffs’ suit, filed by Kenneth McCallion, a prominent environmental lawyer, says the agreement avoided public hearings required by the park legislation and also violated the state environmental review law.

But State Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis dismissed the suit on January 11 this year, ruling that the plaintiffs do not have “standing” — the right to challenge the 2005 agreement. Lobis also held that the environmental review for the garage complied with the law and did not violate the “fair share” principal intended to protect neighborhoods from being overwhelmed by city facilities.

But neighbors who filed the suit and are appealing the Lobis ruling remained adamant this week

“The story here is not about celebrities who have joined the community opposition,” said Carole DeSaram, president of the Tribeca Community Association. “We have offered a greener and better ‘fair share’ solution — the Hudson Rise Plan,” she said.

Phil Mouquinho, chairperson of the Community Sanitation Steering Committee, said this week, “It was ridiculous for the court to rule that we have no standing to bring this challenge. I’ve lived and worked here all my life.”

Mouquinho, a former Community Board 2 member, is a second-generation owner of P.J. Charlton, a restaurant on Greenwich and Charlton Streets two blocks from the proposed site.

“How much more standing can you have than having a three-district Sanitation garage dumped on the neighborhood?” he added.

Under the proposed plan, Sanitation will build the garage, which will include ground-floor space for a UPS staging area for its delivery garage between Washington and Greenwich Streets The second story will accommodate city Sanitation trucks and equipment for Sanitation District 1. The third floor will be for Sanitation District 2 equipment and another floor will house equipment for District 5.