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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

A proposal by Manhattan Community Board Five to examine the relocation of Madison Square Garden

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, January 14, 2021, the following resolution passed with a vote of 37 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining; 2 present not entitled to vote:

WHEREAS, The current Madison Square Garden is the fourth of a line of concerts and sports arenas in New York since the late 1870s and the existing Madison Square Garden, located on block 781 (Bounded by 7th and 8th Avenues, 31st and 33rd streets), opened in 1968, is located above Penn Station, the country's busiest railroad hub; and

WHEREAS, In 1963, Madison Square Garden was issued a 50 years special permit for a maximum capacity of 22,000 seats arena, as well as the transfer of development rights to construct 2 Penn Plaza; and

WHEREAS, Both Madison Square Garden and 2 Penn Plaza were completed in 1968; and

WHEREAS, The current Penn Station underneath Madison Square Garden, despite worthy incremental renovations and additions over the past six decades including the recent openings of Moynihan Train Hall and the East End Gateway, remains a hated and inadequate facility that handles over three times as many daily commuters for which it was intended, and can never be redeveloped into a suitable, full-capacity train station core as long as the Garden remains above it; and

WHEREAS, Upon expiration of the Special Permits on January 24, 2013, the City Council granted a new Special Permit with a term of 10 years and a requirement “to find a new Manhattan home for a state-of-the-art Madison Square Garden;” and

WHEREAS, In January 2020, Governor Cuomo announced major land use actions and redevelopment of the neighborhood surrounding Penn Station in conjunction with Penn Station improvements known as the Empire Station Complex, followed by the release of a Draft Scope of Work in summer 2020, and a Final Scope of Work in December 2020, in preparation of the development of an Environmental Impact Statement to be released in 2021; and

WHEREAS, The blocks east of the current location of Madison Square Garden bounded by Sixth Avenue, Seventh Avenue, 32nd Street, and 34th Street are currently underdeveloped, and which currently contain underutilized buildings including the Manhattan Mall, which is currently without an anchor tenant, the Hotel Pennsylvania, a landmark-worthy building that its owner, Vornado, plans to demolish and has obtained a special permit for a new 2 million square foot tower, and several underbuilt chain store properties; and

WHEREAS, The potential acquisition and rezoning of these blocks would provide an ideal central location for the construction of a new Madison Square Garden arena, potentially alongside residential, commercial, or mixed-use development on a block close to the city center, near other iconic historic sites, and adjacent to as many public transportation options as the current arena; and

WHEREAS, The relocation of Madison Square Garden would provide public benefit to the neighborhood and community, including finally freeing the core of Penn Station to be redeveloped into a new station worthy of the greater New York area, with the capacity for 21st century needs, while also providing the city with a modern world-class sports and event arena, replacing what is currently the oldest NHL and NBA arena, and keeping Madison Square Garden in Community Board Five, creating a connected chain of open public spaces and facilities for the community spanning from Macy’s and Herald Square at Broadway and Sixth Avenue, to the new arena abutted by public spaces to Seventh Avenue, to a new full-capacity core for Penn Station to Eighth Avenue, to the newly-opened Moynihan Train Hall and abutting retail all the way to Ninth Avenue and the High Line; and

WHEREAS, The relocation of Madison Square Garden would allow MSG Holdings, L.P., to build a new 21st century arena, benefitting from the revenue and credits made possible by any rezoning and associated mixed-use development on the block, and allow Vornado Realty Trust to redevelop properties such as the Hotel Pennsylvania for which a special permit is already in place; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five believes that a world-class train station and a great arena should not be mutually-exclusive goals, that Madison Square Garden should remain in Community Board Five, and that New York City’s midtown deserves public spaces and facilities to keep pace with its needs for the next century; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five calls for the Governor and the State to fully assess the feasibility and effects of relocating Madison Square Garden to the proposed blocks bounded by Sixth Avenue, Seventh Avenue, 32nd Street, and 34th Street in the Empire Station Complex Environmental Impact Statement; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five asks MSG Holdings, L.P., Vornado Realty Trust, and other landowners of the current Pennsylvania Station site and the adjacent proposed block to consider the potential benefits of relocation and redevelopment, and to explore the potential of timely redevelopment in collaboration with the City, the State and the relevant transit authorities; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five calls on the New York City Council to adhere to the conditions it adopted in 2013 by ensuring that a viable new location has been identified and secured for Madison Square Garden before the permit’s expiration, and any potential extension of the Special Permit beyond its current expiration in 2023 be specifically tied to concrete plans for the relocation of the Garden and for a shorter time period than the previous extension; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five plans to prepare a report, through creation of a task force, to evaluate the environmental impacts and the feasibility and community benefits of such a plan to make use of and redevelop the proposed blocks bounded by Sixth Avenue, Seventh Avenue, 32nd Street, and 34th Street, emphasizing the path forward, benefits to city, and the support of the local community.

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