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City Plan to Raze Trees for Sanitation Garage Infuriates Local Celebs

By Julie Shapiro | March 10, 2011 7:53pm | Updated on March 15, 2011 1:59pm

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HUDSON SQUARE — Goodbye trees, hello garbage.

Residents are furious about the city's plan to chop down a row of trees on Washington Street to make way for a sanitation garage unpopular with locals, including actors John Slattery and James Gandolfini and singer Lou Reed.

The city wants to uproot the decades-old trees later this month to begin building the $500 million garage, at Spring and West streets, said Michael Kramer, a lawyer who represents the local celebrities and property owners who are fighting the project.

Kramer said city officials told him they plan to start work on March 21 by ordering all UPS trucks off the garage site. The city will then remove the chain-link fence that rings the block and will chop down the five trees on Washington Street, along with at least one on West Street, Kramer said.

Residents who opposed the 120-foot garage from the beginning are now mobilizing to save the trees.

"These are beautiful, majestic trees that should be preserved," said Marc Ameruso, who lives a few blocks away from the garage site. "You can't replace them."

The Sanitation Department referred questions to the city Law Department, which declined to comment.

Once the garage is built, the city plans to plant at least 26 new trees around it, according to the project's environmental impact statement. But residents said new trees don't make up for the loss of old ones, which have grown over the years to provide a canopy of shade over the sidewalk.

"It's just one more in [the city's] unfortunate set of decisions," said Richard Barrett, a member of the community's Sanitation Steering Committee. "I don't think any consideration was given to preserving them."

Local residents have been fighting the sanitation garage — which will bring three districts' worth of garbage trucks to the area — since the project's inception, saying it will bring too much traffic and pollution to the quiet neighborhood. A group of celebrities and community members put forward a plan for a smaller, greener facility, but the city rejected it.

Last week, a court ruling briefly stopped the city from beginning construction on the garage, based on a property dispute between the city and the neighboring St. John Center.

But the temporary restraining order was lifted last Friday, giving the city permission to move ahead with the work, Kramer said.

The next hearing in that case is March 29.

Even some people who don't live near the garage site think the trees should be saved.

"That's horrible," said Hattie Williams, 29, a Brooklyn resident who walks dogs in SoHo, when told of the plans. "This is a concrete jungle — any trees in New York should not be destroyed."