It’s looking more and more likely that Madison Square Garden will receive a 15-year occupancy permit from the city with strict instructions to reach a compromise on the Penn Station problem. In a unanimous vote today, the City Planning Commission supported the 15-year permit with a small loophole and strict conditions to improve Penn Station or relocate the arena. Of course, future administrations could see fit in 15 years to further extend the permit, and the City Council still has to validate today’s vote. But for now, there is a groundswell of political support behind the move to address Penn Station’s capacity constraints.
During the CPC’s proceedings today, commission chair Amanda Burden spoke about her desired course of action. “I don’t think anyone would disagree that the best outcome for New York City would be a relocated Madison Square Garden and a rebuilt Penn Station,” she said. I, for one, do disagree. The best outcome would involve keeping MSG where it is and improving and reconstructing Penn Station for increased transit operations. Still, I won’t quibble with the vote.
Meanwhile, somehow, supports and opponents of the limited permit expressed disappointment. MSG wanted an unlimited right to use the space while the Municipal Arts Society wanted to force the issue in 10 years rather than 15. MAS also warned against a special provision that could allow MSG to stay put if it can reach an agreement, not subject to public review, with Amtrak, LIRR and NJ Transit for Penn Station improvements. The City Council will take up the issue within the next two months.