City council gives Madison Square Garden just five more years to operate above transport hub


Source: Google Maps

Looking north up 8th Avenue, with Moynihan Train Hall to the left and Madison Square Garden to the right

New York City Council has intensified the pressure for redevelopment work at Penn Station by only giving Madison Square Garden – which sits directly above the transport hub – a five year permit to continue operating.

The move, backed by city councillors, stands in stark contrast to the 50-year permit MSG was originally granted in the 1960s after Penn Station’s original Beaux Arts building was demolished. The station’s underground tracks and platforms remain and it is the busiest station in the United States. It is also long overdue for upgrading. 

New York venues with a capacity in excess of 2,500 need a permit to operate. MSG has a capacity of 20,000. In 2013 it was granted a 10-year permit to continue its operations. The latest extension, approved on Thursday last week, is seen as a way to pile pressure on MSG owners, the Dolan family.

After the meeting, New York City Council said the limited extension had been approved “to resolve the competing demands on the surrounding area and allow the state and city to convene all stakeholders to create a truly integrated arena and transit station complex that the public deserves”.

It added: “This limited term is conditioned on MSG submitting a transportation management plan to start addressing the needs of the public immediately.”


Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Early-stage proposals for the redevelopment of New York’s Penn Station

In July last year economic development board Empire State Development voted to move forward with proposals to upgrade Penn Station and push ahead with a strategy that will deliver 10 new blocks in the vicinity to finance the project, costed at around US$7bn (£5.7bn at today’s exchange rates).

John McAslan & Partners was appointed to work up proposals, with the preferred option being a single-level facility centred around a grand train hall with a 140m long sky-lit atrium between Madison Square Garden and 2 Penn Plaza.

In June this year, new proposals for redeveloping MSG emerged. Worked up by HOK and Practice for Architecture and Urbanism for private business ASTM North America, the scheme would also retain MSG above Penn Station but radically redevelop the building’s exterior to deliver new station facilities with more light.


Source: HOK

HOK and PAU’s plans to rework Madison Square Garden to improve facilities at Penn Station

HOK said the proposals could be delivered more quickly than the other plans and for less money: US$6bn (£4.9bn).

However, some in New York argue that relocating Madison Square Garden will provide the best solution for upgrading Penn Station.

Ahead of Thursday’s meeting a Manhattan councillor whose patch includes the arena said the short renewal period proposed for MSG reflected concerns about the difficulties the venue posed for the station.


Source: HOK

Proposals for Penn Station and Madison Square Garden by HOK and PAU

Erik Bottcher told the New York Times: “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.”

MSG said in a statement: “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.”

It said the five-year permit was a “shortsighted move” that would “contribute to the erosion of the city”.


Source: Dave Burke/Aaron Fedor/SOM/Empire State Development

Aerial view of the Moynihan Train Hall by SOM, which is opposite Penn Station. It provides additional access to some platforms at the hub