Local Council Member Erik Bottcher has reignited conversations around moving Madison Square Garden to Hudson Yards, as developers, community board members and other local leaders eagerly monitor the soon-approaching expiration of the megaplex’s Midtown permit amid staunch resistance from owner James Dolan.

Erik Bottcher Hudson Yards MSG
City Council Member Erik Bottcher has expressed hopes that MSG could move West to Hudson Yards. Photo montage: Phil O’Brien & Ajay Suresh/Wikipedia

Madison Square Garden, frequently known as MSG, has enjoyed a 40-plus year existence atop Penn Station that includes a $43 million a year tax abatement, something that owner James Dolan and MSG execs are fighting to maintain in perpetuity after the organization’s current 10-year special permit with the city expires in July.  

This week, District 3 City Council Member Bottcher renewed his position that MSG should relocate, saying that moving the venue would be beneficial to the Midtown West community and city at large. “If we can move Madison Square Garden to the Western Rail Yard, we will get a world-class arena and a world-class train station. It will be a win-win for the people of New York,” he told Eyewitness News.

Some advocates argue that moving the arena to the undeveloped second phase of Hudson Yards, which sits between W30th Street and W34th Street and 11/12th Avenues, would bring expanded revenue to the neighborhood through a state-of-the-art arena, make up for low office capacities that have dimmed developers’ initial visions for the area and make room for expansion and repairs at Penn Station. Infrastructure, land use and urban improvement advocacy group ReThinkNYC recently told Hell Gate that while they were exploring multiple suggestions for an MSG move — including the site of the old Gimbel’s Department store across from Macy’s on W34th Street, the Manhattan Mall at W33rd Street and 6th Avenue, the Port Authority Bus terminal ramps and Hudson Yards — Hudson Yards was “favored”.

Hudson Yards MSG
A rendering from ReThink NYC of a Hudson Yards stadium nestled in between the High Line. Credit: ReThinkNYC

As the date for MSG’s permit expiration approaches, local community boards, and leaders have called to move the venue no matter what, arguing that the arena’s presence in the Penn Station area is detrimental to the transit hub’s desperate need for renovations. “Any plan for a well-functioning, humane, aesthetically pleasing Penn Station requires us to move Madison Square Garden,” stated members of ReThinkNYC in their presentation on the issue. “It is absurd to spend billions of dollars to fix Penn Station, only to leave Madison Square Garden – the essence of the station’s problems – where it is.”

“Everyone agrees we need a better Penn Station, and moving the Garden is essential to accomplishing that,” said Assembly Member Tony Simone. “I’m calling for the city and state to truly examine moving MSG in coordination with potentially impacted communities and will soon be introducing legislation to require just that.”

At MSG’s last permit renewal in 2013, Manhattan Community Board 5 recommended the venue move locations to make way for Penn Station repairs. Described as a “post-apocalyptic video game” for its 650,000 daily commuters, the decaying station — which sits as a derelict alternative to the shiny new Moynihan Train Hall across the street — does not seem to be a motivating factor for MSG and Dolan, who has plainly stated to reporters that he’s “not going to move Madison Square Garden.” Dolan and fellow MSG executives were presented with a proposal by realty developers Related to move the venue to Hudson Yards in early 2022, but called it “unworkable” and rejected the idea.

Related were initially working to a 2024 completion date of the second phase of Hudson Yards spanning 6,220,000 square feet of the Western Rail Yard. These plans, developed with the local community back in 2009, included offices, affordable homes and a school. When the pandemic hit, just after phase one of Hudson Yards opened in early 2020, the development stalled. Since then, alongside the suggestion by Related of moving MSG — they have partnered with Wynn Resorts in a bid to bring a casino to the new phase of Hudson Yards.

According to Crain’s New York Business, Governor Kathy Hochul also “put the kibosh on the talks,” around moving MSG, saying that “she didn’t want squabbling within New York’s business community while steering her Penn Station renovation plan through local, state and federal government authorities.” Hochul has pushed for a $7 billion dollar overhaul of the Penn Station area that would include 10 “supertall” towers from developer Vornado and leave MSG in place while Penn Station is repaired. And while in January 2022 a “fake news” article falsely stated that Hochul planned to move the venue to Dewitt Clinton Park, in reality, she has not shared public support for moving MSG to Hudson Yards.

Penn Station
The entrances to Penn Station have been renovated and renewed in recent years. Photo: Phil O’Brien

MSG has submitted a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) application to the city for a permanent permit to remain in place, and defends the decision not to relocate as detrimental to the local economy. “Madison Square Garden employs thousands of people, serves as a significant driver of the economy, generating nearly $2 billion in annual economic benefit to the City, and is home to the most important sports, entertainment and cultural events,” reads the MSG statement. “No other major stadium or arena in NYC has ever been required to obtain a special permit to operate, and the company believes it is only appropriate for NYC’s special permit process to be fair and consistent.” 

State Senator Brad  Hoylman-Sigal argued that the current financial privileges for MSG and Dolan were less than fair and consistent. “I certainly support exploring any and all options in moving Madison Square Garden, but I would be hesitant to give Jim Dolan one more penny of the public purse,” he said. “In good conscience, I would have problems with buying Jim Dolan out — he needs to pay his own way. I’m going to be fighting to end his exorbitant property tax abatement.”

“To move MSG would require significant public investments,” added Senator Hoylman-Sigal. According to Crain’s New York Business, moving MSG could cost as much as $8.5 billion in public funding. “In general, I’m not in favor of subsidizing sports arenas, no matter how central to the identity of a city. I voted against the Buffalo Bills stadium subsidization.” 

Senator Hoylman-Sigal added: “If there’s a way to do it without significant expense to the taxpayers, then it makes sense — because Penn Station is certainly a hell hole, though it has been ameliorated by the new Moynihan Train Hall.” After Penn Station area realty giant Vornado announced they would not be developing East of 7th Avenue, “there may be opportunities to move MSG eastward as well,” he said.

Senator Hoylman-Sigal emphasized that he supports investigating multiple location options for the venue, adding: “I want a new Penn Station, and right now we have a massive carbuncle on top of the Western Hemisphere’s busiest transit hub.” 

The area wasn’t always home to the MSG/Penn Station carbuncle. Before 1963, the original Penn Station, built in 1910 was a McKim, Mead and White-designed Beaux Arts masterpiece. But as rail volume increased throughout the 1950s and the Pennsylvania Railroad sold the station’s air rights to developer William Zeckendorf, the decision was made to knock the old station down and replace it with a subterranean transit hub. The “new” Penn Station debuted to much public controversy in 1964, with architectural historian Vincent Scully writing of the transition: “One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.”

Penn Station
Penn Station, the way it used to be. Photo: Library of Congress

The new, subdued Penn Station was now an ideal home for MSG, which resided in Madison Square in two separate structures from 1879-1925, and then in what is now Worldwide Plaza on 8th Avenue between W49th/W50th Streets from 1925 to 1968. On February 11, 1968, the new MSG opened on top of Penn Station and has remained there ever since — run by current owner James Dolan since 1999. He has maintained tight control over the property, both in refusing to relocate and in ejecting patrons involved in lawsuits against MSG as well as banning legislators like Assembly Member Tony Simone who have spoken out against the practice.

It’s not the first time a major stadium has been proposed for the West Side Rail Yard. Ahead of the city’s bid for the 2012 Olympics, a West Side Stadium was proposed for the site, to be used as an arena for the international competition and later as the new home of the New York Jets. Reaction to the project was mixed, with local advocates arguing that the venue would bring additional car traffic and overcrowding to Midtown West and that housing would be better suited for the area. When the International Olympic Committee rejected New York’s bid to host the games, the project was scrapped and the Jets entered a partnership with the Giants to build Metlife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. 

Madison Square Garden Hell's Kitchen
Madison Square Garden when it resided in Hell’s Kitchen. Photo: Postcard via Wikipedia

As for what’s next, Manhattan Community Board 5 Member Layla Law-Gisiko told W42ST that because their special permit can no longer be renewed, MSG execs will need to make their case for a new agreement at the MCB5’s next board meeting on February 22. Law-Gisiko added that the board, which previously recommended that the venue move locations at the last renewal process in 2013, is determined to “give the process its full, fair due,” though she added that “in 10 years, nothing has changed,” on MSG’s end. “They did not move and the building’s physical condition has not been addressed.”

Bottcher is steadfast in his support of MSG moving West: “We’re going to have a public process ahead, and I really look forward to making this public argument for why this would be the best thing for New York City.” 

Join the Conversation


  1. I don’t understand why the western rail yards are being discussed as if there isn’t already a development plan that was approved in 2009! If anything other than affordable housing and a school gets built on that site we are all FOOLS for giving away millions in tax breaks to wealthy developers to build luxury condos and commercial property. Hudson Yards is a money pit without any real benefit to the community. If we are in a housing crisis, why would politicians be advocating to replace AFFORDABLE HOUSING with a sports arena?

    As someone who has commuted thru Penn Station for over 20 years, it has vastly improved over time. The ceiling heights in the LIRR level were just raised to almost double what they had been. Work is being done, things are changing. I don’t see how throwing more public money into this nonsense THAT DOESNT BUILD HOUSING is a solution.

    There is an entire economy surrounding MSG that exists because of their proximity to it. Are you suggesting moving MSG to Hudson Yards so Related can actually make money because their “mall” is a failure?

    1. This was my first thought as well! What happened to the affordable housing which was never built? We just forget about it when everyone keeps saying we are in a housing crisis? Hudson Yards got huge tax breaks based on the promise of affordable housing. Good grief.

    2. True comment regarding the MSG moving to HYLot2.

      We are all FOOLS for giving away millions in tax breaks to wealthy developers to build luxury condos and commercial property.

  2. The real issue is Hochuls absolutely ludicrous proposal to add 10 new mega office towers to the same location. Please god almighty, we need to stop that proposed expansion. MSG going to HY will mean that the proposed new school, community center, and public parks will never materialize – remember this was the bait and switch as to how HY got developed in the first place. HY was a bad deal for the city, but moving MSG just for the sake of moving it is not the best use of $8B. Dolan won’t move without a fight or legislative action. He should look to landmark MSG which would be ironic since the LPC was created bc of Penn Station – but still the building does now hold significance as one of the most famous arenas in the world.

  3. The current MSG and Penn Station are at the nexus of multiple subways and commuter lines. Will the new location in the far west offer that convenience? Probably not; but creating long pedestrian trips to any mass transit .
    Keep a new MSG where it is.

  4. With these comments, are people actually starting to think again in HK? It’s been years and too many have been sycophants for Chris Quinn, Corey Johnson and now Erik Bottcher, all bought and sold by the real estate industry. The MSG/Penn Station issue is more complicated than has been presented or discussed. But one thing is clear, that the so-called community coalition is run by people with no connection to HK/Clinton or Chelsea. That’s what Quinn did back in 2004 – create a fake coalition of people that were willing to sell out and create Hudson Yards. And by-jiminy, look what we got.

    Of course we must like this and approve this because, NYC deserves a world-class arena, and Hudson Yards is the Shining City on a Hill, and we all know that New York’s Best Days are ahead.

  5. Moving MSG to the west side yards wouldn’t be the worst thing. It would be better than a casino. It would keep jobs in the neighborhood. And that site is big enough to accommodate the arena plus a school and housing. The city would have to force Related to build the housing and school first, though. Otherwise it could end up like Barclays Center.

    1. Carlos,
      Right – the tunnel area would be even more gridlocked.
      The City keeps creating congestion (overdevelopment, reducing street space etc) – then insists on Congestion Pricing.
      Folks want their fish tacos and instant gratification ecommerce – but then complain about vehicles…

  6. Madison Square Garden still cripples our ability to make the most of Penn Station. MSG’s structure sitting right on top of and in between the tracks and platforms of Penn Station won’t allow the necessary state of the art modernization the Station cries out for. Remove MSG now and fully exploit Penn Station as the “Key Station” in a regional system of through running trains, which can only be accompished if MSG is removed.

  7. Just remember the neighborhood was not blighted until former President Clinton kicked all the Postal workers out of the Farley Building and relocated them (2k workers) west to the Morgan Facility so the developers could build Moynihan’s Train Hall. That’s right and he even moved up to Harlem and no one says a word a bout it . The neighborhood is a disaster because of what Bill Clinton did.

  8. If you have to move MSG to fix Penn Station, move it to the block where Macys is. That’s the only situation where we get a net gain.

    You could incorporate the Macys facade and lobby into it to keep that from eventually getting torn down. Make a great new arena but keep it convenient and in manhattans heart. You still can have the nice, well lit, and roomy train station as well.

    But I also agree MSG and Penn Station are much better and plenty good enough. No NEED to do anything.

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