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Plans for New Sanitation Garage in Kips Bay Leave Locals Fuming

By Mary Johnson | September 17, 2012 10:01am
A plan to build a sanitation garage on East 25th Street and First Avenue shocked East Side residents who learned of the project last week.
A plan to build a sanitation garage on East 25th Street and First Avenue shocked East Side residents who learned of the project last week.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

KIPS BAY — A new plan to turn a nursing school on East 25th Street near First Avenue into a sanitation garage shocked East Side residents who were caught off guard after first learning of the project last week.

The news came as part of a larger announcement about a new state-of-the-art cancer center and nursing school that will be built on the Upper East Side.

Locals said they felt blindsided since the public announcement marked the first time residents in the area around the proposed garage heard anything about plans to turn what is now the Hunter College Bellevue School of Nursing into a home for garbage trucks, snow plows and street sweepers.

The project is one residents fear could bring increased traffic, vermin and noise to Manhattan’s East Side medical corridor. And when members of Community Board 6 discussed the subject at a meeting last week, the collective response was one of shock and anger that the community was not given advance notice of the plan.

“We understand that every community has to accept urban infrastructure that may not be something that they want,” said Mark Thompson, chair of Community Board 6, in an interview. “[But] we’re concerned with both the process and the lack of notification, and we’re concerned with what will be happening at the site.”

The project is part of an agreement between Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the City University of New York and the city itself.

As part of the deal, an old sanitation garage on East 73rd Street near the FDR Drive will be converted into a 750,000-square-foot cancer treatment facility, which will focus on lung, head, neck and blood cancers, including groundbreaking outpatient bone-marrow transplants.

CUNY’s Hunter College will join the new Sloan-Kettering center, building a new, 336,000-square-foot Science and Health Professions center at the same site.

That will leave Hunter College’s existing nursing school on East 25th Street vacant, but the plans for that space remain somewhat vague.

Officials have said that they will build a sanitation garage on that site, where they will house trucks, street sweepers and snow plows. But they have also suggested adding a residential development and creating some public space there, as well.

The Mayor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment and clarification, nor did the Department of Sanitation.

But Thompson, who fielded multiple questions and comments about the project during a Community Board 6 meeting this past week, said the Sanitation Department had pledged to meet often with the board going forward to share information and listen to community concerns.

The project is also subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which allows the public to review and weigh in the on the proposal.

“We aren’t really clear on what’s happening with that facility,” Thompson acknowledged. “[But] it will be a very transparent project going forward.”

Thompson said the community was angered by the lack of notification, but residents are also worried about what a new sanitation garage could mean for a neighborhood that is home to two huge residential complexes: Waterside Plaza on the East River and East Midtown Plaza along Second Avenue.

Questions have been raised about traffic, vermin and noise, Thompson said, and also about how the influx of sanitation trucks would impact the ability of emergency vehicles to reach the various hospitals along First Avenue.

“We know we need to have these services in our city," Thompson said before the board meeting on last Wednesday. "But what’s an appropriate location?

“I feel that we are fighting a battle,” he added. “We will win it in some ways, but it will be tough.”