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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

Zoning Text Amendment 74-41 in relation to MSG

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, April 13, 2023, the following resolution passed with a vote of 34 in favor; 0 opposed; 0 abstaining;  1 present not entitled to vote:

WHEREAS, The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) (the “Applicant”), is proposing a zoning text amendment (the “Zoning Text Amendment”) to Section 74‐41 (Arenas, Auditoriums, Stadiums, or Trade Expositions) of the New York City Zoning Resolution (the "Zoning Resolution" or "ZR") to incorporate additional required findings for a City Planning Commission (CPC) special permit to allow an arena with a capacity in excess of 2,500 seats (the “Arena Special Permit”); and 

WHEREAS, In a separate application, MSG Arena, LLC is applying for the Arena Special Permit pursuant to the amended ZR Section 74-41 to facilitate the continued use and operation of the Madison Square Garden (MSG) arena (the “Arena”).

WHERES, The Affected Area, to which the Zoning Text Amendment applies, is located in a high density commercial C6-4 zoning district, within Subarea B4 of the Special Hudson Yards District and consists of Subarea B4 of the Special Hudson Yards District; and

WHEREAS, The Arena Site is occupied by the MSG Complex, which consists of a 12-story, precast concrete-clad cylindrical building containing the Arena, a theater (“the Theater at MSG” or “Theater”), a restaurant, and “Chase Square,” a pedestrian bridge located approximately midway between Seventh and Eighth Avenues over the former taxiway that connects West 31st and West 33rd Street that connects the Arena to the Two Penn Plaza building; and

WHEREAS, DCP is proposing a Zoning Text Amendment to Section 74-41 to incorporate additional required findings applicable to the Arena Special Permit, pertaining to the suitability of open areas on the Arena Site, public access to the Arena Site, and the proposed loading operations for the Arena.

WHEREAS, DCP’s proposed Zoning Text Amendment to ZR Section 74- 41 (Arenas, Auditoriums, Stadiums, or Trade Expositions) incorporates the following additional required findings for the Arena Special Permit:

  1. Public spaces of appropriate proportions and quality design are provided around the arena in a manner that is commensurate with the civic importance of the site; 
  2. Such public spaces will facilitate public use and pedestrian flow 
  3. Entrances and exits to the arena and to the adjacent open areas are located and designed to facilitate public use and circulation on the zoning lot 
  4. The proposed loading for the arena will not unduly interfere with the use of public spaces; interfere with transit facilities; interrupt the flow of pedestrian traffic in the pedestrian circulation network; or interfere with the efficient functioning of adjacent streets including for the staging or queuing of vehicles for loading or for security checks 
  5. The arena shall be appropriately consistent and compatible with existing transit facilities on or adjacent to the zoning lot, and with proposed improvements to such transit facilities by the affected transit agencies. 

WHEREAS, The proposed Zoning Text amendment would create a relevant set of new criteria to evaluate MSG Arena’s capacity appropriateness and mitigate MSG Arena’s impact to Penn Station, the busiest transit hub in the western hemisphere with over 600,000 passengers daily as well as its surroundings; and 

WHEREAS, While the original zoning text article focused largely on vehicular traffic concerns, the amendment rightfully prioritizes pedestrian experience, public realm, micro-mobility and Penn Station users; and 

WHEREAS, It is deemed essential to prioritize the criteria of consistency and compatibility of the arena with the transit hub as the cornerstone of the amendment and ensure that it remains perennial; and

WHEREAS, As the heart of the North East Corridor and one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure in the nation, it cannot be overstated that Penn Station's operational and physical capacity, along with its need for major upgrades, must be given the highest priority; and

WHEREAS, The zoning text amendment must make sure that the arena’s operations which it seeks to permit are compatible at the time of permit review but also remain perennially compliant with the zoning text; and 

WHEREAS, The application by MSG for a special permit to continue operating the arena with a capacity exceeding 2500 people concurs with a plan to record a Restrictive Declaration wherein MSG or its parent company will commit to adhering to specific conditions, particularly in supporting the reconstruction of Penn Station; and

WHEREAS, A Restrictive Declaration must be a requirement of the Zoning Resolution and must be added to the language of the amendment; and 

WHEREAS, The language of the Restrictive Declaration is not known at this time; and 

WHEREAS, There is concern that the Restrictive Declaration will not be sufficient to permanently prioritize Penn Station and compel mitigation of negative impacts during the lifetime of the venue; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five recommends approval of the proposed zoning text amendment and applauds the DCP for thoughtfully addressing a major land use and zoning issue of Midtown Manhattan, and prioritizing public realm, pedestrian usage and micro-mobility; and be it further

RESOLVED, That CB5 recommends that the amendment considers binding language compelling MSG Arena to committing to certain conditions and actions necessary to the upgrades and operations of Penn Station by current and future railroad operators, including transfer of ownership and easements.

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