For years, le tout Tribeca fumed at the prospect of a hulking garbage-truck garage and salt shed just north of the neighborhood, at the corner of West Street and Spring Street. Now that both are done, it looks like the quality of life in one of the city’s super-premium zip codes won’t collapse, and neither will its property values. Still, the rest of us should thank James Gandolfini, Lou Reed, Michael Stipe, and the whole posse of outraged celebrities who fought it. Rather than killing the project, they made it more visible, forcing the city to house a dirty job in the dignity of actual architecture.
The pair of surprisingly stylish buildings, designed by Dattner Architects and WXY Architecture + Urban Design, takes its place in a zone of infrastructure behemoths and electrifyingly expensive homes. Philip Johnson’s Urban Glass House sits alongside the Holland Tunnel’s emissions-rich approaches and its muscular brick ventilation tower. UPS delivery vehicles rumble in and out of a handsome art deco garage. The immense and mostly empty St. John’s Terminal Building stretches for three blocks along Washington Street, making developers salivate at the thought of tearing it down.
Every morning, hours before dawn, dozens of Sanitation Department trucks rumble and groan onto West Street, fanning out into districts one, two, and five (lower Manhattan and midtown). Their new home might have been a utilitarian concrete box; instead, it’s a bulky but elegant fortress, skinned in glass and armored in perforated metal fins. Drivers will see mostly its formidable western flank, where the metal scales acquire a different texture depending on whether you’re approaching from uptown or downtown. […]