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Penn Station redevelopment slips into budget at last minute

Perhaps it was just an attempt to flex some muscles or to inject excitement into the tough, tedious days of budget talks.

The plan includes the construction of new entrances

The plan includes the construction of new entrances to Penn Station at the corners and in the middle of the block. Photo Credit: Office of the Governor

The latest battle in the war between the New York City mayor and the New York State governor began Tuesday night over a proposal from the governor’s office to give the state power to redevelop a swath of midtown Manhattan without environmental review, zoning requirements or approval from the city.

It’s an extraordinary plan that would create the “New York Pennsylvania Station Area Redevelopment Project.” It would cover property between 30th and 34th streets and between Sixth and Eighth avenues.

Proposed language released Tuesday night would give the state’s urban development corporation power to “undertake the planning, design and redevelopment” of the area. And, according to an early version obtained by The Point, the project wouldn’t be subject to the Public Authorities Control Board, the State Environmental Quality Review Act or any city law, land use rules or zoning.

We’re not kidding.

State officials told The Point Wednesday afternoon that the language was being revised and would ultimately allow for community input, a role for local officials and environmental review. But they said they did not have a new version available for release.

City Hall sources told The Point they first learned of the proposal Tuesday evening. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the plan “must be stopped.”

“If this goes through, the state will be able to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, in one of the busiest sections of Manhattan,” Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. “We’re talking no environmental review process and zero input from New York City.”

The sweeping plan emerged in the wake of a previous state attempt to direct new tax revenues from a large stretch of Manhattan development to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. And it came as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has trumpeted efforts to redevelop Penn Station.

A Cuomo spokesman noted that “documents are exchanged hundreds of times” over the course of budget negotiations.

Perhaps this one was just an attempt to flex some muscles or to inject excitement into the tough, tedious days of budget talks.

But clearly, someone in Albany thought this was a good idea.

This post originally appeared as part of The Point, a daily newsletter about politics and policy from the editorial board. Click here to subscribe.

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