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Testimony By NYS Senator Duane Before The New York City Planning Commission Hearing Regarding The NYC Department Of Sanitation's Proposed Garage And Salt Shed For Manhattan Districts One, Two & Five

 

My name is Thomas K. Duane, and I represent New York State's 29th Senate District, which includes the Hudson Square neighborhood, where the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has proposed siting the sanitation garage and salt shed being discussed at today's hearing. I also represent portions of Manhattan Sanitation Districts One, Two, and Five (SD1, SD2 and SD5), which the facility in question is intended to serve.

All neighborhoods have to bear their fair share of the waste burden, and I have said repeatedly that, in my district, I am willing and eager to take on that responsibility and even a little more. Both Manhattan Community Board Two (CB2), in which proposed garage is located, and Manhattan Community Board One (CB1) immediately to the south, have consistently indicated their willingness to accommodate a facility at this site for SD1 as well as SD2, which serve Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village and transport trash to receiving sites in New Jersey through the nearby Holland Tunnel. They reasonably object, however, to DSNY's proposal to also site at this location the garage for SD5, which covers Midtown Manhattan from 14th to 59th Street and transports trash to the East 91st Street Waste Transfer Station at the East River.

I am very concerned about the impacts housing this additional, more distant sanitation district, with its trucks, employee parking, maintenance activities, fuel and oil, will have on the surrounding neighborhood, particularly in terms of traffic, noise and air quality issues. I also object to the added building height necessitated by this additional sanitation district. It is estimated that removing D5 from this location would cut the garage's height by more than a fifth, from approximately 118 feet to approximately 95 feet. This would make the structure more in character with neighboring buildings and reduce the shadows it casts on the Hudson River Park to the west.

I should note that, as the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) indicates, "MN District 5 starts its route by heading north on West Street to 14th Street and continues onto 10th Avenue. From there, the next leg of their specific route dictates where they turn east (i.e., Section 5-1 could turn east on 23rd, 34th, or 42nd Streets; Section 5-2 could turn east on 42nd, 50th, or 57th Streets)." Thus D5 trucks will travel across two full Community Districts before they even start their routes. Surely there must be a more efficient way to serve this sanitation district that will limit the miles the trucks travel and the areas adversely impacted.

DSNY's proposal to add the burden of the D5 garage at the Hudson Square site is particularly distressing given DSNY’s lack of meaningful community consultation throughout the process, its failure to consider this project in the context of the citywide solid waste management plan, and the City's aggressive, successful effort to alienate the Hudson River Park's largest land mass, Gansevoort Peninsula, also within CB2, for a marine waste transfer station.

Just as the City seemed unwilling to seriously consider promising alternative locations within my Senate District for the marine waste transfer station, DSNY has either dismissed or seemingly neglected to explore potential alternative locations for D5. While certainly some suggested alternatives, like the Sanitation maintenance repair facility on 26th Street and 11th Avenue, may not be appropriate, it appears from the DEIS that it and other potential locations, including Pier 76, where the Manhattan tow pound is located, were given cursory consideration at best. Then there is Block 675, bounded by 29th and 30th Streets between 11th and 12th Avenues, which, as the DEIS acknowledges, had been approved to house the D5 garage in the 2004 Hudson Yards rezoning. Unfortunately, the City did not do due diligence on the site at the time and DSNY now dismisses Block 675 on the grounds that acquisition and demolition costs would be prohibitive. It is also regrettable that DSNY did not do a thorough assessment of the West Side of Manhattan's future sanitation needs before constructing the soon-to-open West 57th Street garage, which could have been designed to accommodate growth had there been advance planning. Certainly, DSNY should now consider its future facilities needs and develop a comprehensive strategy for sanitation on the West Side and throughout the City. I should note, however, that it is difficult to trust DSNY's intentions given the City’s decision to renege on a 2005 court-sanctioned stipulation requiring it to remove all sanitation facilities from the Gansevoort peninsula by the end of 2012.

That said, I echo the joint resolution of CB1 and CB2 in calling for the elimination of the D5 garage from this location. I urge DSNY to investigate alternative sites that would result in a reduction in total truck mileage for D5 trucks and a reduction in height, bulk, emissions and traffic in CB2.

I likewise call on DSNY to select one of the acceptable alternate locations identified in the DEIS for the salt shed slated for the site currently occupied by DSNY's D1 garage. As Manhattan Borough President Stringer noted in his recommendation on this proposal, despite the economic advantages of this site and its proximity to the area to be served, locating a salt shed holding approximately 5,000 tons of rock salt and 4,000 gallons of liquid calcium chloride is less than ideal given the increasingly residential neighborhood to the east and south and the new park across the street to the west. Further, I share the Borough President's concern that this salt shed, which is proposed to be between 30 and 75 feet tall and to cover the entire lot, would contribute to a wall of industrial uses along West Street from Clarkson to Canal Streets, thus separating the Hudson River Park from the inland community. I share the belief that this lot should instead be made into a publicly accessible open space and that new a pedestrian crossing of the West Side Highway should be created at Spring Street to connect this space to the Hudson River Park.

Among other problems with this proposal is the inclusion of 74 spaces of accessory employee parking, which seems unnecessary given the site's proximity to mass transit and to the public parking lot at Pier 40 at West Houston Street, which could potentially accommodate employee vehicles during snowstorms or other emergencies. In fact, DSNY's Director of Real Estate publicly acknowledged at a June 12, 2008 Joint CB1/CB2 hearing on this proposal that this employee parking is not a necessary component.

I do appreciate DSNY heeding the concern raised by me and many others during the DEIS scoping regarding its initial proposal to store several thousand gallons of fuel and oil directly above the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. The current proposal's location of this fuel storage on the Northwest corner of the proposed site, about a block away from the tunnel, is far more prudent. I urge DSNY to also respond to the community's request for a reduction in the refueling station by eliminating refueling by non-DSNY City vehicles and refueling as many trucks as possible in an industrial site in New Jersey.

Finally, if a new garage facility is ultimately approved, design modifications proposed in the joint CB1/CB2 resolution, including setbacks with plantings on the Spring Street side and a community friendly design with publicly accessible recreational space on the roof, should be incorporated to mitigate the inconvenience the garage's construction and usage will undoubtedly cause.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify and for your consideration of my comments.