MANHATTAN — A controversial sanitation garage proposed for First Avenue between East 25th and 26th streets would house about 150 garbage trucks, street sweepers and salt trucks and is expected to cost roughly $200 million.
Those are just a few details of the project — which blindsided and infuriated residents when it was first announced in September — that City Councilman Dan Garodnick gleaned from the Mayor's Office and the Department of Sanitation and posted on his website recently.
“I think people need more information to understand what exactly is being proposed here and how it would potentially affect the surrounding area,” said Garodnick, who represents the area where the proposed garage would be located. “There’s a lot of open questions, and we’ll need to have that conversation as a community.”
Very little information about the proposed garage was released when the city unveiled the plan as part of a larger project to build a massive medical complex in partnership with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on the Upper East Side.
When construction on that site is complete, Hunter College’s nursing school, which is currently located on First Avenue and East 25th Street, will move north to join Sloan-Kettering in the new complex on East 73rd Street.
That will leave the Kips Bay site vacant, and city officials have earmarked it as a prime location for a sanitation garage.
In his research into the project, Garodnick discovered that the garage would occupy some 400,000 square feet of space in the center of the site.
If the plan is ultimately approved, construction would begin about two to two-and-a-half years after the college moves up to East 73rd Street.
Garodnick said the garage is expected to be operational some time in 2018, when between 49 and 68 trucks will start to enter and leave the facility six days a week. Not all of the trucks will be used every day.
The busiest times of day would be the pre-dawn hours — before 6:30 a.m. — and early afternoon, with most trucks returning about 1 or 1:30 p.m., Garodnick said.
East 25th Street would remain a one-way, westbound street, but East 26th Street would be re-mapped to accommodate two-way traffic, according to Garodnick.
And 600,000 square feet of space on that site would be reserved for other uses, independent from the sanitation garage. So far, Garodnick said he is not aware of any specific ideas that have been floated for the unused chunk of land.
“That’s an opportunity for the neighborhood to assert its priorities,” Garodnick said. “It is a lot of space, and right now it’s a site which does not add much value at all to the neighborhood.”
The Department of Sanitation did not respond to an email requesting comment about the new information or any upcoming public meetings to discuss it.
Garodnick said he does not yet have enough information about the plan to form an opinion. But he and other elected officials who represent the area share concerns about its unknowns.
Those concerns have been echoed by residents who live near the proposed site and worry about traffic, noise and vermin plaguing the area after the garage is built.
Members of Community Board 6 passed a resolution in November opposing the project entirely.
“This site is just not appropriate for a sanitation garage, in our opinion,” said Terrence O’Neal, chairman of the board’s land use committee.
“All the uses that have grown there naturally have been hospital uses and related uses,” he added. “We would really like to see something in a hospital use on that site if [the nursing school] is going to be moving.”
O’Neal said board members are also concerned about the environmental impact the garage could have on the surrounding neighborhood, which becomes much more residential west of First Avenue.
In addition, there is a new school, P.S. 281, opening on First Avenue near East 35th Street in the fall of 2013, O’Neal said. That means children will be walking along First Avenue as they make their way to and from school, and O’Neal said that has raised some concerns about traffic safety.
In the resolution the board passed in November, members pledged to help the city identify alternative sites for the garage, which would serve neighborhoods from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village to the Upper East Side.
O’Neal said board members are in the process of finalizing those locations and will be sending them along to the city for review.
“We’re trying to do all that we can now,” O’Neal noted, “before things go too far in the process.”