Trash talking persists about garbage trucks on pier


By Josh Rogers

The city and some Villagers are trashing the idea to build a garbage truck garage near the Pier 40 playing fields.

If the garage were built on Pier 40 it would require a diesel fueling station and would mean garbage-filled trucks would often be parked in the late afternoon, according to Dan Klein, the city Department of Sanitation’s real estate director.

Klein told Downtown Express Tuesday that the facility also could be very active on Saturday depending on what the neighborhood’s recycling day is years from now, which is an unpredictable factor. He said it is not likely trucks from one Downtown sanitation district would be able to collect and drive the garbage to New Jersey and return in one eight-hour shift. This would mean smelly trucks would often sit on the pier from 4 p.m. until midnight, during some of the field’s heavy-use time. He said the trucks would also have to line up in the park near the diesel station.

Some Downtown community leaders in recent weeks have suggested a Pier 40 sanitation garage serving one sanitation district could be the best way to block two plans that have widespread opposition Downtown: a 140-foot-tall sanitation garage for three districts at Spring and Washington Sts., and a large-scale entertainment complex on the pier. Some of the roughly $300 million that the city plans to invest in the proposed Spring St. sanitation facility could instead be used to cover repairs for Pier 40 and secure the Hudson River Park’s long-term future, the idea’s proponents argue.

But the Pier 40 garbage truck idea received a hostile reception at Community Board 2’s Waterfront Committee Monday night, and it did not appear that many attendees were even aware of the city’s latest warning about what the garage would entail.

“Sanitation doesn’t belong on Pier 40 any more than it belongs on Gansevoort,” said Frieda Bradlow, a Village resident. The trucks that some are suggesting could be moved to Pier 40 near W. Houston St. are currently parked on the Gansevoort Peninsula, which must be vacated of garbage trucks under a lawsuit settlement agreement with the Friends of Hudson River Park.

Don MacPherson, a C.B. 2 member and Soho resident, said he didn’t want his son to “inhale the gas and fumes from the trucks” while playing ball on the pier.

But Michael Kramer, a consultant for Eugene M. Grant & Co., which owns the St. John’s Center building across from the pier, said his son played ball on the pier roof 10 years ago while FedEx diesel trucks parked in the courtyard. He said it was not a bad situation and that it was great to get more park space then for the neighborhood.

Kramer is a member of the Community Sanitation Steering Committee, a local group that asked the Board 2 committee to support a study examining whether the Pier 40 garage could work.

“If you asked me a year ago, should we put sanitation trucks on Pier 40, I would have said no,” said Marc Ameruso, chairperson of the Hudson River Park Advisory Council and a member of Community Board 1, whose district is just to the south of the pier. He said the park’s financial needs and the need to find a good place for the garbage trucks has changed his mind and he thinks a study of the idea makes sense.

“I don’t see a problem with looking at it,” said Ameruso.

But MacPherson said, “I don’t want to see Pier 40 used as a bargaining chip, and I don’t want to see a feasibility study open the door.”

Although the Waterfront Committee did not back a study, C.B. 2 may debate the issue again in its Sanitation Garage Subcommittee headed by Phil Mouquinho, who favors a study.

“No one in the room is saying we want a sanitation garage on Pier 40 for sure,” said Mouquinho, who owns a restaurant near the Spring St. garage site. “I know for sure we don’t want to see it on Spring and West Sts.”

Tobi Bergman, a C.B. 2 member who runs sports programs on the pier as president of the Pier Park & Playground Association, said the board is in a tough situation because it backs the trucks vacating Gansevoort but also opposes the planned Spring St. garage.

Bergman wrote a letter to the editor to Downtown Express this week (see Page 16) saying he continues to think the Pier 40 garbage-trucks idea “may have merit,” but he now sounds less bullish on the idea.

According to several sources, Bergman and members of the Pier 40 Partnership, a local parents group that has developed an alternative plan for the pier, met last week with Sanitation officials, who voiced similar concerns about the Pier 40 idea as Klein did. Klein said he was aware of the meeting but did not attend.

Bergman and Partnership members did not comment on the meeting.

Mark Costello, president of the Downtown Little League, said he heard from several people about last week’s discussion and he thinks it means the Pier 40 sanitation idea is “dead.”

Kramer, the Sanitation Steering Committee member, said there are many unanswered questions about the city’s concerns and his group wants to speak directly with Sanitation.

“We are very anxious to speak with Sanitation to solve the problem,” Kramer said. A Sanitation spokesperson did not comment on whether the city would meet with Kramer’s group.

Kramer thinks there are several better alternatives to the Spring St. site that have not been fully considered. He said the existing Sanitation diesel station at Canal and West Sts. could possibly serve an additional district a few blocks away on Pier 40. The Canal St. facility is too small, but Kramer said the city had explored moving 12 trucks to the Spring St. lot, which is owned by UPS.

With only 12 additional city trucks, UPS could keep its lot and find a residential developer to build over the trucks, Kramer contended. UPS did look to develop the site residentially a few years ago, but entered into negotiations with the city to build a joint garage after being threatened with eminent domain, according to the shipping firm.

Kramer said the city is looking to pay about $300 million to buy and build the garage. Sanitation’s Klein said he did not know the precise figures currently under negotiations, but $300 million just to acquire the site “sounds way off base.” He did not dispute Kramer’s estimate for acquisition and construction, though.

Kramer and many others Downtown say two better alternatives to house one or two districts are Block 675, which is on W. 30th St. and has already received city land use approval, and the Pier 76 tow pound at W. 36th St.

Klein said the existing Canal St. facility for Sanitation District 1 is “inadequate,” and if the diesel-fueling station had to supply fuel for two districts, the tanks would have to be filled too frequently. He and Kramer also differ on the costs of building a Block 675 or Pier 76 facility.

Bergman said Pier 76 is probably the best alternative for at least one sanitation district and a needed sanitation marine waste transfer station. Even though the city is trying to vacate the trucks from Gansevoort, it is also trying to change the Hudson River Park Act to allow the transfer station on Gansevoort. The Pier 40 sanitation idea would also require a change in the park act.

With such divided views, the park’s future remains unclear.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick opposes both putting garbage trucks on Pier 40 and the Gansevoort marine transfer station, making it difficult to pass either plan since both areas are in her district and she is closely allied with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.