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.