Home Penn Station What the City Council vote means for Penn Station and MSG

What the City Council vote means for Penn Station and MSG

by Benjamin Kabak

The Garden will loom over Penn Station for at least another ten years.

The lengthy ULURP process for Madison Square Garden came to an end yesterday with the promise of only a decade more for the aging arena. With various civic groups advocating for a new Penn Station, the City Council voted yesterday to extend MSG’s operating permit for only another ten years as the city’s effort to reconstruct and reimagine Penn Station is now on the clock. Despite the overall coverage of the vote, it’s not a death penalty for the World’s Most Famous Arena.

By a vote of 47-1, the City Council did not, as the Daily News says in its headline, vote to move Madison Square Garden in ten years, and neither, as Gothamist claimed in a tweet, was the Garden “basically evicted.” Rather, the City Council has said that it wants to see what can happen to the spot. The various stakeholders — MSG, Amtrak, the MTA, New Jersey Transit, the City of New York, the States of New York and New Jersey and the federal government — now have ten years to develop a plan for a new Penn Station and find a new location for the Garden. If they don’t succeed, the Garden can and will apply for another permit extension in 2023.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has requested a task force be set up to plan out the next decade and hailed the vote — one she was instrumental in securing — as a good launching point. “This is the first step in finding a new home for Madison Square Garden and building a new Penn Station that is as great as New York and suitable for the 21st century,” she said. “This is an opportunity to reimagine and redevelop Penn Station as a world-class transportation destination.”

The Garden issued a more muted statement. “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,” a company statement said. “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.”

Of course, the $1 billion investment is nearly besides the point. If the Garden has to move in ten years, MSG will have recouped these expenditures, and the Garden will be 55 years old by the time 2023 rolls around. It’s not nearly as onerous a future as the arena’s proponents have made it to be, but should we even expect that future to come to pass?

As we sit here in mid-2013, it’s tough to see a plan for Penn Station that would involve a resolution within the next decade. The train station’s stakeholders will first have to come to an agreement on their next steps, conduct various environmental reviews and secure funding. MSG’s owners will have to identify a new location for an arena that is as prime as its current spot and proceed through formal reviews as well. For the train station, as I’ve written in the past, expanding transit access — and not just constructing a pleasant building — has to take centerstage, and with space in Manahttan at a premium, a plan to move the Garden, forced or otherwise, has to be developed.

So no, this isn’t a death sentence for the Garden, and the Knicks won’t find themselves homeless in ten years without an arena to host them. Rather, it’s a challenge to everyone clamoring for a solution to the Penn Station problem: Work together, figure out a fix and find some funding. Ten years should be ample time, but then again, the MTA released the FEIS for the East Side Access project in early 2001. Nothing this expansive gets done in New York within ten years. So in a decade, the Garden can come back to the City Council for another extension, and the World’s Most Famous Arena will continue to dominate the discussion surrounding the one of the world’s most depressing train station.

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Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 12:35 pm

You summed it up perfectly.

And since we all know there’s no way there will be a plan in place – all of this means nothing.

Nets Cowbell Guy July 25, 2013 - 12:37 pm

I honestly don’t see Madison Square Garden moving from it’s current location in 10 years. Considering how easy it is to access it via Subway, LIRR, NJ Transit & Amtrak, there will be a massive fight to keep it there. Dolan could end up forcing the city to pay for a new arena after the massive renovations. The city also risks the Knicks & Rangers threatening to leave NY, which would upset millions of people in the area.

Benjamin Kabak July 25, 2013 - 12:39 pm

Even if MSG has to relocate, there’s no better market for the Knicks or Rangers than New York City. Any threat to move the teams would be a transparently idle one.

llqbtt July 25, 2013 - 1:49 pm

Yes, they could move the The Swamp, but haven’t 2 teams recently left there for greener pastures?

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:03 pm

One only needs to look at the transformation of the Nets to see how much being in NYC benefits a sports team. MSG has no leverage on their end.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 3:07 pm

The City also doesnt want to lose them.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:14 pm

My point is MSG doesn’t want to lose the city more than the city doesn’t want to lose MSG.

MSG in NJ will be no different than a Prudential Center or Izod. You think they’d do it?

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 3:26 pm

of course they’re not going to NJ.

but they won’t go anywhere else in the city unless it has similar transit availability and they’re properly compensated for moving.

The idea that the City is ready to waste that kind of $ for a pretty train station is mind boggling.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:29 pm

If you look at most of the “concepts” for building out a new Penn Station they are all tied with other real estate developments on that lot. Obviously the city isn’t going to pay for rebuilding the station by itself.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 3:36 pm

and none of them had any ideas for MSG – other than it would not be there – none of them were engineers – just architects making pretty pictures.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:48 pm


Here’s how it’ll go:
1) A real estate developer is going to come up with a plan to develop Penn Station and the air rights on top of it.
2) That developer will gain full support of the city council who wants Penn Station to expand
3) The developer will come up with a location to build a new MSG, perhaps a large lot that they own or plan to own somewhere on Manhattan and start negotiations with Dolan
4) Dolan will have no leverage because his permit is going to expire and the full weight of the city government is going to be against him.

Don’t think it’s realistic? Think again. This exact scenario happened in 2006 when Vornado/Related came close to doing something similar. The space right on top of Penn is the most valuable real estate property on Manhattan. There WILL be a plan.

Karm July 25, 2013 - 3:55 pm

Jeff – except that there is potentially a glut in office space that will be need to pay for this with Hudson Yards – WTC – midtown east rezoning. That Vornado plan would have failed because everyone was “high” on the over-heated economy. They even changed their minds on demolishing the Hotel Pennsylvania because they realize it wouldn’t be worth it to try to build more office space. Instead they are renovating it. Also – if a real estate scheme couldn’t make the much cheaper Farley Post Office plan work – how do you think this will? Point is – none of us know – so don’t be too sure.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:35 pm

You can’t overbuild Farley because it’s a landmark. That makes all the difference.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:02 pm

The city definitely has a few tools in hand, such as eminent domain, if the will is there to move the arena. When it comes down to a private interest vs public, the public is going to win out in the end. MSG has to work it out with the city just as much as the reverse. NYC is not in the business of subsidizing sports owners anymore.

After all, the city doesn’t need MSG to be there. There is much better use of Midtown real estates than a sports arena.

Karm July 25, 2013 - 3:58 pm

eminent domain means the city will be paying at least $2billion to the Dolans in today’s money…. can you imagine 10 years??? They own the arena and land.
Btw – what better use is there in midtown? More skyscrapers with chain stores replacing the small business owners still there?

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:35 pm

Wrong. The Dolans do not own the land, Amtrak does (Amtrak got the land from Penn Central via Conrail). The Dolans own strictly air rights and the building.

The city would get back far more than $2 billion in the profits from reselling the air rights for the second and higher stories. A new Penn Station would take up the ground level and the levels below. It would, logically, have a giant skyscraper stacked on top of it.

But with better column placement. MSG is particularly heavy on columns due to its design, which creates a lot of problems for Penn Station. Modern arenas don’t require so many giant columns, actually.

AG July 25, 2013 - 11:43 pm

Nathanael – that is an absolute pipe dream to think air rights will pay for anywhere near the total cost even for just the arena. This will cost LOADS of taxpayer dollars to complete the entire project.

Nathanael July 28, 2013 - 6:40 pm

The arena has a value of $0 once the special-use permit expires.

What the Dolans have then, is air rights. The air rights are expensive, but can be resold for pretty much exactly what they cost to buy from the Dolans.

Of course the cost of *actually constructing* a new Penn Station is a whole ‘nother matter and will cost loads of taxpayer dollars.

But the money paid to the Dolans will NOT come from taxpayer dollars, it’ll come from reselling what was bought from the Dolans, namely air rights.

AG July 29, 2013 - 4:42 pm

Nathaneal – Zero dollar value???? that would be a major lawsuit – which would prboably result a loss for the city (if they are crazy enough to try that) or every arena and stadiu in the city that operates with that permit would have to be valued at zero. That case would go all the way to the court of appeals.

Shabazz July 25, 2013 - 7:44 pm

How would Dolan “force” the city to pay for the new arena? The Rangers and Knicks leave??? for where??? NYC is the best market there is.

Also building a new arena wouldn’t be a bad business deal.

Nets Cowbell Guy July 25, 2013 - 8:30 pm

If the City won’t fund the arena, the team could threaten to leave. It happened with the Sonics/Thunder
I’m against taxpayer funds paying for arenas. Owners can afford high salaries for players, so they can afford to build expensive arenas

Nets Cowbell Guy July 25, 2013 - 8:32 pm

Also, Sacramento Kings & Sacramento have been fighting over an arena deal for years

AG July 26, 2013 - 12:07 am

well really – the city has no choice to pay for it since they are trying to evict them from the site by refusing a permit. The city doesn’t own the arena – the team does.

Nathanael July 28, 2013 - 6:41 pm

Not the way it works. The arena exists on suffrance. If the permit is denied, the developer gets zilcho, nada, nothing in compensation. He was not entitled to assume that the city would grant the permit.

AG July 29, 2013 - 4:50 pm

i’m sorry but that’s not how property laws work. if that was the case no facilities for major sports would be be built. any lawyer have way worth his money would argue that if all other stadiums and arenas get that permit with basically no time limit – MSG gets to stay or will have to get compensated at full market value (and probably cost of moving).

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 8:41 pm

he’d force them to pay for a new arena by paying him for the arena they want to tear down.

Walt Gekko July 25, 2013 - 12:44 pm

It was previously suggested in articles I’ve read to move MSG to a location bordering 9th-10th Avenues and 28th-30th Streets, a parcel that from my understanding is expected to be vacated in the next decade (please correct me if I’m wrong on that).

What the $1 billion renovation did was buy the Dolans time to seriously look at locations for and properly building a new Madison Square Garden. Moving to 9th-10th Avenues and 28th-30th streets would give the Dolans more space than the current MSG (which already is the oldest active arena in use by the NHL and will become the oldest in use by the NBA when the Golden State Warriors move to a new arena in San Francisco in a couple of years) has, The current building is already 45 years old (already around longer than the “old” MSG) and even with the renovations currently being done probably can’t last more than another 15-20 years without it becoming cheaper to build a new building. Such a building could be built much higher than the old one with the intention of it being able to seat 30-35,000 for basketball, enough to put it in contention to host the Final Four and ACC Basketball tournaments without being in a domed stadium.

It also needs to be remember that besides the railroad needing the money back when it razed the old Penn Station for the current MSG and 2 Penn Plaza, the old MSG on 8th-9th Avenues and 49th-50th Streets was RAPIDLY becoming obsolete, never mind the fact people living in the ‘burbs didn’t want to go to that Garden. While it could have lived on for another 15 years or so as mainly a concert venue (with capacity reduced to 12-13,000) and when needed a backup building for NBA and NHL playoff games, the old MSG was cramped and would have been needed to replaced anyway by the mid-to-late 1970s because it was too cramped. For that Garden to survive, it would have needed to have been re-built across 48th-51st Streets on 8th-9th Avenues in what was it’s form (expanding seating to around 21,500 for basketball in a less cramped environment) to survive. What the current MSG did do was probably help reduce crime in the 1970s and ’80s because the old Penn Station, based on what I’ve seen could have become a haven for crime and drug dealers and made the area much more dangerous than it was back then.

That said, if MSG did eventually move, I would re-build the old Penn Station on a smaller scale to allow daylight but ALSO allow for office or residential buildings to be built on top of it. The existing entrances on 7th Avenue/32nd Street and 34th Street/West of 7th Avenue would be kept as would 2 Penn Plaza as I would do it. The grand entrance of a new Penn Station would be on 8th Avenue as opposed to 7th Avenue.

That to me is how I would handle this. A new MSG likely will have to happen at some point but the renovations did buy the Dolans the 10 years to get a new building off the ground. By the time a new MSG opened, the current facility will be 55-60 years old and by then likely would need to be replaced anyway.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 12:48 pm

I don’t think you realize how extensive the MSG renovations were – its essentially a completely new building within the exterior walls and under the same roof.

They tore out everything.

It wasn’t built for a lifespan of just 10 years.

Walt Gekko July 25, 2013 - 12:55 pm

Actually, in this era, 10-15 years sounds about right.

Keep in mind, you had buildings like the Miami Arena and Charlotte Coliseum that were not even open 20 years before they were torn down because they rapidly became obsolete. MSG is already the oldest active arena in the NHL and will be in the NBA in a couple of years. Yes, they did a ton of renovations, but 10-15 years from now, there likely is going to be a prime opportunity to move MSG to 9th-10th Avenues and 28th-30th Streets. Such likely also would mean an additional station on the (7) at 11th Avenue and 28th-30th Street to accommodate Garden traffic as well if MSG moves there, plus with a possible exit of Moynahan station at 31st Street and 9th Avenue, if you make the main entrance the northeast one on 9th Avenue and 30th Street, that means a one-block walk outside, which is manageable even in bad weather.

They likely are looking at ANOTHER renovation of MSG in 15 years or so anyway, so by then it may be time to do this.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 1:01 pm

They became obsolete because they were built without proper private suits and ways to make big $. They decided it made more sense to build new instead of renovate.

MSG had that problem too – they renovated in the early 90s (but nowhere near to the scale of the most recent renovations).

Karm July 25, 2013 - 4:03 pm

you compare Miami Arena and Charlotte Coliseum to MSG??? Even this old pre-renovated was the busiest arena. History matters a lot in sports and concerts… Carnegie Hall is still kicking.

llqbtt July 25, 2013 - 1:53 pm

Don’t worry about them, by then they will have raised cable rates by a good 200%-300% in their monopolistic cable territory to cover any shortfalls.

Josh July 25, 2013 - 6:35 pm

If the Dolans had a lifespan of longer than 10 years in mind when they planned and executed these renovations, they probably should’ve gotten their occupancy permit taken care of beforehand instead of simply assuming they’d get what they want.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 6:43 pm

the occupancy variance permit was for 50 years from when it first broke ground in 1964 and it requires a special committee to even address it – so they had to wait until it was almost up.

(and this has actually been in the works for a while – City Planning recommended a 15 year permit a few months back).

They knew if the city was going to try and move them – the city would have to pay for it.

They own the buildings – and the City approved the renovations….

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:31 pm

That’s what we call a “minor renovation”. They didn’t touch the structural side of the building, *Which is what has to be torn out*.

Spiderpig July 25, 2013 - 12:59 pm

As a Rangers fan, I am more interested in MSG than Penn Station. How do you see a new building fitting over 30,000 people for basketball when the largest currently in the US, which I think is the United Center, fits 23,000 when including standing room?

Walt Gekko July 25, 2013 - 1:20 pm

Bulding it taller for one. A new MSG is going to have a full avenue block instead of three-fifths of one and also can be taller to both bring in extra seating for events like the final four and ACC Tournament while also hosting bigger concerts and the like as well. If done right, such could also have office space and other businesses like the third MSG (49th-50th) had.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 1:09 pm

Also – you’re idea of needing more space for a bigger basketball arena is ridiculous. MSG is what it is on reputation and can get the big events and charge 10x what other places can for tickets (and sell them)

If you overbuild – you kill the supply/demand balance.

Walt Gekko July 25, 2013 - 1:52 pm

For the NCAA Tournament (which is the main reason for doing such), you need a 30-35,000 seat capacity for basketball. That will be the one way MSG has the chance competing with the domed stadiums to handle the NCAA Men’s Final Four, an event that would bring tons to the New York economy. In fact, the Final Four could even wind up a permanent fixture in a new MSG that seats 35,000 for basketball because the broadcast partners would love having the Final Four actually being played in NYC. MSG also would be likely to book bigger artists for concerts, including such that otherwise would be in MetLIfe Stadium because 35-40,000 for a concert in a new MSG would work for such.

And ticket demand for sporting events seems to keep on growing, especially for the NBA and NHL (for which in a new MSG you’d be likely looking at capacity between 28-32,000). 30-35,000 for basketball, especially if it lands MSG the Final Four would be about right for this era.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 3:05 pm


Karm July 25, 2013 - 4:06 pm

MSG had the NIT tournament so it wouldn’t host a Final Four… not to mention it was always took booked with other events. The Final Four will go to Barclay’s eventually… but I doubt MSG.
Btw – no way will a 30-35k sports arena be built. That dilutes the market… The trend is less seats anyway and more profitable luxury boxes (especially in baseball stadiums).

Walt Gekko July 26, 2013 - 12:33 am


The NCAA runs both its own tournament and the NIT (preseason and postseason) now. The main purpose of a new MSG seating 30-35,000 is to be in the regular rotation for the Final Four and Regionals of the NCAAs, plus also land the ACC Tournament (letting the Big East Tourney go to Barclays, Prudential or The Meadowlands) that would easily fill a 35,000-seat MSG for four and possibly five nights every year. If the broadcast partners wanted the NCAA Tourney in a new MSG every year as part of a condition of a new contract, then the NCAA would have to put the tourney there.

Don’t forget that concerts are also a big revenue maker for arenas, and some artists would have no problems selling out a new MSG that actually could have a capacity of 40,000 for concerts. That as much as sports is a HUGE moneymaker for arenas now.

Biggest benefit of a new MSG regardless of size would be an almost-certain extension of the (7) further down 11th Avenue to 28th-30th Streets with a new station there. A new MSG could also spur an extension of the (L) going up 10th Avenue that some of us have discussed on other boards that I would have going as far as 72nd/Broadway that also would likely force the 41st/10th station on the (7) to be built since that can be a major transfer point between an extended (L) and (7).

AG July 26, 2013 - 8:56 pm

How many 35-40k seat arenas are there???? that is not favorable any arena owner. Stadiums and arenas are different. I think MSG knew their business considering prior to the renovations they were the busiest arena. The Barclay’s is brand new and they seat less than MSG. I’m sorry – but the #’s don’t go along with your theory.

Spiderpig July 25, 2013 - 4:06 pm

Alright, you’ve finally lost me by proving your ignorance on the sports side of this matter. The Final Four is not going to be held in the same location every year. Those two event dates are piss in the ocean considering how many events are booked for MSG every year (not withstanding summer construction). It would be a bigger deal for an arena that doesn’t have three permanent tenants (ahem..Barclays) and few free dates aside from blocking out NBA and NHL playoff time. And I’d like you to try to design that large of a basketball arena with decent sightlines for the 30,000 seats. You can’t just build taller if people can’t see anything. Wouldn’t they need the new arena to be wider in both directions, anyway, necessitating three street blocks rather than two?

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 4:15 pm

thanks for explaining it better than me – i went blind with rage.

Walt Gekko July 26, 2013 - 12:39 am

Maybe not now, but if whoever is the broadcast partner for the NCAA wanted the tournament in a new MSG every year by the time a new MSG is built, then that would be the case.

As noted above, the main purposes of an new, expanded MSG would be to land the NCAA Tournament (regionals and/or final four) in regular rotation plus the ACC Tournament (letting the Big East go elsewhere) on an every year basis (and yes, the ACC Tourney would fill an expanded MSG for five days and nights or eight sessions) and concerts that could hold 40,000 or so.

Nyland8 July 25, 2013 - 8:16 pm

I’ve already attended a Final Four held at MSG – in the late 90’s. Whatever you think its limitations are, it didn’t prevent that from happening.

AG July 25, 2013 - 11:41 pm


how is that possible you went to the Final Four at MSG in the 90’s?
in any event – it’s the regionals returning after decades away – but not the Final Four.

Walt Gekko July 26, 2013 - 12:47 am

That is this year. The reason the NCAA Tournament has never previously been played in the current MSG (and except for 1964 has not been played in any incarnation of MSG since the ’50s) has to I believe do with the CCNY scandal of 1950. From what I remember reading in a blurb in the NY Daily News around the time The Meadowlands hosted the 1996 Final Four, there were people who were involved with the NCAA who for years threatened to boycott ALL of college sports if the NCAA ever played Tournament games in MSG because of their memories of that scandal being that deep. Obviously, most of those people, if not all are no longer with us or those who are (or their descendants) finally dropped any objections to playing tournament games in MSG to allow this to happen.

AG July 26, 2013 - 8:58 pm

The Meadowlands are not MSG… and that scandal hasn’t been the reason in a very very very long time. Scheduling is the answer. MSG was too busy and too expensive.

Nyland8 July 28, 2013 - 10:02 pm

My mistake. It was an NIT Tournament Final Four – not an NCAA.

AG July 29, 2013 - 4:55 pm

yeah – MSG was the home of the NIT

alen July 25, 2013 - 1:11 pm

i don’t see a new MSG next to housing projects and building over that park that takes up a block

Walt Gekko July 25, 2013 - 2:16 pm

It would NOT be over the park. It would be in place of buildings that run from 28th-30th and 9th-10th Avenues that are expected to be vacated in the next decade. It would be close enough to Penn Station to do this, with the side benefit of a likely additional station on the (7) from 28th-30th on 11th Avenue (or even with new construction for one on 10th Avenue) mainly for Garden traffic.

D.R. Graham July 25, 2013 - 5:33 pm

The MTA is not going to build a station in what they currently have built as valuable tail tracks unless someone comes up with the money asking them to do so. Just like the MTA has set it up where it’s going to have to be the city that pays for a 41st St/10 Ave station.

Joseph Steindam July 25, 2013 - 11:56 pm

For added context, the site Walt is suggesting is the Morgan Processing Facility of the USPS. This is the post office facility that operations from Farley were transferred to after the processing facilities from Farley were decommissioned. The USPS has consolidated other operations from around the city into Morgan. The facility is two buildings connected by a skybridge over 29th Street: the 30th Street building is from the 1930’s and has Manhattan’s largest rooftop garden, the 29th Street building annex was constructed in the 1990’s.

Contrary to other statements, the plans put forward by MAS did propose sites for a new MSG (it was a requirement of the design challenge). SHoP Architects proposed the Morgan site for a new MSG, which used an extension of the High Line to bring patrons back to Penn Station (the 30th Street spur on the High Line once connected into the Morgan Facility). DSR proposed siting MSG in the Farley Building; H3 Hardy chose a site on a pier in the Hudson; SOM suggested a site on 8th Ave south of Farley.

As for making an arena with 30-35,000 seats, for the purpose of attracting the NCAA Finals, that seems like a farfetched proposal. Since 1997, the Final Four has been hosted in domed stadiums in order to accommodate over 70,000 in attendance for those games. An enlarged MSG would not accommodate half the people the NCAA wants at the Final Four. The opportunity for NYC to host the Final Four likely went south when the West Side Stadium died, and when Metlife Stadium was built without a roof.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 12:45 pm

The people pushing for a new Penn Station want something pretty… This can be accomplished if the agencies actually got together and properly renovated the existing space above the tracks (instead of running their own areas separately – which is the prime reason for the mess we have today down there).

You can increase the space if you move Amtrak to Farley across the street – win/win for everyone – they want the tourists to get a nice thing to look at when coming into NY? give them that – and the people who use LIRR/NJT every day and don’t care about a pretty building but want a functional station get the extra space to get one.

Now – for the people who want a pretty building as well as a pretty station inside – well those people can screw off – WHO’S PAYING FOR IT?

Chris C July 25, 2013 - 2:21 pm

Average daily passenger / train numbers

Amtrak – 26k on 85 departures
LIRR – 231k on 212 departures
NJT – 80k on 164 departures

(all from the wiki page on Penn Station)

Moving Amtrak won’t free up that much space in the scheme of things.

Plus one of the main issue for Penn is the limit on train movements caused by the tunnels into/out of it.

Moving Amtrak to Farley won’t free up space in the tunnels to allow more services (though it would free up some platforms in Penn which would obviously help)

Has any one looked at passenger and train numbers numbers once the ESA has opened and a chunk of LIRR trains and passengers move to GCT and how that would affect numbers at Penn and what then could be done to improve facilities

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 2:47 pm

I didn’t mean train space – I means actual physical space above the platforms.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 2:48 pm

none of this really has anything to do with train capacity – the people leading this charge are the art people.

(thats the whole problem here)

Shabazz July 25, 2013 - 7:53 pm

This isn’t just about train capacity. People spend alot of time in Penn station waiting for trains as well. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize those who want one of the most utilized public spaces in the city, to be more functional and aesthetically pleasing as “art people”

Alon Levy July 25, 2013 - 5:06 pm

Amtrak – 26k on 85 departures
LIRR – 231k on 212 departures
NJT – 80k on 164 departures

The LIRR and Amtrak numbers include both disembarkings and boardings, NJT only boardings.

And don’t forget the subway, with 170k boardings between the two stations.

Josh July 25, 2013 - 6:43 pm

Aren’t the subway boardings in large part duplicative of Amtrak and LIRR disembarkings (and of NJT disembarkings, though they aren’t included in those NJT numbers)? What I mean is, you can probably call the Amtrak and LIRR and NJT numbers 231 + (80*2) + 26 = 397k unique visits per day, but you can’t add the subway numbers because they’re largely the same people.

Alon Levy July 26, 2013 - 11:42 am

They are largely the same people, yes. So what? Those people manage to make perfectly good use of two four-track subway stations; why do they need more than what Penn already offers?

Josh July 25, 2013 - 6:44 pm

The disconnect between NJT and LIRR and Amtrak is why it’s so confusing to navigate, but IMO that’s largely a separate issue from the aesthetics; it’s just ugly because it’s ugly.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:28 pm

“You can increase the space if you move Amtrak to Farley across the street –”

That’s an OK idea, but it actually costs more than knocking down MSG and rebuilding Penn.

A lot more.

Spiderpig July 25, 2013 - 12:45 pm

SANITY! And not just click-bait.

Drew July 25, 2013 - 12:46 pm

Solid read. This is my first time visiting the site, and I must say Ben it looks awfully similar to one of my favorite Yankee blogs. I wonder if there is going to be a hat countdown over here too?

Benjamin Kabak July 25, 2013 - 12:50 pm

I have learned my lesson when it comes to betting on eating inedible things.

Phil July 25, 2013 - 12:54 pm

At the very least this is a step in the right direction. Maybe MSG and some other developers/investors will get some sort of sweet deal for a new arena, who knows?

When I used to use Penn daily I often wished it was something like it once was. But I have to agree with what Ben has been saying, its really the tracks, layout, and train capacity that should get fixed.

JJJJ July 25, 2013 - 12:58 pm

Send the teams to Newark. Has its very own Penn station for accessibility via transit.

Spiderpig July 25, 2013 - 1:01 pm

Troll, troll, troll your boat.

JJJJ July 25, 2013 - 2:38 pm

Im dead serious. Nobody needs some game were men stand around and handle a ball for an hour taking up such prime space.

Karm July 25, 2013 - 4:09 pm

except those games generate billions of dollars in economic activity every year… which is why everyone competes to get them.

Alon Levy July 25, 2013 - 5:10 pm

They generate less economic activity than anything else that could use the same space. Cities compete to get them because of the prestige of having a white elephant sports stadium. If we’re subsidizing people’s hobby, I want a functional gaming space right on top of Penn Station, including cheap crash space for con attendees.

Bolwerk July 25, 2013 - 5:41 pm

How about an abandoned station and a multi-monitor setup to play OpenTTD?

Alex B. July 25, 2013 - 5:47 pm

The key difference here is that MSG owns the arena. They have certain property rights.

If the powers that be really want to move the arena, they have two basic options:

1) buy them out
2) build them a new arena and lure them away

Either option will involve spending a great deal of public cash.

There was an opportunity to get MSG involved as a willing partner, but that was before they dropped a billion dollars into renovating the arena they own.

Ten years from now, if the city wants to try and quasi-evict MSG by denying them a permit to operate (again, in a facility that they own outright), I suspect they’d better put their lawyer pants on.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:26 pm

The Dolans don’t really have meaningful property rights. Not if the true landowner (Amtrak is the actual landowner) and the city team up.

It’s not that hard to reclaim air rights by eminent domain. It’s not even that *expensive*.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 9:29 pm

and where do you get this fantasy that it wouldn’t cost much?

Alex B. July 26, 2013 - 9:40 am

Nobody is suggesting that it couldn’t be done, just that it would be expensive.

And you’re not just acquiring the air rights, you’re acquiring the real property built within those air rights – namely, the arena.

Nathanael July 28, 2013 - 6:42 pm

That’s not technically real property, that’s chattel….
anyway…. with the special use permit expired, it’s worth scrap value. Not very expensive.

Nathanael July 28, 2013 - 6:43 pm

(“fixtures” really technically)

Bolwerk July 28, 2013 - 11:49 pm

It’s technically an improvement to real property, utilizing the air rights to the real property.

(Though, many sources seem to count the buildings themselves as “real property” too.)

Eric July 26, 2013 - 6:00 am

It’s a LOT of people’s hobby. The economic value in dollars is pretty small, but the cultural value – measured for example by pages in the newspaper – is immense. When I see a reporter writing about your gaming, then I’ll start pushing for a gaming center at Penn Station.

Alon Levy July 26, 2013 - 11:46 am

A large majority of people in the US do not watch sports. Same as with gaming. It’s just a cultural bias saying some hobbies are mainstream and acceptable and others are weird.

And you’ll be surprised how much reporting gaming can generate. A lot of it is negative and uninformed, but occasionally you do see pieces like how Boston’s becoming a geek capital naming all the local conventions, or how some celebs are or were video game addicts.

AG July 26, 2013 - 9:05 pm

“A large majority of people in the US do not watch sports.” were you being sarcastic right???

so you think networks and advertisers spend many billions each year to televise sports because only a minority of the population watches them????
where do you many billions in sports merchandise spending come from?

why are ticket prices for professional sports so high??

Talk of gaming (which is a cancer to society) – do all the billions spent on sports gaming come from ppl who don’t watch???

Bolwerk July 26, 2013 - 12:31 pm

I wouldn’t put much stock in that either though. Newspapers are still controlled by stodgy older types who came of age in the postwar era. The lower-level journalists are younger, but the readers might be older. And of course the people who watch TV a lot like sports, because the people who watch TV a lot are mostly stupid.

Concur with Alon though. I betcha the majority of sports fans and gamers alike are males between 18-45, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the gamers outnumber the sports fans, and probably have higher average IQs because gaming has wider appeal, at least within that demographic.

Alon Levy July 26, 2013 - 2:28 pm

You’ll be surprised how low some gamers’ IQs can be.

(For the record, my little corner of gaming has about a 50-50 gender breakdown.)

Bolwerk July 28, 2013 - 11:53 pm

Incredibly low, but the distribution is probably more respectable for gaming than for watching sports. A gamer friend of mine said something to the effect that gamers getting dumber has turned production away from games involving puzzles and toward winning depending more on chance.

And not everyone who likes sports is dumb either, but probably most. Gotta wonder what it’s like in Korea, where there is a market for watching gamers play games….

AG July 29, 2013 - 5:04 pm

interestingly – sports games are year after year among the best selling videogames…. and franchises are among the most lucrative in the gaming industry.

Alon Levy July 29, 2013 - 7:03 pm

The best-selling sport game is FIFA, rather than any provincial US sport. I await the calls to subsidize soccer stadiums in the centers of American cities on the grounds that Everyone Likes Soccer.

AG July 29, 2013 - 7:18 pm

That has already happened…. matter of fact even last week it was announced that a new stadium for DC United will be built in the district basically 50/50 between the city and the team/league.

That said you sure FIFA is #1 in the US…? I’d think Madden Football or NBA 2K… or one of the popular racing series (yes racing is a spectator sport). Without question I don’t doubt FIFA or Pro-Evolution Soccer is #1 worldwide.

Bolwerk July 25, 2013 - 3:53 pm

JJJJ has a point. It’s basically the same game no matter what side of the river it’s on. I don’t know about Newark, but marginal parts The Bronx or Queens would be fine. It’s not like people don’t go to Citi FieldShea Stadium.

lawhawk July 25, 2013 - 4:02 pm

The Rock is a great place to watch sports, but the Devils are already there, and I don’t see them sharing space with the Rangers. They’re not going to Brooklyn either, not with the Nets and Islanders both committed to playing there. They might use the IZOD in the Meadowlands as an interim solution if MSG is torn down to rebuild/relocate but that’s not a permanent solution for them.

Dolan’s going to find somewhere in NYC if he can’t stay in the current iteration of MSG. He’s not going elsewhere. The Knicks and Rangers are both tied to MSG – and Manhattan.

That means considering other locations to re-site MSG or reworking the layout of MSG to accomplish the multiple and divergent goals of a new and improved transit hub, office tower, and modern arena with all the amenities (including lots of suites).

Bolwerk July 25, 2013 - 5:29 pm

Well, I’m not saying they should be kicked out of Manhattan, but I don’t see why the government should be trying to keep them in Manhattan either.

That said, I’m pretty ambivalent about the idea of replacing MSG too.

David Brown July 25, 2013 - 4:51 pm

10 years or even 5 years is an eternity. No one knows what the economy and political situation will be in 2018? Not to mention finding a location for another MSG ( obviously the NIMBY’s oops Interest Groups/Community Boards) are going to have something to say about it), and of course, who will pay for it, and what will be the cost. I am someone who thinks this is a mistake, and it will be about Art and NOT Transit ( and we are already seeing what that means with the Downtown PATH Station). As for Christine Quinn, I am not sure anyone ( even John Liu, Al Sharpton or Charles Barron ) could be worse as a Mayor, with her lack of vision and leadership. This clown who wants to create some kind of the Original Penn Station, 10 years ( or more) down the line and pushes
ferries and busses yet talks zero about perhaps the single worst subway station in New York that is less than 100 feet from City Hall ( also known as Chambers Street). She gives me the opinion that East Side Access and the PATH Station will be bargains compared to the price tag for this.

Spiderpig July 25, 2013 - 1:00 pm

What’s going to happen to Elmo?

llqbtt July 25, 2013 - 1:57 pm

Which reminds that the theater in there is cramped and crappy. I saw a show there and couldn’t see the stage well because the ceiling was so low. Goo riddance to that place!

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 1:04 pm

So has anyone bothered to figure out what happens to 2 Penn Plaza?

BoerumHillScott July 25, 2013 - 2:01 pm

Most of the plans seem to ignore 2 Penn Plaza, which is a large and pretty much fully leased building still in great shape.
It will not just disappear, at least not without an extra billion or two.

Walt Gekko July 25, 2013 - 2:30 pm

My plan for rebuilding Penn Station would keep 2 Penn Plaza as is and build a smaller version of the old Penn Station (with light, but also being able to build new buildings on top as needed) with the grand entrance on 8th Avenue from 31st-33rd Street. The existing entrances on 7th Avenue/32nd and on 34th Street would remain as is with this.

Karm July 25, 2013 - 4:11 pm

you can do your idea even cheaper if you want light… LED’s can be used to mimic natural light very effectively. Then the REAL important parts of the scheduling issues with Penn could be addressed.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 4:18 pm

the problem is the people here at the City Council talking about “rebuilding Penn Station” just want a pretty station to look at and show off – train scheduling is something most of them don’t comprehend – they just think they can add trains if needed.

Walt Gekko July 26, 2013 - 12:50 am

That I agree with, but there are still a lot of people (mostly now in their 60s and 70s) who still remember the old station and likely are behind wanting a rebuilt version of the old one started before they die. Many of them still lament the old station being torn down even if the current MSG has actually been on the site longer than where it had previously been, and want to see a new one there in the worst way.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:24 pm

Meh. Office buildings are oversupplied.

I really think the future plan will be
(1) knock down the existing buildings
(2) Build a new, spacious station which goes up to the ground floor
(3) Overbuild a gigantic office building or perhaps even an arena (though not a round arena like MSG).

The income from the new overbuild building will pay for getting rid of the old buildings, easily, so you’re just left with the costs of rebuilding the train station (which are substantial, certainly).

Eric July 26, 2013 - 6:03 am

So make it a mixed-use building. There may be an oversupply of office space, but there’s an undersupply of housing.

Spendmore Wastemore July 25, 2013 - 1:07 pm

My impression is the Ben does not feel a completely new Penn Station is worth the massive cost. Here’s one of the few cases where I disagree; while the downtown PATH cash incinerator was a historic waste, Penn is so bad it has a negative value. It’s a miserable, hard to navigate, depressing hole.

Compare it to GCT – GC is easy to use, holds some actually useful retail, and a makes you feel just slightly less like a cube farm prisoner. It’s a modest relief, repeated about 400 times per year. Compare that to claustrophobic subterranean insult of the new Penn at the start and end of every working day and it adds up to a bit of lost productivity and surliness on arrival back home.

Let’s say Penn is 50 cents negative value per passage (that’s low, I’d pay a dollar to avoid it) and GCT has 50 cents positive value. 400 transits/year x millions of commuters plus tourists x a dollar net per trip that’s worth a several billion every year.

Erik July 25, 2013 - 1:37 pm

I agree with this sentiment. For the short period of time when I commuted from Long Island, it was the least favorite part of my day. And that was back in 1999. These days it’s so much more crowded that when I go there at rush hour I get claustrophobic. Quite a contrast to when I have to got through GCT at rush hour.

I’m curious to see what the ridership statistics come out to be once East Side Access for LIRR is open. I wonder how many Long Islanders will unexpectedly go out of their way to go to GCT instead of Penn?

If there were a mirror of the Broadway subway line that ran diagonally from GCT down and across to Chelsea (forming a bit “X” with the Broadway line) I think GCT would suck up most of Penn’s ridership that worked outside of the immediate area. Penn is lucky that it’s a slightly more convenient transit hub.

Josh July 25, 2013 - 6:54 pm

I’m confused, how would GCT “suck up [] Penn’s ridership”? Regardless of what the subway situation is, if you’re commuting from/to NJ or Long Island pre-East Side Access or taking Amtrak, you can’t just choose GCT. East Side Access will induce a lot of LIRR riders to choose GCT, sure, but not the ones who work on the West Side, and there’s still all the NJT commuters.

Alon Levy July 25, 2013 - 5:12 pm

Fine. Let’s start by making Times Square pretty. Same number of transit users, equally confusing and labyrinthine.

Bolwerk July 25, 2013 - 5:30 pm

We can make Penn pretty. Let’s just stick New Jersey and Long Island with the bill.

Alex B. July 25, 2013 - 1:30 pm

Of course, the $1 billion investment is nearly besides the point. If the Garden has to move in ten years, MSG will have recouped these expenditures, and the Garden will be 55 years old by the time 2023 rolls around. It’s not nearly as onerous a future as the arena’s proponents have made it to be, but should we even expect that future to come to pass?

This still does not change the fundamental economics of the move from MSG’s perspective.

If the city wants MSG to move, they will have to make it financially viable (read: lucrative) for MSG to do so. MSG owns their arena, they own the air rights. That leaves the city with the option of buying them out (at great expense) or luring them out with the promise of a new arena on a new site (also at great expense).

The city can try to use the permit issue as leverage, but that leverage is limited. If they don’t resolve this in ten years, MSG will apply for a new permit and the city can deny it, risking a court battle that could result in the claim that the denial of the operating permit is a taking (hence: great expense).

The common thread here is that all of the options that move MSG will cost a lot of money.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 2:56 pm

Wait, the city is not obliged to issue a permit to MSG to operate. They can sue all they want ten years from now but the city is well within their legal bounds by not renewing a permit.

MSG is a private business – THEY are the ones who need to work this out when the city doesn’t want to, not the other way around. They have way more to lose by not being able to operate.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 2:58 pm

The permit isn’t even an operations permit – its a variance that allows them to exceed occupancy as allowed by the zoning.

If 10 years from now there’s no plan and the City even thinks about not renewing it – they’re just idiots.

Walt Gekko July 25, 2013 - 3:04 pm

Given there is a parcel from 28th-30th and 9th-10th Avenues that is widely expected to open up in the next decade, the Dolans may have no choice but to move MSG there so those (especially older people who still remember the old Penn Station from their youth) who want the old Penn Station rebuilt (or as I would do it, a smaller version of the old one with 2 Penn Plaza and existing entrances on 7th Avenue remaining as is with the grand entrance on 8th Avenue) and may be behind this.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 3:06 pm

picking a spot away from all the subways would be a really stupid place to put an arena.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:17 pm

Not if they have no other choice.

When/if they have to choose between picking a spot in Manhattan with a small walk to the nearest subway and picking a spot in the outer boroughs or New Jersey I think they will pick the former.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 3:37 pm

it’s going to cost a lot of $ to convince them – they own their building.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:50 pm

Eminent Domain.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 4:00 pm

and who’s taking it? the City? the State? and who’s going to compensate MSG?

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 4:01 pm

and you’re ok with billions of public $ being wsated on this?

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:19 pm

It will cost nothing in the long run.

MSG controls air rights only. The City can buy those out with eminent domain… and after building a new, more usable Penn Station, resell the air rights to the second story and up, for pretty much the same amount as they paid for them.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 9:20 pm

They want to build a pretty building like grand central – not build on top of it again.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:21 pm

Incidentally, the value of the arena is tied to the permit, which NYC can cancel whenever its term comes up (it is not a vested property right). Once the permit is cancelled, the building — which has no architectural merit — will be cheap. The air rights will cost money, but that will be recovered by reselling most of them afterwards.

Alex B. July 26, 2013 - 9:42 am

And you don’t think there wouldn’t be a huge legal battle over the city lowering the value of the property by denying the permit without any grounds to do so, and then taking the property through eminent domain?


Bolwerk July 26, 2013 - 12:32 pm

Alex: I don’t know enough to confirm or deny what Nathanael is saying overall, but I’m pretty sure the city can reject the permit for any reason it wants.

AG July 26, 2013 - 9:18 pm

all sports arenas have the same type of permit… so the city can get sued.

Nathanael July 28, 2013 - 6:45 pm

It’s true that the Dolans could, and probably would, file a meritless and frivolous lawsuit.

But they knew that the permit was going to expire. And the city has very good reasons not to renew the permit. They have zero vested rights in the permit, and they built a building based on a temporary permit *at their own risk*. They have no right to be compensated.

Just like a leaseholder has no right to be compensated when his lease expires and he’s kicked out. Sure, his property value just dropped, but he has absolutely no right to be compensated, because he knew it was going to happen going into the lease.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:10 pm

The media is reporting it as a special permit to operate.

But MSG isn’t operating without “zoning variance”, so its the same either way.

The point is that the city has a lot more leverage than people seem to think, IF they come up with a plan and the MSG refuses to oblige.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 3:12 pm

The media is also reporting that the City is evicting the Knicks and Rangers from a building they own themselves…. 10 years and they’re out.
Don’t expect them to get details right…

Let’s just say I have my doubts there will be a plan.

Jeff July 25, 2013 - 3:20 pm

The city had a plan to move the MSG and build a new Penn Station (and office towers on top) a mere 5 years ago that was actually pretty close. It fell through due to the financial crisis, but don’t underestimate real estates interests and their ability to come up with something when there is an opportunity like this one.

Alex B. July 25, 2013 - 4:00 pm

They would need grounds to deny the permit, however.

If they want to take MSG through eminent domain, that’s fine – but that means buying MSG out.

That’s the whole point of my comment: MSG owns the arena. If you want them to move, it’s going to cost money to make it happen.

Using eminent domain costs money. Assembling another lucrative site nearby to lure them away costs money. If the city tries to do an end-run around eminent domain by simply denying them a permit to operate without any grounds, they’ll likely face some legal consequences.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:18 pm

Eminent domain is cheap when you can resell the property afterwards. MSG has air rights only. Issue bonds, buy them out, rebuild the train station, resell the air rights. Yes, pushing the air rights up one story will reduce their value, but not by very much.

Nathanael July 28, 2013 - 6:47 pm

Grounds to deny the permit:
– This area is needed for transportation services and cannot accomodate the additional crowds generated by sporting events.


Alex B. July 29, 2013 - 11:47 am

That’s grounds to take the property via eminent domain. It is not grounds to deny the right to reasonably use that property as an end-run around eminent domain.

Any way you slice it, the city needs MSG not just to stop operating, but to be torn down and redeveloped. And any tear-down will require MSG to move. Any move will require fair compensation for their property.

The idea that the city could force down the value of the property via arbitrary denial of the permit and then take the property through eminent domain is likely illegal and would certainly trigger a court challenge – and no, such a challenge would not be frivolous.

Point being, there are lots of scenarios where MSG moves off of Penn Station – and they’re all very expensive, as they all require fair compenstation for the value of MSG’s property.

AG July 29, 2013 - 5:07 pm

yeah – I’m not sure where he gets the idea they could just de-value the property like that… when other sports facilities operate on the same permit.
The Planning Commission knew it too… that’s why they originally wanted a 15 year limit with the option for MSG agree to make changes to Penn that would allow them to stay. Quinn and Stringer decided to play hardball and change it to 10 with no provision… no doubt because it’s an election year!! Withing 10 years – neither will be in office (I wouldn’t vote for any) – so they don’t care if the city is left with “egg on it’s face” if no money is found (let along potential lawsuit from MSG).

Karm July 25, 2013 - 4:15 pm

yup – big waste of money… it’s what politicians and grand architects do best.
Penn is ugly – SO WHAT? They could find ways to through run and even make all the interior more pleasing. When Amtrak leaves they can make that some nice pretty space they clamor for… instead of this wildly expensive scheme that doesn’t address the real problems.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:17 pm

Amtrak isn’t going anywhere. In fact, Amtrak *has* to be in Penn Station. Amtrak and NJT.

LIRR could be moved without significant impact. Of course, LIRR acts the most entitled and whiny.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 9:19 pm

Amtrak looks to be going across the street to Farley.

and LIRR could be moved? what? where?

Alon Levy July 26, 2013 - 11:51 am

Why can the LIRR be moved more easily than NJT?

Nathanael July 28, 2013 - 6:46 pm

Uh, because they just built a giant LIRR terminal under Grand Central Station for a very large amount of money.

Eric F July 25, 2013 - 1:42 pm

How would you get a re-location of MSG past the local community board in the new neighborhood? Seems fanciful to me. If MSG weren’t already in Manhattan, it’d be hard to imagine that putting an arena in central Manhattan would possibly pass all the regulatory and environmental standards and reviews that we now have.

Could MSG stay and the adjacent theater move? That would free up space over the Penn entry hall. Maybe in exchange for that compromise, MSG could stay and keep it’s tax exemption for additional years.

I’ve been to MSG with phase 2 of the 3 phase renovation completed. It’s better, but MSG can’t hold a candle to the Pru Center or Barclays, or, for that matter, any new minor league hockey arena. MSG has always struck me as a claustrophobia-inducing dump, that has an oversized place in the world’s imagination only because of it’s location. If MSG were located in Cleveland, it’d be a laughingstock.

BoerumHillScott July 25, 2013 - 1:55 pm

It could be done like Barclays – make it a state project and ignore the complaints from the neibhorhood.

Eric F July 25, 2013 - 2:29 pm

The analog to Barclays would have been building over the west side yards, but that’s been taken care of.

Bolwerk July 25, 2013 - 2:35 pm

BoerumHillScott is right though. The can pretty well ignore the lesser agencies of government that it has the right to create and destroy.

It’s why it’s relatively easy to open a bar. The state says the liquor authority has to take the community board under advisement, but it is free to ignore the advice.

Bolwerk July 25, 2013 - 3:20 pm

The ^state

BoerumHillScott July 25, 2013 - 3:14 pm

Barclays is only half over the yards were.
The rest was private land that the state purchased, either direct from the landowners or through eminent domain.
In additional, Barclays did not have to follow NYC land use reviews or obey zoning, since it was a state sponsored project.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:37 pm

Forget the city; the state government is eventually going to demand that MSG be removed so that Penn can be rebuilt. They use Penn to get from Albany to NYC, remember….

Karm July 25, 2013 - 4:18 pm

MSG is not what it is because of it’s location actually… if things like “The Fight of the Century” or even the first Wrestlemania took place in Cleveland – it would be just as storied. Woodstock is way out in the sticks of the Hudson Valley… it’s venerated because of what happened there.

Joseph Steindam July 26, 2013 - 12:12 am

As part of the ULURP, CB2 was the first body to recommend the 10-year extension for MSG, and suggested that it was open to MSG moving elsewhere within the CB district to a new site. But I’d agree with your assessment that if there weren’t already a sports arena in Midtown, the CB wouldn’t be as supportive of an arena moving in.

As for just eliminating the arena, before the battle for the 10-year permit, some of the smaller scale plans being proposed involved removing the theater to all for a larger ground floor presence for Penn Station, especially on the 8th Avenue side, which would allow offices and some operations to move off the basement levels, opening up the concourses to accommodate more travelers. But now that we’re talking about tearing the whole building down, I don’t think anyone’s considering just removing the theater at MSG. I do agree that it’d be a happy middle ground of sorts, provided the concourses are redone to the 9’s. Those who are trying to actually provide more space at the track level, who seem to be a smaller voice compared to those advocating for a new stationhouse, would still argue for moving MSG entirely.

Peter July 25, 2013 - 3:07 pm

I think the best place to relocate MSG is clearly the plan that was tantalizingly floated a few years ago: move it one avenue block west onto the Farley site. The transit access is still excellent. You’re further from the Seventh Ave line, but so what? Ten years from now, with the Hudson Yards development in full swing, the far west side won’t be the wasteland it is today.

The idea of moving Amtrak to the Farley site has always been a boondoggle. Those plans should be reconsidered and Amtrak’s operations should continue to be integrated with the LIRR and NJT in a redeveloped Penn Station on the current site. Ben’s right that the new station needn’t be a majestic edifice. What’s needed is to improve the track and platform configurations, provide bigger waiting areas and better passenger circulation, and bring in natural light.

The new station will be integrated with new office, residential and retail development on the site — development that the owners of MSG will have a share in. That should be enticement enough for them to relocate. Development atop such a large transit hub would be a goldmine. A retail/restaurant component in the station complex would also capture business from the pre- and post-game crowds at the arena — I’m talking about something a lot nicer than the nasty mall food court atmosphere that exists at today’s Penn.

You’d provide robust underground connections between the retail/station complex and the arena across Ninth Avenue, making it easy for arena-goers to access transit without mixing with street-level traffic.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 3:19 pm

Farley is still right above the penn station tracks – the amtrak platforms already run under 8th avenue and under Farley.

The only way you can completely reconfigure the tracks and platforms is completely shutting down the station.
That will never happen.

However – redoing the concourse levels would go a long way to alleviate the mess that mess Penn Station (at least what many perceive the mess to be)

http://jasongibbs.com/pennstation/ just look at this basic layout…….. NJ Transit has no space, and LIRR is a maze disaster.

New development around a new arena means absolutely nothing if it isnt close enough to transit.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:15 pm

If you remove MSG from on top of the tracks, you could reconfigure the tracks and platforms 2 at a time (either starting at the N end or at the S end). Farley has a LOT fewer pillars than MSG.

Josh July 25, 2013 - 7:02 pm

The Farley Post Office is a landmark; is it possible to site an arena there within the constraints of that status? Seems a lot more feasible to put a train station in there to my lay viewpoint.

Phantom July 25, 2013 - 11:37 pm

Farley should be de-landmarked then.

Its a nice building, but a proper NY Penn Station is much more important than keeping that building.

Josh July 26, 2013 - 11:34 am

“de-landmark[ing]” a hundred-year-old building (that’s, let’s be honest, pretty beautiful) and tearing it down seems like something that’s easy to say on a blog but incredibly difficult politically, especially if they could rework the inside to make a navigable station without tearing down the outside. Building a new beautiful facade is not what the city or state or MTA or whoever else needs to be spending scarce money on right now.

Howard July 25, 2013 - 4:46 pm

They should build something like the train station near the trade centre.

Berk32 July 25, 2013 - 4:53 pm


D.R. Graham July 25, 2013 - 5:51 pm

I’m going to say it flat out. S***w the Dolans and MSG!

The Dolans do the same thing with their real estate that they’ve been doing with their sports franchises. Placing horrible bets!

Let’s take a trip back to the 90s. Guliani came up with this grand plan for the Yankees and however I was against because it involved building a new Yankee Stadium in Manhattan in the Hudson Yards area. Along side the new stadium Guliani wanted to build a new arena obviously for the Knicks and Rangers. Those plans ever panned out because they were based on the George Steinbrenner demanding a new stadium away from the Bronx and Guliani would’ve bent over backwards for them if he could. Glad that didn’t work out.

But that lead to last decade. Bloomberg then picked up the flag but with a different vision. Brand new stadium to host the Olympics and in turn be the new home for the Jets after the Olympics. Now granted I didn’t care for the Olympics coming to NYC, but the Jets…yes. Not just bias because of being a fan but because a stadium like that was going to draw in more than just football. Many other sports and convention events times 10. Coincidentally around the same time or sometime before or after this Moynihan Station first popped up on the radar with the city offering MSG to move to the back side of the post office with actual stadium renderings for a very state of the art facility! We all know what happened in the former. The Dolans fought Bloomberg, the Jets and the NFL with every lobbyist under the sun to get the West Side Stadium killed.

As recently as three years ago the city made its last offer for the Dolans to move MSG and they turned it down and doubled down on not moving with a $1 billion dollar bet renovating MSG currently…

These are the same Dolans who could have instead of fighting the Jets, jumped on board and split the profits of a facility that would have generated both franchises great deals of money hand over fist! And instead of taking other offers to move they doubled down…

Sympathy is something I don’t have for them because just like they couldn’t see the future with their sports franchises they couldn’t see it in real estate. As far as I’m concerned someone should build them a floating arena on the Hudson River and tie it to a nearby pier with some rope with hopes that the place don’t float away into the Atlantic where it belongs.

AG July 26, 2013 - 12:20 am

A lot of fallacies in your argument… for one thing the reason the west side stadium was killed had absolutely nothing to do with MSG… and if you think they fought against the NFL do you think the NFL would reward them by letting them host the draft for so many years since….????

Also – the Dolans did NOT turn down the move… they were signed on… but ultimately a deal with all the interests involved never worked… Being a business they could not sit around and wait.
The Dolans ruined by beloved Knicks – so I’m not sympathetic to them… but from a taxpayer standpoint – this idea is less than half baked. There are MANY things that could be done with the money it will take to accomplish this “vision”. Things that would improve transit rather than give some designers/architects/politicians a signature project to say they were a part of.

Walt Gekko July 26, 2013 - 12:57 am


The Dolans didn’t want the West Side Stadium because they were afraid it would have killed MSG’s concert business. Concerts are a BIG part of revenue for MSG, which is why if a new one is built, I’d be looking to build one that would seat 35-40,000 for concerts (and 30-35,000 for basketball as noted above).

AG July 26, 2013 - 8:59 pm

80k seat stadiums don’t make for good concert venues… which is why they are fairly rare.

D.R. Graham July 26, 2013 - 9:45 pm

You’re right but as someone who is familiar with the complex they were going to build only half of the seats would’ve been used for concerts. The facility was to be built as a multipurpose facility with adjustable seating arrangements. That scared the hell out of the Dolans but as I said above. Instead of fighting it they could have cut a deal to be apart of it but they as they currently still don’t, never saw themselves needing to move no matter how many times a different mayor or organization tried to get them to move.

AG July 27, 2013 - 12:18 pm

Where does the false impressions come from?? To the dismay of fans – they WERE going to move!! They were part of the deal to let Vornado build new skyscrapers on the Penn Station site and they were going to move to the back of the Farley Post Office – with Amtrak also getting a new station at Farley. Those plans fell apart because there wasn’t enough money. So they decided to renovate in place. There is no difference now… where is the money going to come from for a now even more expensive project??
Even Vornado decided not to tear down the Hotel Pennsylvania (also part of the plan)… but instead just renovate.

As to the first point – adjustable seating spaces are not good for intimacy and sound quality.

D.R. Graham July 26, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Fallacies? I personally followed that battle quote for quote as it took place between 2003-2004 where it eventually died altogether at the hands of the Public Authorities Control Board. You can follow this piece I’m posting for you below to learn what I was already aware of:

Public opinion was mixed. Some citizens of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were in favor of the stadium because they wanted the 2012 Summer Olympics to be held in New York City. In order to host the Olympics, cities typically must build modern stadiums and prove to the International Olympic Committee that they have the resources to support the event.
Many Manhattan and West Side residents did not want the inconvenience, traffic congestion and resource drain that they believed the Olympics would bring to the already overcrowded city. The New York Daily News reported that 59% of New Yorkers were not in favor of holding the Olympics in New York at all. In December 2004, the commuter advocacy groups Straphangers Campaign and Tri-State Transportation Campaign filed a lawsuit which challenged the city’s estimate that 70% of stadium patrons would use mass transit or arrive on foot instead of driving.[3] Many Jets fans wanted the stadium built, no matter what the cost.
The stadium was also notably opposed by Cablevision, the sixth-largest cable television company in the United States and the owner of Madison Square Garden (MSG)—home to the New York Knicks and New York Rangers—and the MSG Network, which broadcasts most of those teams’ games. A major new sports venue, particularly one on the West Side of Manhattan where MSG is located, would compete directly with MSG and thereby hamper the older venue’s ability to secure concerts and other events. Cablevision went so far as to make a $600 million offer to redevelop the stadium site for housing and office space, and joined another lawsuit alleging that the city’s environmental study was inaccurate. Cablevision’s stance against the stadium proposal was cited as “a factor”[4] in the NFL moving its 2005 college player draft away from Cablevision-owned Theater at Madison Square Garden to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, ending a 10-year run of the event at MSG.[5] (The NFL moved the Draft to another Cablevision-controlled property, Radio City Music Hall, in 2006.)”


Very much far from fallacies.

Walt Gekko July 26, 2013 - 4:34 pm

That is true, but Cablevision had a very valid point. Concert business is HUGE for MSG, and with a much larger venue a short distance away, it would have taken a serious bite out of that.

That said, in the end, everything worked out for the best. The Jets joined the Giants in building what is now MetLife Stadium and neither team is dealing with serious stadium debt issues, which both probably would have if the Jets had built their West Side Stadium (the Giants were going to build a new stadium regardless).

AG July 26, 2013 - 9:17 pm

I answered the concert part on another comment.

As to the Giants and Jets… that’s because it’s the state of New Jersey that owns the MetLife… not the teams. They pay rent to NJ. The west side Jets stadium would have been partly taxpayer funded – so it’s definitely good for us that it didn’t get built. Hudson Yards will pay off for us now.

D.R. Graham July 26, 2013 - 10:02 pm


The State of NJ only owns the stadium on paper per the terms of the lease agreement between the teams and the state which is set at 25 years with the option to extend all the way up to 97 years. Also with an opt-out option for one of the teams once every five years beginning in the 15th year of the lease where if one team does opt-out the other team must remain for the rest of the lease term.

The stadium is the only and most expensive privately funded stadium in all of the US at $1.6 billion part of that funding came from the NFL at $300 million. The rest came from the teams and part of the funds are still being paid for today by what we call PSLs. The only thing the teams are paying to NJ is rent/taxes for the property they are using for the stadium and parking.

AG July 27, 2013 - 12:31 pm

“owned on paper” shows something there is wrong. in any event – still doesn’t refute anything I said. MSG owns the arena and the teams that play in them. It’s not the same.
and the west side Jets stadium most surely required taxpayer money – so I’m glad they are across the river. Football stadiums are not good investments… which I guess why the NFL had to kick in $300mil in Jersey(didn’t know that part).

AG July 26, 2013 - 9:13 pm

the grounds they opposed it was that it would ruin the area… stadiums and arenas don’t compete head to head.
and MSG actually runs Radio City Music Hall (where the draft is held now)… and I’m pretty sure the NFL knows that. Either the NFL is dumb or they got over it quick.

D.R. Graham July 26, 2013 - 10:04 pm

The NFL got over it plus the Jacob Javits Convention center was no place to host a draft for any reason. The NFL Draft is considered a prestigious event each year and Radio City Music Hall is the only facility of it’s kind in NY that satisfies the NFL’s requirements for the event.

AG July 27, 2013 - 12:34 pm

yeah? what are the requirements? what was wrong with Javits? why not Carnegie Hall?
Why not at the Met Life stadium?

point is that it was folly to say there was some grudge. MSG runs Radio City.

D.R. Graham July 28, 2013 - 1:00 am

Once again there was a grudge and the NFL got over it rather quickly. The NFL Draft is a formal setting event for the league. Javits is not that. MetLife is not that and MetLife is an open air stadium and the draft is hel at the time of year where weather can be iffy. Radio City has more seats than Carnegie period.

You still missed the point. In the year 2005 the NFL Draft was moved to Javits because of MSG’s lobbying against the building of a West Side stadium. Once again they go over it quickly and moved it back the next year. No one is disputing what MSG owns. That’s clearly acknowledged and is specifically the reason why it ended up in Javits that year, because MSG owns Radio City.

AG July 28, 2013 - 3:07 pm

You consider the NFL draft formal???? How so? just because the draftees wear suits???? it’s far from formal.
Again – did the NFL tell you that’s why they moved it to the Javits that year???

Nyland8 July 25, 2013 - 8:27 pm

Well … the point may be moot. The projections for revisiting the MSG rights puts it a few years after the next great economic collapse, after which there may be no such thing as professional sports as we know it.

OR … since the Pennsylvania Rail Road disappeared generations ago, and the Penn Central decades ago, there’s no reason to even name the new permutation “Penn Station”. Sell the naming rights to the highest bidder and let them pay for re-moving MSG.


Larry Littlefield July 25, 2013 - 9:11 pm

“Of course, the $1 billion investment is nearly besides the point. If the Garden has to move in ten years, MSG will have recouped these expenditures.”

I think you are way off on that one. Perhaps in 20 or 30 years. In fact, that number is so high I wonder if it is accurate. Does MSG really net that much that it could amortize that much over even 20 or 30 years? What did Barclay’s Center cost to build from scratch? $350 million?

And there really is no alternative site without massive public subsidy and eminent domain.

BoerumHillScott July 26, 2013 - 10:39 am

Barclays was closer to $1 billion, depenging on how you count the site work and transit connection.

John Doe July 26, 2013 - 10:57 am

We can put a man on the Moon but can’t find a solution for the Penn Station/MSG debacle??? Boy do i hate meddling humans…demolish this monstrosity once and for all!

Sanders July 26, 2013 - 11:51 am

H3, one of the teams that worked on solving the problem of Penn Station and MSG, had the smartest solution for MSG:

Move it to the far West Side, on a pier next to Javits.

This would:
1. Give MSG as much space as it possibly could want to build a world-class, (really) world-reknowned arena that makes a major impression.
2. With the 7 Line Extension, Ferries, and a new elevated bikeway the “Water Line”, provide a multitude of transit options from NYC, NJ, and directly from Penn Station.
3. Create a great pedestrian circle that connects major tourist attractions on 34th Street/42nd Street.
4. Allow NYC to finally host major conferences for the first time.
Neither the Morgan mail facility nor the Farley building will allow MSG to have the facilities it needs to be a world-class arena. We need something new. New York City makes really big, crazy ideas happen. Think of Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Battery Park City, even Barclay’s. Our best public spaces began as outlandish ideas!

AG July 26, 2013 - 9:09 pm

MSG is already world renowned…moreso than any arena – even though it looks “ugly”.

Again – even if the Dolans decided too move tomorrow… there is no money to build the new Penn these ppl want. Energy is better spent on other ideas.

Btw – “conferences”? I’ll assume you mean conventions…. If you do you should know that is a decling business sector.

D.R. Graham July 26, 2013 - 9:40 pm

It is but not necessarily for major cities like NYC. If NYC actually had a larger facility with actual transit access within the CBD then the convention business would thrive in this town. Other smaller cities, I can’t say per say.

I agree it’s a declining business but it’s also a temperamental business. Sad to say but so many planets have to line up far too often for their sake.

AG July 27, 2013 - 12:13 pm

Chicago is the #2 biz hub… and their huge facility is mostly empty.

Las Vegas and Orlando are the convention hubs because they are cheap… and don’t have real winters. Even their convention biz has been in real decline.

NY gets plenty of convention biz… but much of it is niche. The only shows that NY could possibly host with a bigger building would be maybe E3 and Consumer Electronics Show. Building a much much larger facility isn’t worth it.

What NYC does well with is hosting product launches… which we see almost every week (both LG and Samsung launched new phones here in the last week). Real big money makers like Fashion week also don’t need huge convention facilities.

Nathanael July 28, 2013 - 6:50 pm

Money is a matter of the mind. If we can get the federal government under control, we can print it and spend it.

The feds spend printed money on the completely useless and counterproductive Department of Defense and Homeland Security, like drunken sailors. There’s no reason not to spend printed money on something which is actually useful.

Yeah, there’s not gonna be a new Penn Station built until the federal or state government decides it’s worth spending the money on it. It’s true that the city doesn’t have the money to build anything.


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