Governor Andrew Cuomo’s grand $51bn plan for Manhattan Midtown West is facing fierce opposition from local politicians and community groups. “The current proposal by the Empire State Development Corporation falls on its face at the first step, as the proposal has no vision for the area or the future,” said Jeffrey LeFrancois, First Vice Chair of Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4). “And is a real estate development plan, not a transportation plan.”
In a letter to the Governor over the weekend, local politicians added to the voice of the community. “We cannot have a plan for the area around Penn Station and not have a clear understanding, let alone agreement, on what happens to Penn Station,” said the letter signed by Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, New York State Senators Brad Hoylman and Robert Jackson, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. All are members of the Empire Station Complex Community Advisory Committee.
The scheme is being seen as a move to demolish six blocks around Penn Station and build 10 skyscrapers without a city review or transportation plan. Locals believe the plan is being driven by the interests of developers and is not focused on creating a world class transport hub for New York.
In a joint statement from the chairs of Manhattan Community Board 4 and 5 today, there was a request to “hit pause” on the development. “It is time for a better Penn Station. New York City deserves a world class, intermodal transportation center. Our communities are eager to improve Penn Station and we want to do it right,” said Lowell Kern (MCB4) and Layla Law-Gisiko (MCB5) in the statement. “Unfortunately, the plan introduced by the Empire State Development Corporation at the height of the pandemic has nothing to do with Penn Station or infrastructure. Rather, it is a real estate development packaged as a ‘transportation’ project.”
If the current plan goes ahead, Touro College, The Hotel Pennsylvania and St. John the Baptist Church would all be demolished.
Some of the proposed towers are so-called “supertalls” of up to 1,300 feet that would block views of the Empire State Building and cast large shadows over much of midtown.
“The ‘Complex’ would cause myriad adverse impacts: from sidewalk overcrowding, shadows, and the demolition of entire city blocks, to the obstruction of views of the Empire State Building. The state treats these issues as if they are a ripple in the midst of a tsunami of development. They are fully aware of all the impacts, yet they propose no mitigation,” said Kern and Law-Gisiko.
LeFrancois warned at the MCB4 Executive Committee last week that If the plan moves forward: “It will only make the area more dangerous, crowded, and we could add the Empire Station Complex plan to the list of planning failures for the city and the state.”
There will be a Public Hearing on May 12, 5-8pm.