Madison Square Garden will be sticking around at its current location above Penn Station for at least five more years — after a City Council committee voted to grant the venue a new short-term special operating permit on Monday. However, the reduced term was heralded as an opportunity to create “a train station that is worthy of the greatest city in the world.”
The five-year permit is contingent upon the development of a transportation management plan to address Madison Square Garden’s current loading operations and pedestrian access at Penn Station, and falls significantly short of the permanent permit the Dolan Family, which owns Madison Square Garden, was looking for. It also comes up short of the City Planning Commission’s recommendation of 10 years.
“We are disappointed in the City Council’s land use committees’ decision to limit Madison Square Garden’s special permit to five years. A short-term special permit is not in anyone’s best interest and undermines the ability to immediately revamp Penn Station and the surrounding area. The committees have done a grave disservice to New Yorkers today, in a shortsighted move that will further contribute to the erosion of the City – that’s true now and will be true five years from now,” said MSG Entertainment in a statement.
Council member Erik Bottcher, who represents the district that includes MSG and Penn Station, said before the vote: “The areas around Penn Station and MSG are undergoing a transformation with surrounding development making W31st Street, W33rd Street, 8th Avenue and 7th Avenue critical transportation corridors.
“Because of this use conflict, at this time the council cannot determine the long-term viability of an arena at this location. Therefore, five years is an appropriate term for this special permit. To address this use conflict in the short term, we’re requiring the development of a transportation management plan,” continued Bottcher.
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Bottcher has been an advocate of moving Madison Square Garden to a new location at Hudson Yards in the past.
The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchising approved the five-year special permit unanimously, as did the full Committee on Land Use. The full City Council will vote on the permit at the next stated meeting on September 14 at 1:30pm. Even Run-DMC rapper Darryl McDaniels is urging the City Council to extend MSG’s permit.
There was always an expectation that Madison Square Garden would receive a new special permit but the length was up in the air. Council member Gale Brewer had suggested a four-year duration. The Garden needs the permit to continue to legally hold events with over 2,500 spectators. MSG has 22,000 seats.
The Garden was granted a special 50-year permit in 1963 which expired in 2013. The City then gave MSG a new 10-year permit which expired in July this year.
MSG’s new permit almost certainly means that a Penn Station redesign, a project that has been pushed by Governor Kathy Hochul and has backing from the MTA, will have to be completed with the arena in mind. Transit and community advocates have argued that the arena needs to be relocated to properly execute a Penn Station redesign.
There is also a Penn Station redesign plan from Italian developer ASTM, which would leave the arena intact but create a building around it with an entrance on 8th Avenue and is about $1 billion cheaper than Hochul’s plan.
“Today we are starting a new chapter in the history of Penn Station. For the first time in decades, a new Penn Station is within reach. With a five-year renewal of Madison Square Garden’s special permit, we are setting a clock that will help bring all parties to the the table to atone for the mistake that was made when McKim, Mead and White’s Penn Station was demolished six decades ago,” said Bottcher in a statement posted shortly after the vote.
“Together, I know that we will achieve a train station that is worthy of the greatest city in the world,” the statement concluded.