City Council Limits Lease on Madison Square Garden, Makes Way for a New Penn Station

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 05:49 PM


The New York City Council took the first step in a long process to remake Penn Station, Wednesday. It voted overwhelmingly to limit the lease on Madison Square Garden, which sits atop nation's busiest transit hub. 

In a 47-1 vote, the Council decided not to grant the Madison Square Garden company a permit in perpetuity, but instead offered just a 10-year lease renewal. 

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told reporters she hopes the shorter permit will give the Garden enough time to come up with a plan to move so that improvements can then be made to Penn Station.

“We need to make sure Penn Station becomes what we need it to be a really 21st Century grand entrance into the greatest city in the world. Not what Senator Moynihan and others historically described as a bunch of rat tunnels that lead people in and out of the city every day,” she said.

The vote is the culmination of a concerted campaign from urban planners, transportation advocates and civic groups like the Municipal Arts Society and Regional Plan Association who have been framing the shorter lease renewal more as a vote for a hypothetical—and revenue raising—new Penn Station than about a sports arena.

"This is the key infrastructure and development project of our time, and an essential investment in the future of our city," said Vin Cippola, head of MAS, which recently held a strategically-timed exhibition showcasing potential designs for a new Penn Station liberated from the squat confines of an arena's basement. (See renderings here.)

“Penn Station should be an economic development anchor for Midtown. Instead, it is a serious challenge to the global competitiveness of New York City and the region,” said Robert Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association in a statement.

The Madison Square Garden Company, for its part, released a statement touting its history at the site and recent renovations. “Madison Square Garden has operated at its current site for generations, and has been proud to bring New Yorkers some of the greatest and most iconic moments in sports and entertainment," the statement reads. "We now look forward to the reopening of the arena in fall 2013, following the completion of our historic three-year, nearly billion dollar transformation, which will ensure our future is as bright as our celebrated past.”

The lone dissenting council member on the vote was Charles Barron who represents Canarsie and East New York, Brooklyn. 


Comments [7]

Luke from NYC

This is great news for commuters. It's Americas biggest train station, and it deserves to create as spectacular an impression as Grand Central, not to mention all the actual physical track work that needs to be done.

What they should do is knock that blunder dome down and put out an RFP to a developer to build a mixed use office tower, apartment complex and some percentage affordable units, while contributing funding a train station on the first few floors. That way, they can gain some money and sponsor an anchor redevelopment of the area.

If that's not enough money, they can create a 'Penn Station Mixed Use District" that offers developer incentives (height and bulk bonuses, etc) in exchange for contributing to a development fund.

Finally: As much as federal money might help, there are a lot of strings tied to it, and avoiding the Feds would speed the project up a few years.

Jul. 25 2013 06:47 PM

Do ppl really think they will come up with the money for this project??? In any even - the headline is wrong... MSG owns the arena and air rights... it's not a lease... it's a special permit to operate. If MSG has to move - we the taxpayers would have to pay billions... and yet the Second Ave. Subway isn't even 1/4 completed...

Jul. 25 2013 04:25 PM
Jack from Manhattan

Moving MSG might not be best for New York, because it will hurt the sports and entertainment of Midtown Manhattan, which are crucial to the dynamic of the city. To me, Midtown IS MSG. Moving it will create a void.

Jul. 25 2013 02:59 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

What bothers me about this is that when we in America build, it is always with planned obsolescence in mind. If you go to Europe and other parts of the world, there are buildings that have been standing for many centuries that are in active use and kept immaculate.

The very essence of city planning is to PLAN THE CITY - in other words, think before you build and plan for the future. Don't build with the idea that you are going to tear down in a short time, just to line the pockets of demolition and construction workers and architects.

Madison Square Garden, Penn Station and the Farley post office are NYC landmarks (though Penn Station is not so lovely), but rather than tearing down classics, let's upgrade them and do it with the future in mind.

Jul. 25 2013 10:51 AM
Daniel from NYC

The fact that a decade ago, the plans to move MSG V into the Farley Post Office fell through - more or less forcing Dolan et al. to renovate MSG IV for around $1 billion - and then saying it may have to be abandoned after 10 years to build ANOTHER arena at an even greater cost (unless some agency gives up space).

And then the question is, where would they put it - and more importantly, where would they put it transit-wise where it will have the greatest impact? Somewhere near Hudson Yards (where it will at least have the 7 train and Penn a 10 minute walk away)? PABT, as Daniel from Manhattan floated? Pier 40 (invariably not, that pier's falling apart as it is and it's totally unsustainable to have MSG on the waterfront like that post-Sandy, but it's a fun idea)?

The additional question is what will happen to Penn - if it will actually get the wider platforms, increased tracks, &c. it really needs with modest improvements to the atria and corridors and a small station house, or some massive boondoggle, either as Beaux-Arts retribution from the MAS for tearing down the original Penn or as some postmodern work that doesn't suit the area.

Jul. 25 2013 10:10 AM
Robert from Manhattan

Use the old Post Office on 8th Avenue for a transit expansion. Why should people from Long Island and New Jersey determine what happens in a Manhattan Neighborhood? Just another reason to vote for Anybody But Quinn. Leave the Garden Alone!

Jul. 25 2013 08:52 AM
Daniel from Manhattan

It is high time for Madison Square Garden to move and its fifth incarnation to rise. May I suggest that they move back uptown? The Port Authority Bus Terminal needs to total over haul, perhaps an agreement could be reached to build an integrated complex on Forty-Second St that equally serves the buses and sports complex? All the transit links are present, including the expanded 7 line, and there is a huge tourist audience milling about just east in Times Square.

Jul. 24 2013 09:51 PM

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