With just six months left until the finishing touches are placed on the $1 billion renovation of Madison Square Garden, the arena was recently denied an indefinite operating permit by the city of New York, specifically the New York City Planning Commission. Instead MSG was given a 15 year lease on the space it currently sits. Ben Kabak over at Second Ave Sagas weighed in on the matter, and it appears that this new 15 year lease comes with a caveat: MSG will need to find a resolution with the city to “the Penn Station problem.”
The “Penn Station problem” is, as Kabak puts it, capacity restraints. As a daily commuter to and from Long Island, I can see where this is coming from. I have often been unable to even enter Penn Station when there are delays, as the station itself is very small and the hallways very narrow. As people get priced out of living in the city, the number of commuters grows on a monthly basis.
Another aspect is that many, including some NY Post editorial writers, believe that the city needs to recapture the architectural beauty that was the old Penn Station, and that it needs to be done right where MSG currently stands. The problem here is that there is a pretty large office building right on Seventh Ave that wasn’t there when the original Penn Station stood. Some editorial writers, it appears, have short memories.
During the process of granting MSG a 15 year lease, commission Chair Amanda Burden said, “I don’t think anyone would disagree that the best outcome for New York City would be a relocated Madison Square Garden and a rebuilt Penn Station.” Like Kabak, I vehemently disagree with this sentiment. Penn Station is cramped, but there are ways to alleviate this problem without moving MSG.
Burden’s comments are also a bit naive, considering James Dolan and Cablevision just spent $1 billion of their own money to renovate MSG. Dolan will not let the city simply walk all over him after he just dropped ten figures into the city’s economy on the renovation. John Q. Taxpayer did not spend a cent of their own money to fund these renovations, and it’s something that Burden should keep in mind before giving a person like James Dolan an ultimatum.
Dolan and MSG have another 15 years to sort things out, but I’m pretty sure the man who just put $1 billion of his own money into a renovation is not all that pleased that they are attempting to move the Garden. You can guarantee that if the city pursues this route, Dolan will not spend another $1 billion of his own money on a new arena, of which a location has still not yet been decided. A simple solution, as Kabak put it, is to expand on the current Penn Station and make it more accessible.