Quinn Recommends Relocation of MSG

Photo by Yanan Wang Speaker Quinn makes the case that MSG must move, if Penn Station’s capacity and safety issues are to be addressed.
Photo by Yanan Wang
Speaker Quinn makes the case that MSG must move, if Penn Station’s capacity and safety issues are to be addressed.

BY YANAN WANG  |  In a June 19 letter to Madison Square Garden (MSG) Company President and CEO Hank Ratner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn argued for relocating MSG in order to accommodate improvements on an outdated Penn Station.

“For the last 50 years,” Quinn wrote, “Tens of millions of commuters, business travelers and tourists have had the lackluster experience of entering and departing Midtown from a dismal Penn Station that is dangerous, overcrowded, lacks adequate ingress and egress, and is not fully ADA accessible.”

Last month, the City Planning Commission approved a 15-year term for the MSG’s Special Permit, which allows them to remain on their current site above Penn Station. In her letter, Quinn expressed support for Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer’s proposition that the span of the permit be changed to 10 years.

With this shortened permit period, Quinn wrote, the city will be able to implement a plan for the site’s future — a vision that rests on MSG’s relocation. Last week, the speaker’s recommendation was accepted, as both the City Council’s Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee and its Land-Use Committee voted in favor of the reduced term.

“Significantly improving Penn Station while Madison Square Garden sits atop it has proven to be an intractable problem,” she said in her letter. “It is my belief that finding a new location for the Garden is likely the only way to address the ongoing capacity and safety issues at Penn Station, as well as to bring this area to its best and highest use.”

Although no official proposals have yet been sent to his office, Community Board 4 (CB4) District Manager Bob Benfatto said he would be open to having MSG moved into the Chelsea area. Around four years ago, Benfatto noted, there had been talks about relocating it above Old Chelsea Post Office.

As for the length of the permit, Benfatto said CB4 has not taken an official position on the issue. Rather, the board’s key priority in regards to MSG — outdoor signage — has been addressed in the City Planning Commission’s May 22 ruling.

Since MSG is not located within the CB4 district itself, board members were primarily concerned about the advertising that faces the neighborhood, Benfatto said. In City Planning’s proposal, it calls for a signage size reduction to 44” x 64” (CB4 had initially requested 44” x 44”), as well as a restriction on advertising that prohibits any signage that is unrelated to MSG programming. The latter condition was modified in the Council Report released last week to allow for sponsor advertising, but Benfatto said the size reduction request remains the same.

The City Planning Commission will soon vote on the application’s changes, after which the final conditions of the permit will be decided by the full City Council.