03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Help Save Hudson Square

My family and I live on the lower west side of Manhattan, in a neighborhood developers coined "Hudson Square." I guess they thought it sounded better than "West Soho," "North Tribeca," or "Lower Greenwich Village." In any event, "Hudson Square" is what urban planners call a "transitional neighborhood." We moved here after the city rezoned the area -- which is the last official step in a transition; after that, developers build, residents move in and small businesses follow. In the last 40 years, New Yorkers have transformed the lower west side of Manhattan from an industrial wasteland into a diverse and livable community.

All that's coming to a disastrous halt, despite the contrary claims of Mayor Bloomberg's Green PR Machine. The mayor is pushing through a half billion dollar plan to build a two-block long, 138' high maintenance facility and parking garage for diesel fueled garbage trucks, with an 8,000 ton salt shed across the street, less than a block from a residential building. It will add almost 500 daily vehicle trips through the area, which is already under federal order to improve air quality. The building will be the tallest in the area and will span almost curb to curb. They've practically eliminated the sidewalks on the east side of the building, and the west side, which faces the Hudson River, will be brightly lit around the clock. Adding to this energy waste, 44% of the building will be for ramps, which, though empty most of the time -- will have to be lighted, heated and cooled 24/7.

Though the proposed salt shed site is within a Federal Flood Plain, the Mayor is moving ahead with the plan. In the event of the tidal surges that NASA scientists predict could be as high as three meters, floodwaters would surge into the permanently open salt shed and, when they recede, could carry 16 million pounds of road salt down Canal Street and into the Hudson River. Mr. Bloomberg is spending $100 million to build the potential for an environmental disaster from which the Hudson River might never recover.

The Mayor refuses any serious consideration of the community's alternative plan for the site. And there is a good alternative. Called Hudson Rise, the alternative plan would serve two districts rather than three- but that's still one district more than what is commonly understood to be a "fair share" under the New York City charter. The rooftop of Hudson Rise would be two acres of publicly accessible green space that would connect to Hudson River Park for safe access across the west side highway. Hudson Rise would improve the City.

As Jane Jacobs wrote in The Death and Life if Great American Cities in 1961, "There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist..."

Mr. Bloomberg presents himself as a guy who gets things done, but I guess democracy is a little too messy for him. He claims to be setting a "green agenda" for New York City. His "PlaNYC" touts multiple initiatives and even has its own logo. But what he says he's doing and how he spends taxpayers' money are two different things. In fact, the single largest city-funded capital project in the 10-year plan will worsen air quality, waste energy and bring to a halt 40 years of development that's been explicitly designed to enhance the city's riverfront communities.

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