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Keeping the City Safe with Salt

New York State is the largest consumer of road salt in North America. According to the NYS Department of Transportation, Buffalo and Syracuse receive over 100 inches of snow on average every year while areas around Watertown might get over 200 inches. By comparison, New York City doesn’t receive nearly as much snow. Yet as the most congested area in the state, from both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, it’s mandatory that we’re prepared for whatever nature brings. One such instance, was when Winter Storm Jonas dumped up to 30.5 inches of snow across the city in January of 2016.

During snowy and icy winters, the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) deploys nearly 400 salt spreaders across the five boroughs, helping 59 community board districts maintain safe streets. During Winter Storm Jonas, DSNY had over 300,000 tons of salt available.

The city’s sanitation department operates 59 district garages that house salt spreaders, garbage trucks and street sweepers. In addition, the city owns 40 salt sheds that store salt sourced from the mountains of Argentina and Chile. When it snows, that salt is used to melt ice and provide friction for commuters on the 6,000 miles of streets that make up the city.

The Spring Street Salt Shed is an excellent example of how creative design can turn an overlooked building into a beloved landmark. The salt shed is highly resilient, designed to withstand possible flooding from the Hudson River, and highly functional, designed to allow swift access by Sanitation trucks when salt is needed for a storm. There are many ordinary salt sheds through the country, but by thinking unconventionally we have created something embraced by local residents, by the media, and by the architectural community in a most unexpected way.

Completed in 2014, Manhattan Garage 1/2/5 and the adjacent Spring Street Salt Shed have supported the city through two winters and solidified their status as icons of civic architecture.

Manhattan Garage 1/2/5 is a five-story, 425,000-square-foot sustainable structure designed by Dattner Architects and WXY Architecture & Urban Planning. The glass façade features 2,600 custom-made perforated metal panels that reduce solar heat and glare. A sloped green roof captures rainwater that’s used to clean the trucks inside.

The neighboring Spring Street Salt Shed stands 69 feet tall and is cast in faceted concrete, holding 5,000 tons of salt. The building has been compared to a giant crystal or even a coarse chunk of gray salt that sits along the West Side Highway.

Manhattan Garage 1/2/5 and the Spring Street Salt Shed cover three Manhattan community board districts – a total of nearly 5 square miles or 3,140 acres. The addition of these two buildings to New York’s roster of sanitation garages and salt sheds allows us to be that much more prepared for harsh winter weather.

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