The New York city council had a busy day yesterday, both approving the expansion of the U.S. Tennis Association’s plan to expand its site in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and then voting to limit Madison Square Garden’s operating permit atop Penn Station to ten more years.
Tennis first: The USTA had already moved to placate parkgoers angry about private buildings constantly getting built in their park by offering up 1.56 acres of its own land (okay, really parkland that it was previously occupying) in exchange for taking up 0.68 new acres. What sealed the deal, though, was apparently the association’s agreement to provide $10 million toward creating a parks conservancy group, thus assuaging complaints that the U.S. Open was raking in tons of money for the tennis center without the surrounding park getting any benefit.
That done, the council moved on to the MSG operating permit, which is a sort-of-not-quite lease that allows the home of the Knicks and Rangers to sit atop the underground Penn Station, which is owned by the city. The City Planning Commission had previously recommended a 15-year extension for the Garden, but the council, under current mayoral frontrunner thanks to the guy with the sexting problem still having a sexting problem Christine Quinn, downgraded that to a mere decade:
The Garden has argued time and again that there is no money and no plan for the station trapped beneath it and that previous attempts to move the arena failed because of the intransigence of the various parties involved. Ms. Quinn insisted this was no excuse and maintained that a deal would be reached.
“This is enough time to create and implement a plan for the future of the site and the area,” Ms. Quinn said a press conference prior to the council’s vote. When asked by a reporter what would happen if a deal was not reached in the next decade, the speaker responded, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Of course, just because the council voted on something doesn’t mean it can’t revote to reverse itself and grant another extension if it looks like a new arena isn’t forthcoming. (Nobody genuinely thinks New York City is going to just evict the Knicks and Rangers and force them to play in the street. Though that’d actually be kinda cool.) But if nothing else, this certainly seems to be Quinn laying down the gauntlet that she wants to make building a new arena to make way for a new above-ground Penn Station a centerpiece of mayoralty, if she gets there. Which seems like kind of a waste given that the old Garden just got $1 billion worth of renovations, not to mention that the designs submitted for a new Penn Station aren’t exactly, you know, Penn Station.
But there’s still plenty of time to work all that out — after all, ten years is a lifetime in arena years these days. In the meantime, if nothing else, Quinn probably just won herself the mayoral endorsement of the Regional Plan Association.