Editorial: Keep garage out of Bedpan Alley

It’s been nearly a year since the plan was first announced, and then as well as now as well as every point in between, the people have spoken. Scrap the sanitation garage, or just put it somewhere that doesn’t seem so completely out of place.

Naturally, those who live near the planned garage, residents of Waterside Plaza and East Midtown Plaza in particular, also have other concerns, such as noise from construction, additional traffic from the garbage trucks, and possible odors and fumes from the fuel tanks to be stored onsite, as well as security concerns relating to those tanks.

But these are complaints the Department of Sanitation would hear from any community in which it decides to put a facility to store its garbage trucks and other equipment, and the city of course has to put them somewhere. Additionally, the facility would be serving the community (in this case the areas covered by Community Boards 6 and 8) it would call home.

Fair argument, but what’s also a legitimate argument is that this community, known to many who’ve lived in it a while as Bedpan Alley due to all the hospitals and other medical facilities, really is different from other neighborhoods. Along with longstanding institutions such as Bellevue, the V.A. Medical Center and various NYU school buildings, the area has also become known as a growing medical/science/tech center, as evidenced by the recently built Alexandria Center for Life Science. It therefore seems inappropriate — even if it is convenient for the city because the space happens to be available — to turn what is now CUNY’s Brookdale campus into an operation that would make the area less attractive to science/tech companies and other neighbors who might be more well suited to the corridor of First Avenue in the East 20s as well as further north up to NYU Langone Medical Center.

Like many local elected officials, also in opposition to the placement of the garage is former Assembly Member Steve Sanders. A longtime advocate of the area developing as a science/research hub, he had arranged for a grant to get the Alexandria Center developed while he was still in office. This week, he told T&V he thought the city’s plan to put the sanitation center nearby was a “a wasted opportunity.”
The facilities located along the corridor, he’s noted, “have already gotten a lot of income for the city by renting to tenants, bringing companies to the East Side and by the jobs.” A better function for the Brookdale campus in his view, would be to offer housing for the nearby hospitals’ staffers who are sometimes on call 24/7.

As a publication that writes about concerns of tenants, residential and sometimes commercial, at Town & Village, we certainly understand that for the city, finding a space to house a sanitation garage is a difficult task. But still, even in Manhattan, it isn’t impossible. Rather than trying to rush this project to completion, we believe the Department of Sanitation should make a genuine effort to find an alternative location. We appreciate the department’s decision to extend the public comment period through August 14 and hope that neighbors’ concerns, as well as the facts about the area’s identity, are taken into consideration.

2 thoughts on “Editorial: Keep garage out of Bedpan Alley

  1. Bold headline, wimpy ending. “The DoS should make an effort…” which is essentially saying, see if there is another full-block development space owned by a government entity coming available in a very-lightly-populated area sometime in the next five years, and if those neighbors don’t push back, we can put the garage there.

    I can think of many ways in which the current plan works out poorly for neighborhood residents, and how it can be improved. But I think the city did a reasonable job of finding a new purpose for this site that fits the city’s infrastructure needs without disrupting a very large number of residents. The truth is that the city allowed this stretch of avenue to be developed very poorly (it’s a commercial no-man’s land even though the area is now much more developed than it was 50 years ago), and that’s a fact we have to live with regardless of what happens to this site.

    We should try to work with the city to shape the eventual Brookdale site development to be the best it can be, not to place unrealistic demands on uses for the site or try to bully politicians with tough talk. No one in government is buying it… they know this area has little other than hospitals or government buildings, plus there’s a massive noisy highway adjacent to the site, so they were quite aware when they chose this site for a sanitation garage that quality-of-life complaints against this facility would be disingenuous in comparison to other neighborhood shortcomings for potential residents. Maybe Waterside should focus on getting better transportation and pedestrian access to/around their site (including seriously upgrading or replacing that horrible pedestrian bridge and it’s access ramps at 25th Street) instead of bellyaching about something on the other side of the FDR.

  2. Good point but put your money where your mouth is and suggest a location for the sanitation trucks. Don’t just complain and point out a legitimate issue, and then say “the city should find another location.” That’s just not responsible.

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