April 5, 2013
New York, NY – Calling for an ambitious Moynihan-Penn Station Master Plan to spur economic development and transportation growth, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) recommendations that would limit Madison Square Garden’s special-use permit to ten years, rather than “in perpetuity.”
“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,” the 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,” he added, noting that the station’s daily use has more than tripled since the Garden was originally approved in its current location, with more than 640,000 riders — well over 100% of its capacity.
A key to improving Penn Station’s capacity is expansion at the track level–where the narrowness of the platforms limits the number of trains that can service the station at one time, causing delays for passengers and transit agencies alike. Unfortunately, the Borough President noted, improvements on the track level are limited by the existence of Madison Square Garden, since support columns for the arena run through Penn Station to its track level. In order to reconfigure and widen the platforms, the columns would have to be moved, which cannot feasibly be done with Madison Square Garden sitting above.
Penn Station’s utilization is expected to rise dramatically over the next decade. A number of new regional transportation plans are currently underway, including East Side Access, a potential Metro-North Train expansion to the west side, the Gateway tunnel project and extension of the 7 Line. All will add dramatically to the number of travelers who pass through Penn Station each day.
Borough President Stringer recommended a conditional disapproval of Madison Square Garden’s requested special permit to operate the arena “in perpetuity,” recommending instead a ten-year limit. The arena’s extreme proximity to Penn Station means that it needs special consideration. The permit requires that “due consideration be given to the proximity of mass transit,” a standard the Garden would nominally meet elsewhere in Midtown. But the Borough President found that in this unique instance – where the proximity of the arena is so close as to stifle growth of Penn Station—that a time limit was both justifiable and in the best interest of the city and the region.