The renovation of the Meatpacking District in my Greenwich Village neighborhood has been inspirational to those of us who live here. In the past five years, wonders of high fashion and nature have been created from what used to be a death row smelling of slaughtered animals. I can walk along the Hudson River with its welcoming piers, playgrounds and grasslands and cross Route 9A to the Meatpacking's Gansevoort street entrance to the HighLine, a magical elevated walkway of fragrant flora that takes me away from the concrete and the noise of city streets. The quality of life in downtown Manhattan has been on the upswing, but now I am nervous.
The Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT), which is the caretaker of the park that runs from Chambers street to West 59th street, has always planned to turn the Meatpacking's Gansevoort Peninsula into open space with gardens and other attractions as soon as the Department of Sanitation moves its facilities in 2013. Now the HRPT has been offered $2.75 million by Spectra Energy to grant the company an easement to build a high-pressure, radon-filled, natural gas pipeline through this peninsula that is essentially landfill. The Spectra Energy Pipeline would travel from Bayonne, N.J. underneath the Hudson River to a "vault" at the Gansevoort Peninsula, directly in front of the soon-to-be-constructed new Whitney Museum, and just north of a children's playground on Jane street. From there, a connecting pipeline would be built along 10th Avenue to a Con Edison distribution center at West 15th street.
Five people were killed when a natural gas pipeline exploded in Allentown, Pa in February of 2011. An earlier natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif. in September of 2010 killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. A spokesman for Pipeline Safety Trust, an advocacy group out of Bellingham, Wash. has claimed that every 9 or 10 days on average someone ends up dead or in the hospital from these pipelines. High-pressure pipelines are not the safer low-pressure pipelines that carry gas through our cities. High-pressure pipelines -- like the radon-containing one proposed for Greenwich Village -- are subject to age, human error, events of nature such as the earthquake felt here in 2011, and the computers that control the pipelines are avenues for terrorist hacking. Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer are on the Board of Directors of the HRPT, which will probably announce its decision on the easement in May. Let's hope that $2.75 million is not enough to compromise the safety of this re-born part of New York City.