By Serena Solomon and Julie Shapiro
SOHO — Six decades-old trees were chopped down Wednesday to make way for a $500 million garage to hold city garbage.
The garage at Spring and West streets and the plan to eliminate the trees were opposed by many residents, including local celebrities John Slattery, James Gandolfini and Lou Reed. A greener, smaller alternative version of the garage plan had been rejected by the city.
"This morning I watched them do it," said Martin Sheridan, owner of the Ear Inn bar on Spring Street. "Within an hour they were taken down and chopped. It was the most efficient work I have ever seen."
At least 26 new trees will be planted when the structure is completed, according to the project's environmental impact statement. Still, Sheridan felt few in the area agreed with the current plan.
"There was something bigger than the local politics. It just seems we were rolled out," he said.
As the area loses trees, it will also gain the traffic from three districts worth of garbage trucks. They will be housed in the planned 120-foot-tall garage.
"It's an absolute nightmare," said David Sannella, a commercial real estate broker who works across the street from the site. "It's just going to bring the neighborhood value down."
The garage plan had been in limbo after a court ruling placing a temporary restraining order last month, which briefly stopped the city from beginning construction. The ruling, based on a property dispute between the city and the neighboring St. John's Center, was later lifted.
A spokesman for the Sanitation Department said the agency was unaware of any negative response from the public.
He added that the trees, which were in a private lot, "had to be removed because of their interference with the construction sheeting and the proposed building footprint. There is no practical alternative to save those trees."