Home Penn Station Stringer: Give MSG ten more years, but then …

Stringer: Give MSG ten more years, but then …

by Benjamin Kabak

The World’s Most Famous Obstacle to Penn Station Expansion, as seen from above. (Photo by flickr user [mementosis])

Madison Square Garden in its current form should be granted only a ten-year operating permit, and New York City must develop a comprehensive plan to redevelop Penn Station, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said today. As the World’s Most Famous Arena’s ULURP application winds its way through the torturous seven-month review processed, Stringer’s office released a non-binding, 18-page report calling upon New York to get serious about improving Penn Station both at ground level and underground.

While I’ve been skeptical of the architectural arguments against MSG, Stringer’s report strikes the perfect middle ground between the aesthetics — or lack thereof — of Penn Station and the need to do a serious assessment of rail capacity and the region’s future transportation demands. “It is time to build a more spacious, attractive and efficient station that will further encourage transit use, reduce driving into the city and spur economic growth throughout our city and our region,” Stringer said. Borough President said. “While we need to ensure the Garden always has a vibrant and accessible home in Manhattan, moving the arena is an important first step to improving Penn Station.”

The Penn Station problem, as I’ve written lately, is often tough to discern in media coverage. Some prominent city historians and architectural critics have grown too obsessed with rectifying a 50-year wrong. They want to promote the Moynihan Station venture as penance for Penn Central’s decision to tear down the Beaux Arts Penn Station, and they want to move Madison Square Garden to build something that looks majestic. That solution doesn’t address the fundamental problem: Penn Station rail capacity is maxed out. The platforms are too narrow, and the trans-Hudson rail tubes are too few. How can a new MSG and a new Penn Station improve rail capacity into and through New York City?

To that end, Stringer has an answer, and he lays it out in the ULURP recommendation [pdf]. Noting that both Moynihan Station and the Penn Visioning plan do not “go[] far enough, nor address[] the physical constraint of the Garden on meaningful improvements to Penn Station,” Stringer first calls for improvements at the track level. Amtrak’s Gateway Tunnel will work, he says, only if platforms are wider, and to widen platforms, MSG and its support columns must go. “While moving Madison Square Garden,” he writes, “would potentially lead to a new, modern head house serving as a grand gateway into New York City, the true benefits in moving the arena would be increased below-grade flexibility that would allow for efficient track design.”

Thus, says Stringer, it’s time to develop a master plan for area. Involving all stakeholders — MSG, the city, the state, the feds, the MTA, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, area business — will be a challenge, but the future economic development of the Midtown area and the city on the whole depend on it. “Master plans for regional and mass transit improvements can take years, sometimes decades, to implement,” Stringer says. “The city must begin to create a master plan now and not wait until the system is so congested as to be broken.”

Of course, we can embrace Stringer’s call for action readily, but what of the other stakeholders? Madison Square Garden has, at various points over the past decade, endorsed plans to move the arena, but recently, its owners spent around $1 billion in arena upgrades. A ten-year occupancy permit coming on the heels of a 50-year lease isn’t quite what they had in mind, and already we can see the signs of a brewing battle. Here’s their statement:

“Virtually all special permits are granted without artificial expirations. In addition to this, MSG meets all required findings for this permit and operates in a city where no sports arena or stadium has a time limit to its use. Given these circumstances, we have the reasonable expectation that we will be treated like every other applicant. Yet the Garden – a company that has recently invested nearly $1 billion in its Arena and helps drive the city’s economy by supporting thousands of jobs and attracting hundreds of annual events– is being unfairly singled out because of a decision that was made 50 years ago – to demolish the original Penn Station. Adding an arbitrary expiration for reasons unrelated to the special permit process or requirements would not only set a dangerous and questionable precedent, but would also hinder our ability to make MSG and New York City the long-term home of even more world-class events, and would harm a business that has served as a significant economic driver for the City for generations.”

There’s more than a kernel of truth in this statement especially surrounding the issues with the demolition of Penn Station. But while Madison Square Garden’s location makes it a very transit-friendly arena, there is no denying that it will inhibit rail infrastructure expansion and transit growth. Something may have to give, and Penn Station’s expansion is more important than the Garden’s maintaining its current spot.

So what’s next? Community Boards 4 and 5 have both endorsed a ten-year permit, and Stringer’s office has as well. None of these recommendations are binding, though, and the ULURP process next lands on the tables of the City Planning Commission before facing City Council. MSG will put on a full-court press before a ten-year permit becomes officials, but the end of MSG may be inevitable. Stringer’s recommendations provide a clear course forward, and they should be endorsed and adopted by the city while the team is right.

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Berk32 March 28, 2013 - 1:01 am

I’m sorry… but any suggestion that involves moving MSG is just the biggest load of *bleeping* stupidity I have ever heard. They just renovated the damn place and didn’t ask the City for any money to do it… The City would have to build a new arena somewhere in Manhattan… and… my mind can’t even fathom the costs that this would involve or where it would be built.

The idea that having more space above Penn station is whats needed to improve “capacity” just shows how the people in charge are f*cking clueless. (because obviously the problem isn’t the sh*t poor layout in the current space that basically covers 2 city blocks… ) and this doesn’t even address the actual bottleneck of the whole system… the tunnels under the Hudson river…. also lets note that MSG doesnt even take up all of the space above penn station – there is a large office tower (2 penn plaza) that takes up almost half of the space… maybe they should have thought about making use of that side of the lot…

This is all about making something that looks pretty (just like what the Port Authority is doing downtown).

Also – this permit that MSG needs renewed is actually a waiver to allow them to exceed people capacity currently permitted in their zoning district (something that should just be a formality if anyone with common sense was running things)

I’m completely with MSG on this.

End Rant.

Benjamin Kabak March 28, 2013 - 1:11 am

You should read Stringer’s report before determining that this is just making something that looks pretty. While columns in newspapers may suggest as much, Stringer lays out the case against MSG because it interferes with the ability to expand rail capacity. A fancy head house is a tangential benefit.

Berk32 March 28, 2013 - 1:15 am

I got thru a lot of it – and he raises valid points on the existing platform problem (it his only valid points) – but there have to be alternatives that can address adding tracks/platforms for when they finally get around to building another Hudson River tunnel.

John-2 March 28, 2013 - 1:53 am

My thought has been, given the modern construction technologies, if the planners can figure out a way to stack both the Garden and Vornado’s current 2 Penn Plaza office space within the space of the Seventh Avenue end of the Penn Station complex, you could re-do the platforms while at the same time keeping MSG and Vornado’s office space in the area and open up the section where the Garden is now to redevelop in something matching the style of the Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue.

Tear down 2 Penn, start widening the platforms and build a new complex that would incorporate both the office space and the Garden, while leaving room downstairs for a better thought-out (and higher-ceiling) east Penn Station area for LIRR service. Match the building style to what’s planned on the west end of the block, and when it’s done, rip the old Garden down, widen the platforms beneath it once the building’s gone, and then put in something approximating the old McKim, Mead, and White design.

It wouldn’t be a perfect recreation of old Penn, but it would allow everyone who currently has a stake at remaining within the complex to stay there, while at the same time freeing up 50 percent of the block to restore some of what was lost in the early 1960s.

Henry March 29, 2013 - 3:43 pm

Personally, I would have the office tower on 8th Av, with the MSG either at Farley or within the vicinity of Hudson Yards. As it is right now, Penn Plaza serves as a giant pedestrian dead zone, and it’s mostly MSG’s fault. If designed properly, it allows for a main entrance on 7th Av (which most Penn traffic heads to, anyways), and the revitalization of the pedestrian environment around 8th Av, which is currently marred by MSG and PABT.

AG April 2, 2013 - 9:50 pm

A very interesting take on it… that correlates somewhat to what you were saying.


Handsome Johnny March 28, 2013 - 8:40 am

The is 100% off topic, but I don’t know an alternative way of posting it here.

The MTA website, as of this instant, reports the following service advisory:

“Due to switch problems at 34 St-Herald Sq, northbound Q trains are running express from 34 St-Herald Sq to 57 St-7Av.

Allow additional travel time.”

In all my years riding the subway (now in excess of 60), my experience has invariable been that when trains are running express, they consume LESS travel time. In this particular case, the Q will bypass 49th Street – not slowing down to stop at the station, not opening the doors, not waiting for passengers to exit and enter, and not needing to accelerate once again to line speed. ADDITIONAL travel time??? What are they trying to tell us?

TP March 28, 2013 - 9:37 am

When trains that normally run local are running express because work is being done or there are “switch problems” my experience is that they make the express stops but don’t run at express speed due to the problem/work along the section. They don’t open doors at the local stops, but they crawl through.

aestrivex March 28, 2013 - 9:45 am

Have you ever actually ridden an express Q train between 42 and 57 as opposed to merely other express lines? My experience of having done exactly this suggests that most of the time the trackwork and signaling takes so long to get in or out of the terminal at 57 that it indeed takes longer.

Sorry for propagating the off-topicness.

Berk32 March 28, 2013 - 1:06 am

Rant continued (since i thought i typed it before)

They needed a better layout underground – and they need better access points into the station area – this can be done using space in around 2 penn plaza (which isnt surprising – since the ‘main’ entrance into penn station is right there at 32nd and 7th – in front of 2 penn plaza – not MSG) – MSG itself is mainly over the Amtrak area (as currently laid out).

Berk32 March 28, 2013 - 1:13 am

I just can’t stand when politicians play “fantasy city planning” when they assume money is no object.
This is our damn tax money.

No matter what you think you’re building for the ‘prefect system’ – conditions change. You’re just wasting more and more public money to make things in the long run “slightly better”

Tim March 28, 2013 - 11:08 am

I think it’s actually important to lay out the entire list of wants so you know what the ideal solution would be, then pare that down to what solutions are actually feasible.

As for the structural needs of the space, yes, MSG going would be ideal, the realignment of tracks and platforms for more efficient usage is vital but unobtainable with that hunk sitting on top of it.

John Telesca March 28, 2013 - 8:11 am

It’s a great idea, and the USPS Morgan plant site is available on the West Side – 2 solid blocks at 9th Ave & 29th Street for a new, modern MSG. Yes the Dolans spent a billion on the MSG from 1964, but it was lnog overdue and that’s the risk of investing on a rented space.

The only solution to fixing the busiest station in North America is to remove the ugly buildings pressing it down.

EVERYONE – write your councilman, state senator, and assembly rep in support of this plan!!!

Jeff March 28, 2013 - 8:49 am

MSG has too much political pull in all this. Dolan isn’t moving 10 years after investing $1 billion on this, especially not to any location where access will be more difficult.

Benjamin Kabak March 28, 2013 - 10:04 am

While I appreciate the Dolan’s investment, I’m not too sympathetic to their argument. Ask why they spent $1 billion on MSG when they knew talks to move the arena would take up a big part of the political discourse. They did it because they’re in a 50 year old arena nearing the end of its life and because the Barclays Center was opening 20 minutes away.

Based on how long it takes to get anything done here, I’d imagine they could eke out another 15-20 years before this Penn Station Visioning plan is ready to take off. That’s more than enough to justify any investment.

Jeff March 28, 2013 - 10:35 am

The thing is Dolan WAS open to moving MSG to the post office, talks were ongoing for a few years… Then the talks went nowhere and he lost patience. Like you said he had no choice because he needed to do the renovations or else he loses his competitive advantage.

The way things are going with construction costs and inflation I doubt anything can get built here in 15-20 years… A rebuilding of Penn Station would probably cost something like $20 billion or something.

Benjamin Kabak March 28, 2013 - 11:11 am

The way things are going with construction costs and inflation I doubt anything can get built here in 15-20 years

People have been making that same argument for the past few decades, and things get built. Outside of MTA construction, budgets aren’t insanely overinflated either. So the issue is ensuring that construction costs are contained. It’s not that big of an obstacle.

AG March 28, 2013 - 5:54 pm

“it’s not that big of an obstacle”?

Ben – I’m very surprised you would say such. The very project this blog is named for still hasn’t been built in all these decades… and is still decades away from being completed – if ever.
There wasn’t money for a second station on the #7 extension either.
No rail extension to La Guardia… no one seat ride from JFK to lower Manhattan.
And on and on and on.

Justin Samuels March 30, 2013 - 10:19 am

Yet the Port Authority found money to rebuild the WTC. Barclay’s Stadium was built, and Yankee’s Stadium and Shea Stadium was built. For private sector projects, they have no difficulty attracting financing to build big buildings in NYC.

The extension of the Q up Second Avenue was prioritized because that was the UES (giving them relief from Lexington Avenue overcrowding first). But once the city and state want to, they can easily do the other phases by selling bonds backed by local property taxes, which will increase with better transit services. The city is already auctioning off lots on NYCHA authority to private developers and rezoning East Harlem for more development.

Henry March 30, 2013 - 10:46 am

That’s because most private sector companies, and more competent city governments would not build something with a sticker cost of over #1B/km, or let that be designed. (East Side Access actually comes in at $4B/km.)

That being said, the city needs to more aggressively upzone around subway stations, and not so much around the waterfront. At least limited mid-rises should be allowed around most subway stations.

Bolwerk March 30, 2013 - 10:46 pm

s/most subway stations/all subway stations

Throw in MNRR stations, SIRT stations, and SBS services too. And $1B/km already seems pretty high, even in Manhattan.

AG March 30, 2013 - 1:00 pm

ah yes… but Barclay’s, Yankee Stadium, Citifield are all owned by private entities. WTC had a thing called insurance… and aside from that fact that the PA needed to rebuild because they collect rent. It’s no coincidence that the transport part of the project is GROSSLY overbuilt for what it needed to be.

And selling bonds is not an infinite thing either… if finances are brought under order – investors won’t buy the bonds or WE the taxpayers will have to pay higher rates because the investment will be seen as more risky.

If you recall when MSG first wanted to move the plan was to rebuild Penn by allowing developers to put up huge skyscrapers to pay for it. That didn’t work.

Private money can do what they want… this is taxpayer dollars.

AG March 30, 2013 - 1:09 pm

perfect example of the diff between private and public development… look at how quickly Larry Silverstein was able to rebuild at the WTC site and look how long it’s taken the PA…

Russell March 28, 2013 - 8:57 am

I think that moving MSG is a terrible idea. It’s location encourages transit use.

Why not keep MSG and tear down 2 Penn Plaza to achieve the same goals?

EVERYONE – write your councilman, state senator, and assemblyman in opposition to this plan!!!

g March 28, 2013 - 9:07 am

Tearing down 2 Penn may be required anyway. Also the existing structure is a terrible waste of the 6M sq ft of air rights the site has.

As it is MSG is a senior citizen venue among it’s peers. It will inevitably require a complete replacement. Moving MSG a block or two west will not cause everyone to drive to it.

AG March 28, 2013 - 5:58 pm

MSG is indeed a senior citizen among it’s peers… but that doesn’t stop it from still being the most important indoor venue in the U.S. for many events… if not the world.
It’s just as ironic that the report points out that with all its failings – Penn Station handles 3x the traffic that it did when it was “beautiful”.

g March 29, 2013 - 10:55 am

The venue is important because it sits in midtown Manhattan, not because it’s MSG.

The current Penn is woefully inadequate to handle it’s current passenger loads let alone the projected increases. It was designed to accommodate about less than half of it’s current daily usage.

AG March 29, 2013 - 6:05 pm

“The venue is important because it sits in midtown Manhattan, not because it’s MSG.”

that is false… their is a thing called history and atmosphere of a venue. It’s the same reason – the Pope John Paul goes went to Yankee Stadium and not Shea or Giants Stadium. It has nothing to do with The Bronx versus Queens or Jersey. When Real Madrid and AC Milan came to play a game in the summer (the 2 winning-est European Clubs) – they could have gone to the bigger Met Life and drawn 30k more than they did in the Bronx. But they wanted to play their match in the new Yankee Stadium – because of what it symbolized.

When Michael Jordan would come destroy the Knicks – he would always talk about always wanted to perform at the Garden. Their is a reason the old ring at the Garden is a boxing Hall of Fame relic. The same with concerts…. etc. etc.

There is no doubt Penn needs improvements… the question is what is the best bang for the buck… and this plan doesn’t seem to be it.

Henry March 29, 2013 - 3:48 pm

Well, a giant expanse of space around 11th Av and 34th St is going to get transit access, most of which is currently former industrial, an antiquated convention center, and some residential housing. Hudson Yards is currently undergoing development, and the High Line is opened (or has, not quite sure) in that area, and it’s projected to become the busiest station in the system by 2030(?) due to its status as the only station that far west. It’s like London’s Canary Wharf, except more convenient!

(And before anyone actually says “but they’re spending money to renovate/expand MSG and Javits”, the two facilities are depressing monoliths that have been eclipsed by peers in the nation and, in the case of MSG, twenty minutes away. While I don’t support an Ozone Park convention center due to the sheer absurdity of the proposal, the facility will probably need replacing again in 10-20 years.)

Bolwerk March 28, 2013 - 9:15 am

Besides the fact that Penn Station space issues are going to be much less critical when ESA finishes, the easy way to deal with problems is to shave back the number of tracks and demand thru running from the railroads. Only Amtrak has an excuse to use Penn as a terminal, and even that shouldn’t be strictly necessary.

Focus the billion$ on a new trans-Hudson tunnel.

David Brown March 28, 2013 - 9:25 am

This will likely end up in Court, and nothing will happen for many years. I wish Politicians would come up with more realistic transit improving options. Reopening the “Gimbals Passageway” is a start, having a free connection between Broadway (G) and either Lorimer or Hewes (J & M), and Livonia Ave (L) and Sutter Ave (3), would help, and so would making sure stages 2 & 3 of the Second Ave Subway are funded and eventually finished.

aestrivex March 28, 2013 - 9:53 am

This. Regardless of the merits of the plan, why would you want to go to court for years and years to make principally aesthetic improvements to Penn Station? You might win, but is it really worth it? There are lots of other capital projects with merit and the more pressing issue is capacity under the Hudson River, not platform space.

Benjamin Kabak March 28, 2013 - 9:59 am

I’ll say this again: Read Stringer’s report. It’s not that long. You’ll see that 98 percent of his concern is not with aesthetic improvements. It’s with widening platforms and ensuring adequate track access to meet capacity as Amtrak builds out more trans-Hudson tunnels and the MTA brings Metro-North to Penn Station. These are the legitimate planning and capacity concerns.

Bolwerk March 28, 2013 - 11:14 am

I agree that’s great, but I think forcing MSG out is a bit silly. I’m no fan of MSG, but it is what it is.

And this capacity issue is being incredibly over-played. Cologne-HBF is a significantly smaller station that handles 2/3 the traffic.

Tim March 28, 2013 - 12:33 pm

Did you notice that Koln has 6 track in and out of the station, compared to the 4/2 of NYP? That makes moving trains through MUCH easier.

Bolwerk March 30, 2013 - 12:29 am

The approach from the Rhine is 3 tracks, not sure about the other direction.

Chris March 28, 2013 - 2:41 pm

I think you’re giving this report a lot of credence that it probably doesn’t deserve. I have a hard time believing it is “not possible” to make the necessary changes with the arena operating above. It’s more likely to be “costly”. And from reading the report I don’t think Stringer is looking to save those dollars for taxpayers – he’s looking to instead blow them on a “grand gateway into New York City.”

TP March 28, 2013 - 9:41 am

Have MSG fund a full Penn Station renovation/platform reconfiguration that meets transit needs for the next x number of years in exchange for the right to use the space above for the next x number of years.

We’re fetishizing above-ground transit facilities in New York. We don’t need new headhouses.

g March 28, 2013 - 10:14 am

It’s not possible to make the kinds of changes required without removing MSG (more accurately it’s offending support columns). Moving MSG to another site and redoing the above may negate the need to build the Penn South portion of Gateway…a substantial savings.

Getting a new head house is a bonus and considering the anticipated passenger loads in the coming decades not a frivolous one.

Woody March 28, 2013 - 3:15 pm

We’ll need Penn Station South. In fact, we’ll need it twice the size Amtrak suggested.

So take the TWO full blocks south of the existing Penn Station, between 7th and 8th Aves, from 31st to 29th St.

Clear those blocks, excavate, build new tracks and platforms. Basically double Penn Station.

Then put the NEW Madison Square Garden one block east, atop Penn Station South facing 7th Ave., with office towers on the remainder of the space to the west of it.

Finally, take down the ‘old’ Madison Square Garden and renovate the ‘old’ Penn Station below, with wider platforms, more elevators and escalators, etc. Put a showpiece office tower on top of the renovated Penn Station, a beautiful one that is also built to allow the best possible entrances to the station below.

This is long range planning, for when more trains are running than most can dare imagine — and they will — that solves the other problems, too, the need for an architectural heir to the lost station and a completely modern sports arena. And by the time it all unfolds, it surely will be time to replace the currently renovated Garden. So no problem.

Did I leave something out? I wish the new Gateway tunnels were three, not just two. What they gonna do when Amtrak’s two new ones fill up? Send Jersey Transit into Macy’s Basement again?

I hope the Visioning effort will come up with a bold plan.

g March 28, 2013 - 3:49 pm

There is a difference between vision and fantasy.

Organizing thru-running between the commuter agencies in addition to doing what Stringer proposes would get us most of the way there. There is no demonstrable need to demo two blocks of midtown in order to double the amount of tracks at Penn.

Woody March 29, 2013 - 9:52 am

That’s a rich fantasy you’re indulging — that after decades of non-cooperation and petty rivalry among Amtrak and the commuter agencies, they’ll change their spots and enter into the marital bliss of thru-running. LOL.

No official or agency with the power to potentially do any such thing has ever proposed thru-running, have they?

But Amtrak seriously proposed building a one-block Penn Station South for the needs foreseen in just 10 or 20 years.

Since both blocks (29th to 31st) are now largely covered by parking lots, one-story taxpayer retail properties, obsolete mid-rise office buildings, and several Amtrak-owned structures, you might as well clear them and double Penn Station South for the needs 30 or 40 years from now. Otherwise someone else will demolish them anyway and put immovable skyscrapers there, blocking any future rail station use. (And putting a new MSG arena over the new platforms creates a good location for it — closer to many mass transit lines, not farther away from them.)

At some point it will be impossible to expand Penn Station at all, when all space for new platforms and all possible routes for more tracks from Jersey are blocked by the foundations of new towers. Then you’ll deeply regret a failure to plan ahead.

g March 29, 2013 - 11:06 am

Related is already going to preserve the right of way for the next two Hudson tunnels. That plus the alterations to Penn that can be done by moving MSG off site will accommodate current and substantial future passenger loads. Toss in a couple block connection to the ESA tail tracks and we’re good for a few decades.

They’re considering thru-running into NJT territory as an option for MNRR Penn station service and it’s already actually done in reverse by NJT’s train to the game in a limited fashion. The Port Authority exists so it’s not like it would be impossible for the two states to work out a framework particularly if it can help them avoid billions in redundant infrastructure while increasing commuter capacity.

AG March 29, 2013 - 5:50 pm

“Since both blocks (29th to 31st) are now largely covered by parking lots, one-story taxpayer retail properties, obsolete mid-rise office buildings, and several Amtrak-owned structures, you might as well clear them and double Penn Station South for the needs 30 or 40 years from now. ”

and it is also the MUCH cheaper option than trying to buy out MSG and 2 Penn Plaza… MSG by itself is valued over $1 billion. I think you should talk to Scott Stringer.

AG March 28, 2013 - 5:49 pm

TP – that would be extortion… their special permit can’t be changed to do that. In fact – we the taxpayers would have to give them fair market value in order to get them to move (over $1 billion).

Henry March 29, 2013 - 3:50 pm

At the very least, we need new entrances to the station, because station access from street level is somewhat difficult, despite the fact that the station takes up the entire block underneath.

orulz March 28, 2013 - 1:37 pm

Can the platforms be widened without also tearing down the Farley Post Office Building and 2 Penn Plaza?

AG March 28, 2013 - 5:47 pm

As the report noted… MSG was willing to move in the past… but the powers that be “snoozed” and they “lost”. Buying out MSG and 2 Penn are huge dollars.

g March 28, 2013 - 7:36 pm

MSG will be ready to move in 10ish years when the most recent investment has been long depreciated and the arena is worn down again. There are a minimum of three nearby sites on the west side that would be suitable. 2 Penn is less of an issue since Vornado has much bigger eventual plans for that area they’d like to see realized.

AG March 28, 2013 - 10:24 pm

new arenas don’t get built every 10 years… and no one does a gut renovation for just 10 years time…. the reality is it will take at least 30 years (which is closer the more appropriate time to depreciate a commercial property of 39 years for tax purposes) to get funding for the “proposals” the Scott Stringers of the world list. I’m not saying it shouldn’t happen.. but 10 years is not serious.

g March 29, 2013 - 11:11 am

At the rate MSG has events the renovation will be worn out in 10-15 years easy even if they aren’t fully depreciated on the books by then. That renovation would probably last any other arena 30 years but it won’t at MSG.

AG March 30, 2013 - 1:03 pm

sports facilities don’t renovate or build new buildings because they get “worn out”. Painting and the likes can be done easily and quickly. The only reason they do is to extract more revenue – via luxury boxes and increased concessions (including bars, lounges, etc.). Have you ever seen a sports facility charge less…??

All the talk of sight-lines and lighting is hog wash.

g March 30, 2013 - 5:53 pm

You can let a facility go to hell when you have no competition but a good location.. Something that isn’t the case for MSG anymore since Barclays opened. MSG will need a new facility eventually.

AG March 31, 2013 - 8:56 am

No you can’t. Arenas compete with each other all over the country and world for events. MSG is not threatened by Barclay’s. The arenas that stand to lose are Prudential and IZOD in Jersey… and Nassau Coliseum. They’ve lost teams (Nets and Islanders) and will lose events. Why? Because the NY events market is so lucrative it was able to support all those arenas. MSG is still MSG the way Yankee Stadium stands alone. The fact is that many events that wanted to be at MSG couldn’t go there because they couldn’t get booking times. That is a unique problem for a sports venue. Prudential, IZOD, Nassau all benefited. Now though – they are the ones who will lose out to Barclay’s. MSG can and still does charge higher fees than the brand new Barclay’s – because of the cache of MSG. Talk to anyone in the events business.

g April 1, 2013 - 8:59 am

Major acts looking to book NYC dates will not book Newark instead and call it good. The fact that you would suggest such a thing indicates you’re so far out of touch that further debate is pointless.

BTW Yankee Stadium was replaced by a brand new adjacent facility, just as MSG will eventually be.

AG April 1, 2013 - 9:10 pm

next will you tell me that MetLife (formerly Giants Stadium) didn’t serve the NYC market??? I guess all the NY radio stations that held concerts there must be the fools. I guess all the shows that couldn’t do multiples at MSG and went to Prudential or IZOD are the fools to – huh? Those are the shows going to Barclay’s now. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

And yes – Yankee Stadium was decades older than MSG… and was last renovated in the 1970s!!!! To the original point – they built a new one for the luxury boxes and increased concessions. Anyone who has been there will tell you the old “atmosphere” of “The Stadium” is no longer there… it’s been sterilized. So there is no improvement – unless you want more things to eat and drink… and that’s what new facilities are about… which is my original point.

marv March 28, 2013 - 8:32 pm

Would a MSG next to the convention center provide an ideal pairing? It would be next to the new #7 station and would allow for maximum convention space.(It could even be elevated over the west side “hwy” allowing bulk but not blocking views of the river). Obviously high priced real estate over over penn would be freed up.

AG March 28, 2013 - 10:13 pm

The Hudson Yards development is going to eat up all the space next to the Javits…

Woody March 29, 2013 - 10:35 am

The 7 line here is a dead-end stub, with no thru running trains, only one-direction service.

The current MSG location (or one on 7th Ave between 29th and 31st, as I propose above) allows people to use the 8th Ave line (A, C, & E), the 7th Ave line (1, 2, & 3), the 6th Ave line (B, D, F, M) the Broadway line (N, Q, & R), and PATH. All except the PATH line carry people both directions.

So the Convention Center station will offer only about 1/27 the capacity of those around Penn Station/MSG.

That’s not counting the Lexington line (6), or a walk up to 42nd St (7) or down to 14th St. (L). The combined capacity of the Midtown lines is about 30 times that of the Convention Center station.

The notion of a Far West Side location for another high-volume destination doesn’t hold up well.

g March 29, 2013 - 11:19 am

The primary site for a new MSG has always been the Farley Annex, one block from it’s current location and would enjoy all the benefits of direct connections to the a new Penn complex and be closer to the 7 train terminus.

AG March 29, 2013 - 5:57 pm

you are correct… MSG WANTED to go to Farley… but they never moved because the government couldn’t come up with the money for Farley… so MSG stayed put and invested $ 1 billion of their own money. Now these politicians and architecture groups are calling for a plan that is even MORE expensive than Farley for taxpayers. doesn’t make much sense.

AG March 29, 2013 - 5:54 pm

I think you meant to reply to “marv”… I agree… but doesn’t matter anyway because developers already own the rights to Hudson Yards. any other site in that area would be even farther from the new #7 station

Frank McArdle March 28, 2013 - 10:33 pm

It would seem that one could not improve the platform widths without either reducing the number of tracks or building the proposed Penn Station South. The question then becomes whether that is the best use of the capital that will be consumed in the project. It is very likely that federal funding for such projects will become very scarce in the next two decades,so its use will have to be reserved for the projects with the highest yield to the public. Is this project our best option?

Nyland8 March 29, 2013 - 7:17 am

As far as the “highest yield to the public”, the solution is still to extend some crosstown subway to Lautenberg Station. There is simply no other idea that offers so much bang for the buck.

Every project that involves pumping out-of-staters into Manhattan by building yet another skyscraper under bedrock is a waste of money. Whether you call it ARC, or Gateway, or Penn Station South, it will still involve billions more in complications and cost overruns, and years more in delays.

ESA is a perfect case in point. What was that initially expected to cost? When was that originally supposed to open? How many other examples do we need before we get the point?

The fact is, the station that we really needed built has already been built – in Secaucus. Every single NJTransit train goes to it, or through it. And for the preponderance of users, the purpose of Penn Station is to get Long Island and New Jersey commuters redistributed throughout the NYC subway system. That is its biggest usage by far, and that is its biggest projected increase over the coming decades.

For less than the cost of gouging any new skyscraper under Manhattan schist, we could run two tubes under the Hudson and combine BOTH the 7 LIne AND the L Line over to Secaucus – and in much less time, too! In fact, in less time and expense than building the ARC project – which, before all was said and done, would have been between 12 and 15 BILLION – we could build a yard in Secaucus and run a brand new subway along 23rd Street all the way to 2nd Ave. connecting to every single Manhattan trunk line along the way. They already all have 23rd Street stops – so we don’t even have to acquire any more aboveground space.

Imagine that. An entirely new subway line built just for the purpose of distributing commuters where they’re already going … but doing it leaner and smarter than building an underground palace, from which everyone is STILL going to have to make their way throughout the rest of the system! In fact, for less money than we would have spent on the ARC, I bet you could continue to tunnel right across Manhattan, under the East River, and terminate at Greenpoint Ave on the G Line.

It’s time to abandon that old paradigm that tells us that we have to create yet another monumental edifice – just to satisfy some ego – or worse, some political agenda – on the backs of the rate payers and taxpayers. We don’t need more centralization in New York City – we need decentralization. That’s what Secaucus Transfer has already inadvertently provided us. There’s plenty of room out there for a yard, and it would cost pennies on the dollar when compared to building anything underground in Manhattan.

Creating a newer, bigger, underground box on the west side is a waste of money – and ultimately doesn’t slash commuter times as much as simply finding the fastest way to distribute them across the subway system – which we know they’re already using. We can’t afford it. It’s time to think outside the box. Send the subway – some subway – maybe even two subways – to Secaucus. It will cost less, it will do more, and by reducing traffic into NYPenn, it will preclude building any more gargantuan monuments to our stupidity.

marv March 29, 2013 - 8:07 am

23rd street is (despite having subway stations) not where most people want to be so it creates an undesirable 3 seat ride (NJT=>23rd St Crosstown =>final subway).

The #7 to Jersey (my preference is to Hoboken and then on to Staten Island) is a good choice

On a grander plan, a 51 Street cross town to NJ would be w/in a block of stations on all lines. On the east end the next step would be for it to turn down 2nd avenue as part of a 3 branch (uptown/bronx, Queens via 63rd Street tunnel, and NJ via 51 St) 2nd avenue subway. Connecting it the Atlantic Avenue branch (former LIRR) and running it out to Jamaica would create the through service between Queens/Brooklyn and NJ that this area lacks.

A less ambitious concept would be to instead turn up 2nd Avenue with part of the service going to queens (via 63rd Street) and the rest continuing up 2nd Avenue. (The 2nd Avenue stop should then be relocated down to 53rd street from the currently planned 55 street as you should get the line as far south as possible and create the easiest transfer to the 53rd Street IND).

Nyland8 March 29, 2013 - 8:56 am

Almost everybody already has a three-seat ride. That’s the point. The purpose of connecting to a crosstown subway is to distribute all of those riders among the Manhattan trunk lines. If you’re going down to the financial district, then 23rd Street brings you closer than the 7 Line – and I see the crowds every evening emerging from the uptown 1,2,3,A,C,E – so I know there’s plenty of downtown traffic coming into NYPenn.

You’re taking a very UES bound view of things. 23rd Street is the shortest distance across the Hudson, and 14th Street – the L Line – is the shortest distance to Lautenberg Station. That’s what makes it practical. If we have to tunnel all the way from the 50’s or 60’s, then we might just as well build the castle under Macy’s.

g March 29, 2013 - 11:26 am

I could get behind this with the caveat that the 2nd Ave line would have to operationally reach 14th St by the time the extension opens to prevent armageddon at Union Square and on the Lex.

Nyland8 March 29, 2013 - 12:16 pm

Don’t we already have Armageddon on the Lex?

In fact, isn’t Union Square station the best equipped of all the stations along 14th Street to handle the load? It has expansive underground connections the size of the entire block. And unlike the connection to the E Line – which is where all the NYPenn riders currently scramble from – you have a choice between the 4,5 and 6 trains to take! The E only connects to the 6.

It would be MUCH less trouble than what we have now.

g March 29, 2013 - 1:03 pm

The additional load on the 4/5/6 would be impossible without the 2nd ave line to relive some of the pressure. Alternately (less expensively) the 7 could be extended again to meet the L terminus end to end and create a platform level transfer while the L extension dives under and goes across the Hudson. This would require some substantial upgrades at GCS and 5th ave to handle greater volume but still doable.

Nyland8 March 29, 2013 - 1:30 pm

They’re not handling a greater volume. They’re handling the same volume. There is no “additional load”. It’s just coming from a different connection – one which is better than the one they have now.

From the standpoint of New Jersey commuters, Union Square is BETTER than connecting to the Lexington Ave. Line via the E train. Isn’t that obvious? Instead of dumping them all on the 6, they are diffused throughout the 4,5 and 6.

But I agree with the 7 connection – or really, even better, rather than have one “T” into the other, run them both out of Lautenberg. You’d have one eastbound and one westbound tunnel – but once they crossed the river, the 7’s would turn north to the 34th St Javits, and the L’s slightly south back to 8th Ave. It will allow the L’s to enter 8th Ave at full speed, actually speeding up a Brooklyn journey to the west side. Needless to say, you’d have to keep the B Division trains off the A Division tracks – but that’s relatively easy. With both going across, you get much more bang for the cross Hudson buck.

Then commuters in Secaucus could choose whether they were going north or south in Manhattan. The UES bound would grab a 7, the financial sector bound would opt of the L – and everything else in between becomes an obvious choice. Less crushing crowds in Penn Station to deal with – more open tracks for Amtrack and MetroNorth – isn’t that what this is all about?

AND … everyone from Queens and Brooklyn gets a quicker trip to the Giants, the Jets, the Meadowlands and, most importantly, the busiest Airport in the region – Newark International.

From the standpoint of regional mass-transit improvements, it beats every other option by a long shot – and because it relieves so many trains from NYPenn, it precludes the need for building the Taj Mahal under Macy’s basement.

Less money. Less time. More and better results. If there’s a better plan, I haven’t heard it yet.

g March 29, 2013 - 1:42 pm

Some of the ridership diffuses to other services and/or walks. I strongly suspect that such a plan would overwhelm Union Square if there are no other alternatives to reaching east midtown (2nd Ave or 7 extension) but I’d be more than willing to see it studied.

I think one extension to NJ is all that would be politically feasible. Obviously it has to be the 7 or the L because of CBTC and the areas/connections they serve. Either (or even both options) will require substantial capital investments in the inside Manhattan to make it work. At best I think this would delay the need to do major work on Penn if done in conjunction with Moynihan Station.

AG March 29, 2013 - 7:28 pm

ummm – I think JFK handles more passengers… if you include cargo then possibly Newark would be busier… but I think JFK has the passenger edge.

Nyland8 March 29, 2013 - 10:58 pm

Total passengers and total cargo tonnage – both JFK.

Total takeoffs and landings – Newark.

EWR is the busiest Port Authority airport in terms of what is called “movements” – T&Ls.

AG March 30, 2013 - 12:51 pm

oh ok… that makes more sense.

Someone April 1, 2013 - 8:53 am

Relatively easy, my ass. You need at least 4 tracks to do that, and that means a larger tunnel and/or multiple tunnels.

Henry March 29, 2013 - 3:59 pm

You’re taking a very New Jersey-oriented view of things. The main problem is capacity into Penn for Amtrak – that’s why Amtrak is going to the trouble of pushing for Gateway and Penn South.

A subway extension would solve none of this – to increase Amtrak service without building new tunnels for the railroads would involve cutting slots for NJT, and NJT is not equipped (or willing) to deal with the blowback coming from the reduction of direct Midtown service.

Ideally, Gateway would just completely bypass Penn, with four tracks from the NEC to GCT’s lower level, via Hoboken and WTC. It would actually increase connectivity from what exists now, and wouldn’t end up dumping riders onto the Lex, which carries more passengers than the other US Metro systems combined. It’d also give WTC a raison d’etre, and with the Dey passageway it would give more connectivity than the Penn setup does, while letting GCT be used again for its designed purpose, and giving Penn some breathing room. However, due to lack of $$$, I realize this probably will never happen.

Nyland8 March 29, 2013 - 11:28 pm

“You’re taking a very New Jersey-oriented view of things. The main problem is capacity into Penn for Amtrak”

Yes … I am taking a very New Jersey-oriented view. Because NJTransit puts more than three times as many people into and out of NY Penn Station as Amtrak does – and because they share tracks.

In a year, Amtrak moves 8-1/2 million people through NYPenn.
In the same time, NJTransit moves over 28 million – an average of over 77,000 trips-a-day.

Cut that number in half and you’ve got plenty of open tracks for Amtrak.

Of course – I make it sound simple – but there are other issues. For example, Penn Station doesn’t have room for Amtrak’s “Superliner” rail cars – so that might be reason enough for Amtrak to want to build their own station. But if we run subways to Secaucus, it won’t be because of Penn’s lack of capacity.

Reduce the number of NJTransit trains, and you make more room for Amtrak.

It’s almost a zero sum game.

Henry March 29, 2013 - 11:41 pm

This is, of course, assuming that enough people are going to change to the 7 at Secaucus, and assuming that Secaucus and Hoboken have enough capacity to turn around trains. (Can Secaucus even turn trains?)

This is also assuming that the slots that exist are currently enough to handle projected travel growth in the NEC, given the fact that the NEC megalopolis, especially in New York, is not going to be expanding airport or road capacity any time soon.

Then you get political blowback from politicians who are upset at losing direct Midtown services – even if they have expanded travel options, they’ll want to have their cake and eat it too. Look at what’s happening with the Long Island politicos and Penn Access, when their constituents will gain one-seat access to GCT.

If NJT were to reduce slots in its tunnel, I doubt it would be significant enough to benefit Amtrak for more than a few years. Given that their trains are fully booked at the prices they’re charging, Amtrak needs more capacity to deal with the pent-up demand.

Bolwerk April 1, 2013 - 9:30 am

It shouldn’t be all that expensive to add capacity to turn trains somewhere else.

marv March 29, 2013 - 8:40 am

“I bet you could continue to tunnel right across Manhattan, under the East River, and terminate at Greenpoint Ave on the G Line”

if you did this, rather than terminate at the G, have the line split with half going north and serving Queens/Queens Blvd in a meaningful way, and half turning south into Brooklyn maybe even tying to either the fulton avenue or atlantic avenue lines giving them entry into manhattan.

Nyland8 March 29, 2013 - 9:04 am

Apropos of which, McGuinness Blvd. is wide enough to switch to Cut-and-Cover, and I don’t think it has the geological problems that C&C has in Manhattan. That would mean that going South, at least, becomes viable – and then eastward where the old freight ROW crosses the Newtown Creek.

Possibilities abound.

AG March 29, 2013 - 5:43 pm

“It’s time to abandon that old paradigm that tells us that we have to create yet another monumental edifice – just to satisfy some ego – or worse, some political agenda – on the backs of the rate payers and taxpayers. We don’t need more centralization in New York City – we need decentralization.”

and that’s what I plan to write to the MTA and more importantly the City Planning Commission.

AG March 29, 2013 - 5:39 pm

I agree 100%… in my own personal opinion though – this would not be the best use of scarce resources. if we had “monopoly money” then I would say “go right ahead”… but this is the real world.. and as you said – everything is stretched. Increasing capacity with the lowest cost should be what is studied.

Someone April 1, 2013 - 8:52 am

This is a load of shit. The arena should be removed sooner because as we all know, this building is an obstruction to adequate passenger flow around the station.

JJ April 1, 2013 - 11:46 am


Scott Stringer = Insane



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