NYT to MSG: Get lost, we wanna rebuild our underground train station

This is really weird: The New York Times has an editorial today calling for New York City to refuse to renew Madison Square Garden’s lease zoning permit on the land atop Penn Station, which apparently expired in January. The argument: MSG is “bulky” and “drumlike” and is in the way of a grand renovation of Penn Station that nobody really wants to spend the money on anymore, but anyway, “The Garden has moved twice since its original location in Madison Square. It can move again.”

The Times does note in passing that MSG’s owners just spent about $1 billion on renovating the arena, and that “of course makes them less eager to move” — and then suggests that they instead be given a new 10-year lease, “and use the time to find a new home for the Garden.” Because it totally makes sense to tear down a building that just got $1 billion in upgrades so you can tear down something else and spend another $1 billion on a new one.

This smells like the Times is carrying water for someone, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out who. Old-time rail terminal fans who are holding out hope for the Moynihan Station plan? Developers hoping to revive some plan to do a giant development project on the site? And in any case, if you want the city to lean on MSG over something, why no mention of that perpetual property tax exemption they’re still getting? Very, very weird…


12 comments on “NYT to MSG: Get lost, we wanna rebuild our underground train station

  1. It almost feels like this is someone who hates the Dolans who came up with the seemingly genius idea to force them out of MSG, and the guy idiotically assumes the Rangers and Knicks would share the Barclays Center with the Nets and Islanders, when we all know that will never happen, and the end result will be an ungodly expensive arena that screws New York out of a ton of money, and never pays off the renovation for MSG.

  2. I think that the Dolans need to get out of there some time soon for their own good. Even post-renovation the Garden is inferior to Barclays Center in every way except possibly ambiance. Maybe the Dolans are eyeing a new property already and are hoping to carry their property tax break to a new location.

  3. We can argue about the merits of MSG vs. Barclays — as meh as I find the former, I still think it’s head and shoulders above the latter — but if there’s one clear advantage that MSG has, it’s location. Do you really think there’s a more lucrative site to have an arena that on top of the biggest, most centrally located transit hub in the city?

  4. Hard to take seriously an aging media dinosaur in it’s death throes that lashes out with an Bloomberg style ego-massaging tome that is just more of the same-old from that source.

  5. Among other reasons (increased competition, etc.) renovating MSG with a expiring lease was clearly done by the Dolan’s as away to get the city to renew the lease as they have requested (without the renovation there would be no reason for MSG to stay at its present location).

    Knowing the Dolan’s if the city does force them to move they would want to keep both the property tax exemption as well as receive tax breaks and other incentives far in excess of the costs of the renovation.

    Will a new city administration really force this issue or will the Dolan’s use their considerable lobbying skills (as was shown during the West Side stadium controversy) to prevent it?

    I would bet on the latter.

  6. The Dolans’ lobbying skills in the West Side stadium situation only worked on the state level. Not sure they’d be as successful on the city council, especially if whoever is mayor is opposed to them. (Not that I have any sense who will be mayor, let alone what they think of the Dolans.)

  7. I am not a fan of Cablevision, but if the City really wanted to deny them a new lease, the powers that be should have announced it several years ago, before they started (Let alone completed) the renovation. As far as any new train station is concerned, if you look at the time and cost of Fulton St and East Side Access you have to ask yourself why?

  8. From what I understand, the revocation of the tax exemption has been discussed, but the New York State Assembly gets the final say on that issue, not the city. As a matter of fact, the City Council voted to deny the Dolans the abatement in 2008, but the state overruled them.

    Was it just coincidence that renovations were done just as the special permit was about to run out? Was the expiration date some carefully guarded secret that was denied the Dolans, and was only revealed now, after they spent serious dime on MSG? If it weren’t for the permit renewal, the Dolans would not have spent anything on MSG. They are hoping that money is reason enough to grant their request to get a permit renewal in perpetuity. It stinks to high heaven.

    Moynihan Station, if it ever gets built, is really only meant to siphon off Amtrak passengers from Penn Station. That constitutes only 5% of the total daily passengers using the current station. Since the current MSG was built over what is left of Penn Station, the number of passengers using the station each day has more than trebled(200,000/day in 1963 vs. 620,000/day now), and continues to grow.

    Currently, the worst of all possible worlds exists – NYC has a sh*tbox that rests on top of a rats’ nest.

  9. Looks like it’s actually a “zoning permit” (which appears to be a kind of zoning variance) that expired, not a lease:

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/madison-square-garden-permit-lapsed-faces-new-planning-pressure/

  10. This may shed some light on the situation: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/municipal-art-society-applauds-manhattan-borough-president-2013-03-27

  11. Agreed, MAS (and the Regional Plan Association) seems to be pushing this. Still wondering if there’s a developer angle, too, though — MAS is well respected, but I wouldn’t think it has the pull to get a Times editorial all by itself.

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