By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Madison Square Park Conservancy announced at a Community Board 5 Parks and Public Spaces committee meeting on Monday that it will be constructing a 1,000-square foot structure to hold trash at the southeastern side of the park.
Tom Reidy, senior project manager at the Conservancy, said at the meeting that there are currently dumpsters on the east side of the park adjacent to the Department of Transportation self-operating toilet that Shake Shack uses for trash now and one of the goals of the new structures is to have a more closed-in space for garbage that staff for the Conservancy could also use for dumping refuse collected from park garbage cans. Reidy said that the trash cans around the park get emptied three times a day for five months out of the year during warmer months and two times a day for the rest of the year, so the amount of trash is substantial.
The Conservancy also uses space behind the Shake Shack to store various equipment and tools, so another goal of the new structure is to free up space behind the restaurant’s building. The Conservancy also has a 400-square foot storage space in Long Island City for seasonal equipment that could be partially stored in the new building, although Reidy said that they will likely still have to store some items in that storage space.
“The first priority is to get things off that back pathway and return that as a pathway,” Reidy said. “We’re not increasing our inventory. We’re not really keeping anything more in the park that we would otherwise. It’s to take it off that back pathway, and then that back corral or that or refer to that 400 square feet, it’s to open that up a little bit so that it can be a more functional space because it really is, like, every last piece goes in there.”
Keats Meyer, the executive director for the Conservancy, said that the number one complaint that the organization gets is about how trash is stored, so it was also important for them to address that.
The trash structure will consist of two separate buildings, staggered along the park edge to make its impact less imposing. One of the structures, a utility shed, will be weather-tight with a closed roof so that staff can have a workspace to get out of the elements during harsh weather, although Reidy specified that there won’t be heat or air conditioning inside. The second building, which will hold garbage, will have an open roof with a trellis, along with vines to cover the inside of the structure.
The utility shed is expected to be eight feet tall, with the trash structure topping a little more than 10 feet primarily because the trellis for the open-air roof is two feet on top of the eight-foot building.
The committee didn’t vote to either approve or deny the project, but Chair Clayton Smith said that the committee would write a letter addressing the proposal, outlining reasons that the committee supports the plan in addition to specifying what concerns the committee has about the project.
“I would outline the concerns and questions from the committee and members of the public as the location of the southwest corner of the trash enclosure building and its proximity to the pathway so open questions about what alternative might exist for that,” he said. “We are concerned about square footage of the buildings and erecting new construction in the park is something that is obviously something that was a concern for us.”
Smith also said that there is general concern about the height of the proposed structure and how the Conservancy plans to create the green walls on the building as well.
“We have questions about the height of the structure and the trellis so [it would be useful to have] options or ideas about what that height might look like and the material details itself might be able to be the bulk of that might be able to be reduced,” he said. “We would want to make sure that the green walls, the types of foliage that are chosen are the most sustainable as possible.”
Historian and committee member Miriam Berman agreed that the building should impose on the park as little as possible.
“You want a little breathing space,” she said of the building’s proximity to one of the pathways. “When you’re experiencing the park, you should be able to experience the park, not a structure.”
Meyer said that the architecture firm chosen for the project, BKSK, is Parks Department-approved and the company has a long history of working with the Parks Department on various projects. Meyer also noted that the project has been fully funded, costing approximately $700,000, which was raised through a combination of public and private funds.