De Blasio tells Cuomo to listen to New Yorkers fearful of Empire Station Complex plan

Penn Station on April 7, 2021.
Photo by Mark Hallum

Mayor Bill de Blasio was in agreement with opponents to the Empire Station Complex plan who fear that project to expand Penn Station and erect 10 new skyscrapers would only displace and destroy numerous historic buildings in the heart of Midtown.

During a Thursday morning press conference, de Blasio cautioned the Cuomo administration from moving forward without public input. The mayor believes the state legislature was right to place limitations on how the $1.3 billion for the project, reserved in the fiscal year 2022 budget, is spent.

“We’ve been talking to the state for a long time about Penn Station, and we very much believe in local input and community input, and that it has to be a project that benefits the larger community not just wealthy developers,” de Blasio said. “So I think the legislature did exactly the right thing; it limited the funding to transit infrastructure, put additional checks and balances on additional approvals that are needed that are not just left to the executive branch of the state. And we’re going to keep working with the legislature to ensure community input because it’s an important part of our city. But whatever happens there, has to be for the community, not just for some very powerful interests.”

Wednesday saw advocates gather on Seventh Avenue in front of Madison Square Garden in which speakers pushed for either the creation of a planning process at the state level or allow city officials to weigh in as the proposal will not be subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Process.

The language in the budget restricts any use of the $1.3 billion for real estate developments such as the ten prospective towers that could be given real estate interests and have been formally opposed by both Community Boards 4 and 5.

“Including but not limited to the acquisition of all necessary land, real property, easements, and leasehold interest,” according to the budget. “No funds provided under this appropriation shall be used directly or indirectly for the formal preparation of a general project plan for the Empire Station Complex. Such funds shall only be used in furtherance of the Empire Penn Expansion or other transportation improvement projects and not for above-grade development contemplated in the general project plan.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the plan during his January 2020 State of the State presentation, branding the Empire Station Complex primarily as a means of boosting mass transit capacity. He pitched the plan again as part of a $306 billion infrastructure plan.

The plan would boost Long Island Rail Road capacity from 21 tracks to 29 tracks, as explained in 2020, as well as revitalize the architectural atrocity that is the current Penn Station, which sits below Madison Square Garden and across from the new Moynihan Train Hall built out of the former Farley Post Office Building.  

amNewYork Metro reached out to Cuomo’s office for comment and is awaiting a response.