Letters to the editor, Sept. 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Poor planning could impact local ERs

I’ve been worried about the fact that the Sanitation Garage pushed circa 2015 is referred to by some in NYCity’s government as “on hold.” I assume that means someone will reintroduce it sometime.

For now there’s T&V’s story (Maria Rocha-Buschel’s really thorough piece on 9/6/18) about parking some garbage trucks near Bellevue.  It seems to me what needs addressing is why is the city allowing the garage at 606 West 30th Street to fall to eviction?

This is between 11th and the Westside Highway and, if it’s not inside Hudson Yard’s perimeters, it’s next to it. My suspicions are that big developer money has prevailed to push the need for garbage collection out of the shiny new Hudson Yards. How did the city let this happen even if it was under the Bloomberg administration? Is it too late to alter any of this? Are any politicians addressing this issue?

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Letters to the Editor, Apr. 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Lawns for people, not pooches

To the Editor:

The newly hired management people have made one of their first decisions to eliminate many of the lawn covered green spaces in the back of our buildings and turn them into “dog friendly spaces.” These are now effectively noisy dog runs and puts dogs before tenants. Not a good start.

Formerly, these lawns were used by young children to crawl and play around – sometimes tenants would read, relax or sun bathe on them. These, along with benches, playgrounds and the Oval, were much needed islands of tranquility amid the city and helped make Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village the oasis it was once known for (see the lovely 70th Anniversary Exhibit on the Oval).

In turning these lawns into fly infested dog toilets, we now witness employees having to clean up after those dog owners who are not so thoughtful – a real waste of their time and energy. These lawns will soon turn into brown and dead places as the small “dog friendly” areas set up previously have become. They will also match the lovely stained carpets that greet guests as they step out of elevators on many floors of our buildings. This is getting out of hand. The next logical step is to turn Stuyvesant Oval into a large dog run with all that space and those trees.

A suggestion. Why not put up signs reading “Curb Your Dog,” which, by the way, is the law in New York City. Dog owners could allow their dogs to relieve themselves in handy nearby gutters which are supposed to be cleaned and disinfected by Sanitation vehicles at least once a week. Owners would still need to clean up after their dogs. No poop and flies on the green spaces or sidewalks. No noisy dog runs. More sanitary conditions in ST/PCV. In short, put tenant needs before dog needs.

Name withheld, ST

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Coalition formed against sanit garage

The Brookdale site as seen from Waterside (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The Brookdale site as seen from Waterside (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Tenant groups against the proposed sanitation garage at the Brookdale campus organized themselves just in time for another public scoping hearing that took place at the site of proposed facility on Wednesday.

 The Brookdale Neighborhood Coalition announced their formation on Tuesday in the form of a press release. The individual tenant organizations have been fighting the construction of the garage since it was announced almost three years ago but this is the first time that the groups have officially come together to oppose the plan. The coalition consists of the tenant associations at Waterside Plaza, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, East Midtown Plaza and the Kips Bay Neighborhood Association.

The Economic Development Corporation had invited community members to provide their input on the project through a working group, but this venture was designed to discuss plans for the bookend sites, not the garage itself.

Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, said that many members of the community were hopeful and then quickly discouraged by the purpose of the working group because most people primarily wanted to discuss how to prevent the garage and talking about the outer parcels was less of a priority.

“(DSNY) said the time to talk about the garage would be at public meetings so we organized after last public meeting and decided we would be more effective as one voice,” Handal said.

The coalition aims to keep higher standards for the DSNY in terms of its requirements for the projected studies that the department will be conducting and a formal response will be released on July 22. At that time, the coalition will outline its concerns on pedestrian safety, traffic, air quality and other issues.

Tenants are concerned about the fact that DSNY says a public health analysis of the project is not warranted.

“When you start looking at the data, Gramercy has the worst health

quality and that’s from the mayor’s own portal,” Handal said. “DSNY says, ‘well, we use ultra clean diesel,’ but that does not do anything with the fine particulate matter. The filters on the trucks reduce that pollution by 90 percent, which is good, but that’s not all of it so you have a net increase of pollution. The devil is in the details, as they say.”

Other issues that the coalition is worried about involve pedestrian safety, especially because of the area’s proximity to a number of schools, in addition to the multiple residential housing complexes. Traffic is another concern: according to data from the city website for Vision Zero, there is a high density of traffic-related incidents in the area and there was a 30 percent increase in collisions from 2009 to 2014.

“When you go back and think about what Mayor de Blasio’s goals were with Vision Zero, the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens,” Handal said. “How is that happening here?”

The group is also hoping to highlight some points that they feel the draft EIS has missed in terms of comprehensive analysis of the garage’s impact, including the identification of alternative locations and not adequately studying the health hazards.

The last public scoping hearing, which was scheduled for July 15 (after T&V’s press time), was meant to gather comments that will be incorporated into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Residents will get a 30-day period in which to respond and then the final Environmental Impact Statement will be released. Handal said that she’s not optimistic that DSNY is open to a discussion addressing all of the community’s concerns, but she has been motivated by her investigation into the hazards to keep trying anyway.

“I sometimes get lulled into the notion of a kinder, gentler garage,” she admitted, “but when I do the research it’s so upsetting because we’re right next door.”

A spokesperson from the DSNY was not immediately available for comment on the coalition.

Op-Ed: St. Vartan’s Park should be considered as alternative site for sanitation garage

The Brookdale campus is the city’s proposed site for a sanitation garage. A firm hired by Community Board 6 has recommended Con Ed property. J.G. Collins however suggests a portion of St. Vartan’s Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The Brookdale campus is the city’s proposed site for a sanitation garage. A firm hired by Community Board 6 has recommended Con Ed property. J.G. Collins however suggests a portion of St. Vartan’s Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By J.G. Collins
Town & Village has recently reported on the alternative proposals that city and East Side public officials are considering for a garage that the Department of Sanitation (“DSNY”) has proposed to serve Community District Six.

In reviewing alternatives, it’s important to give due weight to those suggested by Community Board Six, Community District Six residents, neighborhood groups, and individuals who might propose viable options that officials have not have otherwise considered. Community Board Six has already offered wise alternatives by engaging a planning firm. But officials shouldn’t consider these (to be the “only” alternatives. Instead, they should welcome all practicable alternatives to best accommodate the required garage within District Six. (Local officials might even consider sponsoring a design exhibit, and perhaps even offer a small cash prize, for viable alternatives proposed by anyone wishing to take up the challenge.)

As an example of proposals that should be welcomed, consider the black-top and tennis court on the western portion of St. Vartan’s Park, between East 35th Street and East 36th Street, just east of Second Avenue. The space is nearly 70 percent of the 83,000 square feet the DSNY proposes to build, including the “Tunnel Entrance Street” that bifurcates the tennis court and the black top.

If a garage were built on the site of the St. Vartan’s Park tennis court and blacktop, Tunnel Entrance Street between 35th and 36th Street could be eliminated and made part of the building footprint. Alternatively, if traffic required, the street could be left open through to the Queens Midtown Tunnel entry and the street could be converted as an underpass with the garage built above it. (The underpass would be suspended and joined above a base built on the current blacktop and tennis court.)

The current tennis court and blacktop playing area could be replicated in a “sky park” on the roof of the garage and covered with netting, like the Sol Goldman Y rooftop play area, or permanently enclosed, like the “bubble top” play space above the United Nations School. The facility could be made accessible by an elevator and a stairwell.

St. Vartan’s Park has several advantages. First, it has minimal impact on noise and zoning because the area is not as heavily residential as either the Brookdale or the Con Edison sites. The north border, on East 36th Street, has no nearby residences as it sits above the the Queens Midtown Tunnel. East 35th Street, the southern border, is the rear side of St. Vartan’s Cathedral, as well as some apartment buildings, but traffic could be directed so that sanitation trucks never cross in front of them.

Second, the land is already “city-owned,” so the land to build a DSNY garage would come at no additional cost.

Third, construction of a DSNY garage on the St. Vartan’s Park site with a sky park on the roof would actually increase the footprint of the total park space on the site by the addition 3,500 square feet of “Tunnel Entrance Street.” It might be made into a “rain or shine” play area if it is enclosed.

Traffic for the St. Vartan’s Blacktop location is somewhat a problem, but not overwhelmingly so. South- and west-bound sanitation trucks could exit the garage behind St. Vartan’s Cathedral to avoid Queens-Midtown Tunnel traffic and the few residential apartments on East 35th Street. Northbound trucks would avoid tunnel traffic completely by exiting the garage at East 36th Street, where there are no nearby residential buildings, and turning left onto First Avenue to go uptown.

Ingress to a St. Vartan’s garage when the trucks return from their shifts could be limited to East 35th Street, but west of Tunnel Entrance Street (so that trucks don’t pass in front of the apartment buildings on the block) and to East 36th Street via Second Avenue, so as to minimize disturbance to neighborhood residents and the already heavy traffic on East 36th Street west of Second Avenue.

This traffic arrangement would keep sanitation trucks almost entirely away from the entrances to the St. Vartan’s “kiddy park” that would remain intact on the eastern

CB6 to vote on sanitation garage alternatives

Site for the proposed sanitation garage (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Site for the proposed sanitation garage (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6 will soon be reviewing alternative proposals for the planned sanitation garage at the Brookdale campus from the board’s Land Use and Waterfront Committee. The proposals, which had been put together by a firm hired by CB6, BFJ Planning were presented to the committee last Wednesday and the full board will be voting on them soon.

The presentation at the most recent Land Use and Waterfront Committee meeting didn’t offer any major changes in the proposals that committee members had already heard from BFJ, but the plan was more complete than in previous meetings.

“(The proposals) are more detailed and accurate now because they’re based on feedback from the committee and site visits that we’ve done,” CB6 chair Sandro Sherrod said. “Both plans have positive benefits and both have their downsides but there’s a lot of interest about this in the community and there’s still more work that needs to be done to flesh out either plan.”

The first alternative that BFJ Planning presented includes the construction of a garage on the proposed Brookdale site at East 25th Street and First Avenue, but in a different configuration from that of DSNY’s proposal. BFJ’s plan would include a partially-underground garage at the Brookdale site that would allow for other uses above ground such as affordable housing, senior housing or health-related facilities. The proposal allows for a building with less height and longer ramps so that the garage can accommodate the same number of vehicles without being as imposing.

The second alternative would place the garage at the Con Edison facility at Avenue C near East 14th Street.

Although this plan would involve construction at Murphy’s Brother’s Park, the plan would actually move the open space rather than get rid of it; one of the purported benefits of this alternative proposal is that it would ultimately add 1.7 acres to the park once the project was completed.

Sherrod said that the full board was scheduled to meet this past Wednesday and it was possible the garage might not be discussed then, although the meeting is after T&V’s press time for this week. If the vote on the garage proposals did not occur on Wednesday, Sherrod said they would be discussed at next month’s full board meeting.

CB6 offers proposal: Sanitation garage could go near Con Ed

BFJ Planning Senior Associate Jonathan Martin discusses an alternative site for the planned Brookdale campus  sanitation garage. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

BFJ Planning Senior Associate Jonathan Martin discusses an alternative site for the planned Brookdale campus sanitation garage. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Members of Community Board 6’s Land Use and Waterfront Committee recently learned of a new proposal concerning the garage that the Department of Sanitation wants to build on East 25th Street between First Avenue and the FDR; a plan that presents the possibility of building the facility near the Con Edison plant at East 15th Street and Avenue C.

This proposal came from BFJ Planning, a consulting firm that CB6 has hired to come up with other options for the Brookdale Campus, which will be vacated when Hunter College moves the current program uptown, as well as to come up with an alternative spot for the sanitation garage.

BFJ Planning Senior Associate Jonathan Martin presented the preliminary proposal, which had been shown to the board’s steering committee for the sanitation garage last month, at the Land Use and Waterfront Committee’s monthly meeting last Wednesday. Martin focused on the rationale behind the alternative location for the facility.
He acknowledged that DSNY’s plan is partially understandable.

“They want to put their trucks near the service area,” he said. “At the moment the trucks are six miles away but the Brookdale site is two miles away.”

He then explained that one possibility they are exploring in their alternatives is space near the Con Ed plant next to Stuyvesant Town, which would still be near the community district’s service area.

Unlike the Brookdale Campus, however, which will revert back to the city once Hunter College vacates the site, the Con Edison site is not city property. This means that to even consider building a garage on the site, the city would have to acquire the property from Con Edison first.

Aside from this obstacle, Martin explained that the plan would involve relocating John J. Murphy Park up to space which is now surface parking for Con Edison. At that point, the space then becomes open to other uses and in an overlay, Martin showed that DSNY’s plans for the garage fit neatly on top of the space. The potential Con Edison space is actually longer than the Brookdale site, which would offer various opportunities.

“The structure wouldn’t have to go up five stories like the building they’ve proposed,” Martin explained.

Committee members and residents of the surrounding community are opposed to the garage at the Brookdale site primarily because of the potential garage’s proximity to a number of hospitals and healthcare facilities but traffic and noise are also a concern, and Stuyvesant Town resident and committee member Larry Scheyer noted that the latter would be a problem at the Con Edison site as well.

“Many parts of the day have that area gridlocked,” he said. “Add hundreds of sanitation trucks with no other way to get in and out, it would be a nightmare.”

When asked if DSNY had considered the Con Edison site for the garage, DSNY spokesperson Keith Mellis only said that the Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed garage would include a discussion of alternatives that Sanitation has investigated.

Sanitation garage, homelessness addressed at Gramercy forum

Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez moderated a quality of life forum at School of the Future on East 22nd Street this past Tuesday evening and answered questions from the community with the help of representatives from various city agencies. The event was co-hosted by Gramercy Neighborhood Associates and Community Board 6 and there were representatives from the various city agencies in attendance to answer questions.

District Manager Dan Miner noted that turnout seemed low because of the ongoing thunderstorms and the middle of the forum was interrupted by a flash flood warning alarm blast from an attendee’s cell phone. The Parks Department, Department of Transportation and the Department of Health did not have representatives at the forum, making it a smaller affair than a similar quality of life forum that was held for the Kips Bay community in the spring.
Mendez noted that this forum was meant to build on the event at Kips Bay and the representatives present at the forum included Lieutenant Vincent Collins and Police officer John Considine of the 13th Precinct, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, Julian Sepulveda, the community affairs liaison at the Department of Sanitation and Kaitrin Roberts, Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney Crime Strategy Unit.

Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

One of the topics discussed, albeit briefly, was the sanitation garage that is planned for the Brookdale campus. Councilwoman Mendez said that the garage was a plan that was submitted under the previous administration but the current administration has yet to announce a stance on it. Mendez and her fellow City Councilmember Dan Garodnick have been called to a meeting about the garage that will take place in the next week or so, she added, and more updated information should hopefully be forthcoming after that.

Other questions addressed at the forum had to do with cleanliness. Mendez noted that a number of the questions sent in had to do with dog waste. Sepulveda of the DSNY noted that issuing a summons to someone for not cleaning up after their dog is tricky because it is something that police have to witness occurring. He encouraged residents to submit complaints to 311 so the city is aware of problem areas and the DSNY has been working with Business Improvement Districts throughout the city on sanitation-related issues to make sure that areas are clean, but beyond that, it’s a difficult rule to enforce. Mendez added that a new initiative was proposed and passed in the last city budget this June which allots between $90-$100 thousand per council district for city clean-up.

Burwell, a representative for the Department of Homeless Services, addressed questions about what to do about homeless people on the street. She emphasized that it isn’t illegal to be homeless but residents can contact 311 and DHS will send their street outreach team to engage with the person.

Many of the representatives for city agencies at the previous Kips Bay forum emphasized that 311 was the perfect catch-all for complaints on just about anything and some of the attendees at this most recent forum expressed frustration about the bureaucracy that sometimes seems involved in getting problems solved after reporting them to 311.

Sepulveda acknowledged that calling 311 can seem frustrating but assured the residents that the complaints were being heard.
“Our office deals with 311 requests all day,” he said. “It’s not just a black hole. They are getting somewhere. We do have to abide by certain rules and regulations so sometimes the issue is just out of the agency’s hands.”

Lieutenant Collins of the 13th Precinct also made the distinction between when to call 911 versus 311.
“If you fear for your safety or their safety, that’s a 911 situation,” he said.
“If someone could get injured, that’s always a 911 call. Sometimes if it’s a grey area; they may redirect the call to 311, but if there’s a chance of injury, it’s always better to call 911.”

Community Board 6 will be hosting other forums in the future and Miner said that the next meeting on the radar will be a senior issues panel on September 15. More information about the panelists and topics to be discussed will be available closer to the event’s date.

Pols ask city to hold off on plans for sanitation garage

East 26th Street approximately where garage would be built (Photo by Lou Sepersky)

East 26th Street approximately where garage would be built (Photo by Lou Sepersky)

By Sabina Mollot
Last week, East Side elected officials made a last ditch effort to the Bloomberg administration to see if the city would hold off on plans for the Brookdale Campus sanitation garage. Via letter, the politicians argued that while there is no plan in place for the parcels of property set aside for development on both sides of the intended garage site, the city has still been moving along in getting needed approvals to get the garage built.
The local politicians, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Dan Garodnick and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, reached out to the Department of Sanitation last Wednesday with a letter asking to “table this proposal until a comprehensive plan for the entire site, and more clarity regarding the many issues that have been raised, are provided.”
The many issues referred to are the concerns of residents at nearby Waterside Plaza, East Midtown Plaza and Kips Bay about impacts on air quality and increased traffic on nearby streets due to the expected steady steam of garbage trucks in and out of the garage as well as various safety issues related to the site itself. The fact that the street is in a flood zone was also cited by the community.
It was following a land swap between the city and CUNY that the school’s Brookdale Campus, located on First Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, was fated to become the site of a sanitation garage that will be built in 2020. The deal is attached to a plan for a new hospital to be developed on the Upper East Side.
However, the garage aspect has been consistently blasted by East Side residents and politicians. Along with the aforementioned reasons, many feel the surrounding neighborhood, better known as Bedpan Alley due to all the medical and science facilities, is simply not the appropriate location for a sanitation garage.
Additionally, with the garage not expected to be ready for use until 2020, Hoylman, Kavanagh and Garodnick said there seemed to be no reason for the city to rush the plan along, other than the fact that Bloomberg will no longer be in office.
“We are conscious and we know they are conscious of the change in administration,” Kavanagh said. “Clearly this proposal is something that came out of the current administration.”
Recently, the Department of Sanitation produced renderings of the garage, which it has presented to the Public Design Commission for preliminary review.
While the pols wrote they “have no issue” with the DSNY continuing work on the requirements on the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Reform Procedure), there’s been “little effort,” they continued, “made in addressing our concerns.”
When asked about the letter, Kathy Dawkins, a spokesperson for the department, told Town & Village that work on the project was not about to be put on hold.
“The Department does not intend to consider slowing down the process until there is a determination on uses for the portion of the site not required by DSNY,” said Dawkins.
“Our analysis will assume that the neighboring parcels will be developed. The required air, noise and traffic analysis will be part of the EIS (environmental impact statement) and address all traffic concerns — vehicle and pedestrian — as well as air quality and noise issues.”
As for the renderings of the garage, Dawkins said they weren’t available at this time since the designs are preliminary. “It is anticipated that the renderings will be available early next year,” she said.
On the DSNY’s response to the letter, Kavanagh said he didn’t want to comment, though he did reiterate a point in the document to say the plan should include information about the non-garage space at Brookdale.
“We feel very strongly that if this is going to be done rationally, it has to be done in the context of the overall site,” he said. “It doesn’t seem rational for a city agency to not consider what another agency might do on the same block.”
(See the full letter to the DSNY.)

Pols: Sanitation garage plan rushed, incomplete

A tour of the 57th Street sanitation garage was held last Wednesday. (Pictured) A DSNY rep, Bob Qu, a rep for Council Member Dan Garodnick; Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Assocation; Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Gerard Schiffren, a resident of East 23rd Street Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick

A tour of the 57th Street sanitation garage was held last Wednesday. (Pictured) A DSNY rep, Bob Qu, a rep for Council Member Dan Garodnick; Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Assocation; Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Gerard Schiffren, a resident of East 23rd Street
Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick

 

By Sabina Mollot
Local elected officials are calling on the city to come up with a more comprehensive plan on its intended use for a block where a planned sanitation garage is to be built. More details, they’re saying, are needed about what the east and west parcels of the property on the current Hunter College Brookdale campus, would be used for, as well as other factors. Only the center area is slated to be used for the garage.
This comes after a tour was held last Wednesday of an existing garage facility on 57th Street in an attempt by the Department of Sanitation to answer questions about the one intended for 25th Street and First Avenue. The tour was attended by Council Member Dan Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and representatives for State Senator Brad Hoylman and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, as well as a few community leaders. Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, was present, as was the property’s general manager, Peter Davis, and 23rd Street resident Gerard Schriffen, president of a group called the Rose Hill Community Association. Leading the tour at the 57th Street facility was Dan Klein, director of real estate for DSNY.
Following the tour, Kavanagh and Garodnick echoed concerns previously made by community residents about the Brookdale facility plan, which was first announced close to a year ago, being sped along to get necessary approvals while Mayor Bloomberg is still in office. The city announced the plan as part of a land swap that would give Hunter property on 73rd Street for a new school and medical facility to be built in collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Kavanagh, however, called the DSNY’s hope to get a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) for the garage “premature,” considering the garage isn’t even going to begin construction until 2018. The ULURP, he added, should wait “until they can tell us what they want to do with the entire building. And they have no idea what they want to do with the rest of the building. There are a lot more questions than answers at this point.”
Garodnick said the tour was “useful in that you can get a sense of the potential structure,” but, he added, “We think this proposal is being rushed and it has not fully contemplated the entire block be tween the FDR Drive and First Avenue.”
The Brookdale campus takes up a full city block from 25th to 26th Streets and First Avenue to the FDR Drive. “It’s impossible to evaluate an incomplete plan,” said Garodnick, “and that’s what we have.”
He added that he thought the discussion should continue as it has been at Community Board 6 meetings. The last public meeting on the subject was held in late June and an extended public comment period ended on August 14.
In response to a question from a reporter of whether the DSNY would delay its ULURP request, Belinda Mager, a spokesperson for the department, indicated it wouldn’t.
“DSNY needs to advance the site selection and design process of this garage so that construction contracts can be awarded as soon as the city has site control in 2015,” she said. She added that, “DSNY would only control the part of the site required for the garage.”
The department has said previously the west and east sides could be leased out by the city to private developers. Meanwhile, the lack of available information on the plans for the east and west parcels has led at least one neighborhood resident, Schriffen, to draw his own conclusions — that the city will be using one side to store fuel tanks, the other for a salt shed. The DSNY has however said that while there will be fuel storage onsite, there won’t be a salt shed.
“No salt shed is included with this project,” said Mager. “Salt spreaders would be loaded at existing salt sheds.”
Still, Schriffen, a former prosecutor turned private practice attorney, said he thinks that’s what’s coming because there isn’t yet one nearby and the department’s own scoping document, dated May 24, notes that the department wants to rezone the block from its current R8 (mixed residential and institutional status) to M-16, which is for “large scale special development” and to get “various bulk waivers.”
As for a salt shed, he said he was opposed to that use for the property as well as the storage of diesel fuel due to the dangerous chemicals that are found in both.
To store the fuel tanks, Schriffen said he was told on the tour that there would be a berm made of pebbles with a concrete lid. Handal said it was explained that it would be placed below ground but appear to be above ground inside and “above the flood plain.” She added that she’s been asking for a drawing of the plan since she and others on the tour found the explanation confusing.
Later, Mager said the tanks would be stored underground “and would be constructed to adhere to all applicable city, state and federal codes.”
On the tour, Sanitation reps noted that there were vents in the garage for pumping out fumes for the safety of people in the building, but Schriffen, who lives on East 23rd Street, later said he wondered about the safety of the surrounding community.
“Where do those fumes go?” he said. “Bellevue? The V.A. hospital? NYU Medical School is going to be sucking all that in?”
Other area residents have also expressed concern about the presence of onsite diesel fuel tanks at the garage and how they would affect security and air quality. Additional concerns have been raised about traffic on the surrounding streets due to sanitation trucks competing for space with V.A. and Bellevue hospital ambulances, odors from garbage emanating from the site and excess noise once construction begins.
Handal said she was particularly concerned about traffic congestion around the facility since Waterside Plaza, which is located right across the FDR Drive from the site, has two onsite schools. Additionally, a nearby street, Asser Levy Place, is eventually going to be closed to traffic following the Asser Levy Playground’s planned expansion.
“They say they’ve done traffic studies already, but I want to see copies of those because they need to do that during the school year,” said Handal.
Area residents have also been vocal about their opposition to the garage based on the fact that such a facility is completely inconsistent with the rest of First Avenue in the East 20s and some of the 30s, now a corridor housing three hospitals as well as numerous other medical and science-related facilities.

Watersiders campaign against sanitation garage

Residents worried about onsite fuel tanks

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal Photo by Brightsmith

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal
Photo by Brightsmith

By Sabina Mollot

Along with extra traffic from garbage trucks and noise from construction, residents living near 25th Street and First Avenue, the site of a planned Department of Sanitation garage, are now saying they are also concerned about safety due to the presence of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, which are expected to be stored at the property.

Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, which has been opposed to the garage plan, said this week that she was concerned about the potential for explosions due to an accident or arson. Meanwhile, she said tenants at Waterside have compiled around 300 letters in opposition to the garage, based on a form letter prepared by the WTA with their own comments added. The public comment period on the project ended on Wednesday. At some point after comments are reviewed, the Department of City Planning will issue a final environmental impact statement.

Though the letters mention more than one reason for their stand on the city project, which was first announced last year, the fuel tanks, said Handal, “are a very serious concern. It poses a security risk.”

She noted how she recently strolled down to a similar facility located at 57th Street around 10:30 in the evening, also where fuel tanks are stored, “and there was no security guard and the doors were wide open. A fire could break out or an explosion from fumes, from something purposeful or someone doing something careless.”

Handal said the issue was raised at the last public scoping meeting, which took place on June 25, but she hadn’t gotten a response.

As for whether or not any fumes or odors could be a nuisance to Watersiders, Handal said it would depend on what the winds are like that day. The garage, which is now located on CUNY’s Brookdale campus, is also in front of the main entrance/exit at Waterside, the 25th Street footbridge over the FDR Drive. Traffic there, where the SBS bus stops, is also a concern to residents, said Handal, since trucks are expected to start leaving the facility each day before 6 a.m.

The Department of Sanitation has said early on the 135-foot-high facility would accommodate space for 170 DOS trucks and 145 other vehicles, including those owned by department employees over a total of 108,600 square feet.

The WTA, like the garage’s other detractors, has also attempted to argue that the garage is also just out of place for a neighborhood that’s better known to residents as Bedpan Alley due to all the hospitals and other medical facilities, including the City Office of the Medical Examiner.

Another neighbor of the Brookdale campus, the East Midtown Plaza co-op complex, has also made this argument in recently submitted written testimony.

Jerry Fox, president of the co-op board, said residents at EMP have also had concerns about future weather-related floods and outages in the area, including at the garage site. “Where are you going to put those fuel tanks?” asked Fox. “You can’t put them on street level. If it floods, you’re going to have major problems.”

In response to the residents’ concerns, DOS Public Information Chief Keith Mellis said safety was a top priority with regards to the fuel storage and there was also a plan for noise mitigation.

“All fueling operations will meet stringent local, state, and federal regulations and will be regularly inspected to ensure not only the safety of our workers but of the overall community,” said Mellis, “just as we have done over the years at all DSNY facilities citywide.”

He added that the building would be staffed “24/7, providing security at all times, and the garage will be designed to meet flood risk standards. In our continuing effort to work with the community to minimize any inconveniences, a noise mitigation plan also will be implemented during construction.”

Op-Ed: History of local Sanitation Dept. garage

This op-ed was written by Lou Sepersky, the community historian for the 6th Community District. He was originally appointed to that position in 1999 by then-Borough President C. Virginia Fields and has been reappointed ever since.

EMS ambulance on East 26th Street (approximately where the garage would be built)

Town & Village’s page one story (Sept. 20) on the proposed construction of a Department of Sanitation (DoS) garage on 26th Street east of First Avenue, on the Bellevue Hospital Center campus, has a very definite Town & Village root. And a lesson that needs to be learned for future public projects.

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Sanitation seeks laborers for coming snow season

Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty today reminded New Yorkers that the Department of Sanitation is continuing to register emergency snow laborers who can be called upon to remove snow and ice citywide from bus stops, crosswalks, and from step streets in sections of the City after heavy snowfalls.  Step streets are sets of stairwells located between avenues to connect streets that have a significant height differential.  The rate of pay begins at $12 per hour and increases to $18 per hour, after completing the first 40 hours, each pay week.

“While most snow removal duties citywide are handled by the dedicated men and women of the Sanitation Department, emergency snow laborers are a vital part of our supplemental snow-fighting efforts in major snowfalls,” said Commissioner Doherty. Continue reading