For months now, Fatuma Konteh has been making calls to the Department of Sanitation and to 3-1-1, attending hearings, writing letters to several congressmen and women, and even starting a petition to prevent the Department of Sanitation from building a 135-foot tall sanitation garage at East 25th St. and 1st Avenue.
Konteh lives in Waterside Plaza, an apartment complex that is a two-minute walk from the the proposed garage site. Konteh, among several other residents are apprehensive about the proposal and fear that the garage Will bring noise and odors to the neighborhood. But even more, they fear that the fuel that will be stored in the garage could explode.
“I lived here for going on 15 years and I witnessed many, many changes,” said Martha Johnson, another Waterside Plaza resident.. “But this will be the scariest, I think. Living next to fuel can be a death sentence. Remember the East Harlem explosion?” she said, while wringing her hands.
Konteh, just like other residents, learned of the proposal in 2012 when the Department of Sanitation released a statement with their plans to demolish the Hunter College dormitory and nursing school and replace it with a garage. The garage will house 163 street sweepers and salt trucks and the fuel to keep them running.
“I can’t imagine how noisy it will be,” Konteh said. “It’s congested as is and the trucks won’t help. Don’t get me started on the fuel part. That is scary!”
Residents say that the addition of the garage will increase traffic, cause pollute the air pollution, and cause noise and odors, and may even cause an explosion, since mounts of fuel will be kept on the premises. Pedestrian’s safety is also in question. But Steven Brautigam, the assistant commissioner of the Department of Sanitation said in a public hearing in May, 2013 that the proposed location is ideal because “there are no sanitation facilities serving between Pier 36 and East 99th Street.” And that the sanitation trucks that are currently serving Kips Bay travel from as far as the Bronx. Brautigam is aware of all the health and safety risks, but stressed that Kips Bay needs its own sanitation facility.
The Department of Sanitation officials also said in a public statement that, “all fueling operations will meet stringent local, state and federal regulations and will be routinely inspected,” but their statement still did not ease the nerves of Kips Bay residents.
“This city never proposes anything; they just do,” said Kisha Wright, a tenant of Waterside Plaza. “I want them to stay on West 30th Street. Saying that there won’t be an explosion doesn’t mean there won’t be.”
On Nov. 14, 2012, Community Board six met to discuss why the garage cannot stay at west 30th Street. Chair Sandro Sherrod remarked that the Department of Sanitation said that the location at West 30th St. must be vacated because it has a high risk of flooding.
Since the city marked a location for the new garage, a few buildings will be forced to relocate. The Hunter College nursing school will be moved to East 73rd St. and the new Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center will be built next to it. Hunter College’s president, Jennifer Raab remarked in a public statement that having the nursing school next to the cancer center “will together create an epitome of bench-to-bedside science.”
No word about the new dormitory has been released.
Since the garage at East 25th Street will not house trash, a new trash drop-off will be built at West 57th Street. and 12th Avenue and will serve district six, Kips Bay’s district.
At the public hearing in 2012, Chair Fred Arcaro of community board six stood in opposition of the proposal and said, “Even though no trash will be stored at the proposed garage site, the community is concerned that the many sanitation collection trucks coming to and from the site would increase environmental and other risks to patients in adjacent hospitals and small children going to their schools.”
The efforts of Community Board six and Kips Bay residents thus far were to no avail. The Department of Sanitation said that the proposed garage would be completed sometime between 2017 and 2018. The department of sanitation.
One Kips Bay resident, Jack Erickson lives directly across the street from the future site of the sanitation garage and said that if the conditions worsen, he may be forced to relocate.
“First, the streets are too da** crowded, and then the homeless people and then the rats,” he said with anger. “And now this? I hope to be gone before I can see what happens next.”