By Orlando Lee Rodriguez
Madison Square Garden may be in the final phase of a $980 million interior renovation, but that hasn’t stopped the Municipal Arts Society and the Regional Plan Association from suggesting that the “World’s Most Famous Arena” be relocated from the space it has held since 1968.
The Garden move, MAS says, will allow Penn Station, which sits underneath, to be overhauled and returned to its former glory as an above ground terminal.
But a spokesperson for Madison Square Garden told Real Estate Weekly that a move is not something seen on the immediate horizon.
“This fall, MSG will finish its three-year, top-the-bottom transformation of The Garden,” said Kim Kerns, senior vice president of communications for the Madison Square Garden Company.
“Following the completion of this self-funded, nearly $1 billion transformation, it is incongruous to think that MSG would be considering moving.”
MSG’s 50-year special land use permit expired in January and the joint organizational effort to get the Garden to move, dubbed “The New Penn Station Alliance”, calls on elected officials not to grant permanent in perpetuity status to Madison Square Garden’s land use permit for the space it occupies above Penn Station.
The Alliance is asking the City Planning Commission and the City Council to take Manhattan’s Community Board 5 recommendation to grant only a 10 year extension for the arena, giving them enough time to look for digs elsewhere. The city planning commission will hold a public meeting on the matter April 10.
“Penn Station can’t be moved, because it is linked to a vast network of tracks and other infrastructure that run below the station,” the New Penn Station Alliance said in a statement. “The station is so space-constrained that it struggles to accommodate passenger traffic from the rail systems that currently use it or absorb future passenger growth and new services such as high-speed rail. While large cities around the world — and New York’s own Grand Central Terminal — have built and transformed rail stations into appealing destinations for residents and visitors, Penn Station has never been a magnet for west Midtown.”
New York’s Penn Station is considered to be the busiest rail terminal in all of North America. According to Amtrak, the Long Island Railroad and NJ Transit the station serves approximately 300,000 passengers a day.
The call for Penn Station’s renovation comes at the same time that work is set to begin on the $267 million first phase of construction on the much delayed Moynihan Station project in the James A. Farley Post Office building across the street.
But according to a New York Times report, Moynihan Station would only service five percent of all commuters that currently use Penn Station. The other 95 percent would still have to use the existing facility underneath the Garden.
In July of last year, The Moynihan Station Development Corporation Board and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that they had awarded a $147.7 million contract to Skanska USA Civil Northeast to begin construction.
Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust were contracted to develop the new station by the state in 2005.
In 2010, the New York Times reported that Steven Roth of Vornado met with MSG chairman James Dolan and city officials regarding the arena moving to the James Farley building across the street, instead of having Moynihan Station built at that location.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who is set to offer his recommendation to the City Planning Commission, was in support of moving MSG at the time. However, talks regarding the move reportedly fell through and The Garden underwent a nearly $1 billion renovation instead.
The area around Penn Station is in the midst of major changes as class-A office space is being built at Manhattan West on Ninth Avenue, at the Hudson Yards and in areas around the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Vornado, which owns the Hotel Pennsylvania across Seventh Avenue from Penn Station and the Garden, has announced that the hotel will be renovated and not torn down.
The present Madison Square Garden is the fourth incarnation of the famed arena. It gets its name from its original location in Madison Square, where it had two different buildings. Since then it has moved twice, to 50th Street and Eighth Avenue and to its current location at 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Before the opening of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it was the only major arena in the city that hosted professional sports teams.