Transit Think Tank Says MSG Move Could Be a $5B Example of ‘Architects Run Wild’

Posted On Wed, April 27, 2016 By

Posted On Wed, April 27, 2016 By In Midtown West, Policy, Transportation, Urban Design

Rendering for a proposed new MSG by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Moving MSG to make room for a bigger, better Penn Station train hub would be really expensive and probably not a good idea, according to a new report by transit think tank Rudin Center for Transportation Policy. Commercial Observer reports that the just-released study outlines the concern that moving the arena would come with a price tag of over $5 billion, take, like, forever, and would generally “become an urban planner’s worst nightmare.” The study refers to the proposed overhaul of Pennsylvania Station and the idea of extending it to the post office off Eighth Avenue as well as suggestions by urban planners for relocating MSG.

ANDREW CUOMO, EMPIRE STATION COMPLEX, JAMES A. FARLEY POST OFFICE, MOYNIHAN STATION, PENN STATION
Rendering of Gov. Cuomo’s proposed Penn Station overhaul.

In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans for a $3 billion rehabilitation and extension plan for Penn Station, including renaming it Empire State Station Complex. Amtrak trains would be moved into the James A. Farley Post Office off Eighth Avenue, leaving 60,000 square feet in Penn Station free for retail, restaurants and other uses. The plan also involves relocating the Theater at Madison Square Garden to enlarge the entrance into the rail hub and bring in more light.

Mitchell Moss, head of the Rudin Center, dismissed civic groups “pining for a new version of the old Penn Station,” telling Commercial Observer they’re “pursuing a dream that is unlikely to ever be fulfilled,” and calling proposals for a new train hub “another example of architects run wild.”

Voices in favor of a new Penn Station similar to the one that was demolished in the 1960s have been advocating the relocation of the current 1968 version of the stadium. In 2013, the New York City Council only renewed MSG’s special permit at the current site for 10 years in hopes it would be relocated. As 6sqft previously reported, The Alliance for a New Penn Station, a coalition of the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Plan Association have proposed that MSG take up residency in the Morgan Post Office and Annex which runs from West 28th to West 30th Streets from Ninth to 10th Avenues. Moss believes recreating the old Penn Station’s spacious waiting area isn’t especially necessary given that the new Penn Station is more of a “place of quick transfers between subway lines, the Long Island Railroad and NJ Transit” rather than a landing point like Grand Central Station.

So what would cost so much and take so long–other than the overruns that plague every civic project? The new report finds the “frenzied development” currently in progress on Manhattan’s West Side would complicate the project, suggesting that land prices involved would also be costly; the report estimates the cost of acquisition at between $750 million and $800 million. Demo and construction costs for building a new MSG at that site would be at a minimum of $1.6 billion in 2016 currency. The study estimates that it would cost about $65 million just to demolish the existing MSG, which just got a $1 billion update in 2013.

Building a new Penn Station while keeping LIRR, NJ Transit and Amtrak running would cost upwards of $2 billion. And development of a new train station on the current MSG site would mean the demolition of Vornado Realty Trust’s Two Penn Plaza next door; that comes with its own $600 million price tag. Buying that building doesn’t seem like an option given Vornado’s recent announcement of plans to create a 4.2-million-square-foot complex on the site. Vornado executives have supported the state’s plans for upgrading Penn Station.

The report also suggests that if the MSG is moved west and south, big(ger) traffic snarls will ensue, suggesting that a longer distance from the subway (two blocks) will encourage sports fans and concert goers to drive rather than taking the subway.

[Via CO]

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