Trash talking over megagarage goes down to the wire

By Albert Amateau

Five days before the embattled three-district Department of Sanitation garage on Spring St. was scheduled to go before the City Council for final approval, the council’s Public Siting Subcommittee held the last hearing on the project.

Opponents of the project made a last-ditch stand against a project they said would have a devastating impact on Hudson Square, a neighborhood that has become increasingly residential over the past several years.

Several residents raised the specter of Block 675, between W. 29th and 30th Sts. and 11th and 12th Aves., which the city had approved for Department of Sanitation use with a park on its roof in 2005, but was dropped two years later.

“It hasn’t escaped many of us here that Joe Rose, one of the board of directors of the Hudson River Park Trust, just filed a permit to build a luxury hotel on that same exact plot,” said Kim Tabet, a Hudson Square resident, of Block 675.

The Spring St. project would handle garbage trucks and vehicles for Sanitation Districts 1, 2 and 5 — respectively, covering Lower Manhattan, Greenwich Village and Midtown between 14th and 59th Sts. Residents were particularly outraged that the garage would have parking for 74 cars belonging to Sanitation workers employed at the site.

David Reck, representing Community Board 2, which includes the West Village and Hudson Square, said the board unanimously called for holding off on doing the project.

“This issue has been around for 10 years,” said Reck, who lives on Greenwich St. two blocks from the proposed garage. “It was supposed to be settled by using Block 675, but the city reneged on the deal,” he said, adding, “We are trying to work out a compromise but all D.S.N.Y. says is no.”

The inclusion of a third Sanitation district — District 5 — in the project is a prime objection, Reck said. Another important sticking point is a proposed salt-pile shed, which would be partly open, proposed for an area just west of the Holland Tunnel vent tower between Spring and Canal Sts.

Carol DeSaram, a Community Board 1 member and a leader in the Tribeca Community Association, said the project was “a half-billion-dollar Taj Mahal on the Hudson.” She said the Sanitation Department has grossly under estimated the traffic impact on Tribeca and Hudson Square.

Maria Passannante-Derr, a member and former chairperson of C.B. 2, said the department failed to make an adequate study of an already congested traffic situation. Derr said there would be 800 truck trips per day instead of the 480 that Sanitation estimates.

The Department of Sanitation said its Spring St. project is necessary because the 1998 Hudson River Park Act required the department to remove its garbage trucks and salt pile from Gansevoort Peninsula so the peninsula can be redeveloped into part of the Hudson River Park. The deadline under the act was 2003, but Sanitation remained because there were no alternative sites. In 2005, Friends of Hudson River Park, a civic group, filed a lawsuit to force Sanitation off the peninsula, and the action was settled with a court order giving the department until December 2013 to vacate Gansevoort.

Hudson River Park advocates, many of them Chelsea residents, turned out at the hearing to support siting the Sanitation garage at Spring St.

A.J. Pietrantone, Friends of Hudson River Park executive director, insisted that the group had no hand in selecting the Spring St. site. He said the court agreement refers to Spring St. only because Sanitation identified it as the intended site for a new garage.

He said the Friends would not object if there were definite plans for an alternative site. But he warned, “We cannot defer action on converting Gansevoort to parkland on the hope that something might develop at some unidentified point in the future.”