Penn Station Backers Suggest New Madison Square Garden

Moving Madison Square Garden three blocks away to a U.S. Postal Service annex would allow for the expansion of Pennsylvania Station and alleviate congestion in the area, a coalition of planners and civic leaders said.

Penn Station, which was designed to serve 200,000 riders a day when it opened in 1960s, now has about a half-million daily visitors, more than John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark-Liberty airports combined, according to a report released today by the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Regional Plan Association.

“Moving the Garden is the optimal idea in terms of transforming Penn Station,” Margaret Newman, the executive director of the art society, said in an interview today. “It’s incredibly important for the economic vitality of midtown and the Penn district.”

Politicians, civic organizations and developers have been debating what do with Penn Station almost since its soaring predecessor designed by McKim, Meade & White was demolished in 1963, helping to spark the urban preservation movement. New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman called the current rail terminal “a shabby, hopelessly confusing entry point to New York, a daily public shame on the city.”

Moynihan Station

After almost 25 years, a $1 billion project to transform James A. Farley Post Office, which sits across the street from Penn Station on Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets, is nearing completion of its first phase of construction. The new transit facility, to be called Moynihan Station, will move some foot traffic away from Penn Station and host Amtrak’s offices as well as ticketing and baggage operations.

The two-block lot being suggested for the relocation of Madison Square Garden is currently home to the Morgan Post Office and Annex, bounded by 28th and 30th streets and 10th and 11th avenues. It’s near Hudson Yards, the $20 billion Related Cos. development that will bring an influx to Manhattan’s Far West Side, and the popular High Line park.

The new space was chosen because of its proximity to transit and its size, which is rare in that part of Midtown, said Newman.

Connie Chirichello, a spokeswoman for the postal service, said in an e-mail that the agency isn’t involved in the proposal and has no further comment.

Dual Pressure

Newman said the recommendation faces “dual pressure” from Madison Square Garden Co., which operates the famous arena, and Amtrak, which cited needed tunnel construction as a possible hurdle to the proposal. Madison Square Garden Co., which has nine more years on its lease with the city, last year completed a three-year, $1 billion renovation of the arena. It included a new merchandise store, an expanded entryway on Seventh Avenue and new locker rooms for the National Basketball Association’s Knicks and the Rangers of the National Hockey League.

The Dolan family spun the company off from Cablevision Systems Corp. four years ago.

Kim Kerns, a spokeswoman for Madison Square Garden Co., declined to comment on the recommendation.

Newman of the art society estimated that remodeling Penn Station could cost about $4 billion, with the possibility of an additional $10 billion for transportation upgrades.

The alliance’s recommendation also looks into the option of leaving Madison Square Garden in its current location. That proposal calls for opening up the station, which would bring in more light and air. However, that plan would limit opportunities for track and platform improvements, according to the report.

The Regional Plan Association, based in New York, studies transportation and development policy. The art society, also based in New York, was founded in 1893 and is dedicated to “creating a more livable city,” according to its website.

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