Madison Square Garden Property Could Be Subject to Condemnation For Penn Station Rebuild According to MTA President of Construction

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
Penn Station
Penn Station
File Photo

NEW YORK – Jamie Torres Springer is MTA's chief of construction and development, and says "if necessary," he could use eminent domain as a government agency to access property needed for the Penn Station Rebuild.

Railway Track and Structures has reported on the ongoing dispute between New York’s MTA and Jim Dolan, the owner of Madison Square Garden surrounding MSG property needed for a proper rebuild of Penn Station in New York. The Spirit – The Local Paper for the Upper West Side (of New York City), reports that the MTA’s chief of construction has announced that he would use the state’s power of eminent domain to acquire the needed MSG property “if necessary.”

As we reported on page 8 of the July 2023 issue of RT&S, “It is generally agreed that one of the major indignities hurled at railroad history and American architectural history is the destruction of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Pennsylvania Station in 1963. The air rights above the station were traded by the railroad in exchange for a smaller underground station (built at no cost to the railroad) and an interest in revenue from the new Madison Square Garden complex that would be built above and adjacent to the property of the former station. Despite valiant efforts to save the station, the wrecking ball began to swing in the fall of 1963.”

“Since that time, Penn Station and Madison Square Garden (MSG) have co-existed in the same spot, with many decrying the cramped and dour nature of the station that serves intercity rail passengers is the largest U.S. city. In June of [2023], that coexistence came under fire in a report issued jointly by Amtrak, MTA, and New Jersey Transit. The report says, in essence, that Penn Station and MSG are no longer compatible. Since the time the “new” Penn Station and MSG were built, according to the report, ‘the context and operating environment has changed dramatically, both for Penn Station and for MSG.'”

Madison Square Garden’s operating permit expired in July, and the New York City Council must arrange for a new permit by August 28. The City Council must determine whether or not a new permit should be issued (if not, MSG would be required to relocate), what the permit, if issued, would require of MSG to do, and how long the permit would remain in force.

While the proposal for MSG to give up some of its property has met with widespread criticism, three Manhattan legislators, along with the railroads mentioned above, are rallying around MTA’s efforts. According to the Spirit, “’MSG must be required to provide the railroads with all the spaces necessary to complete the reconstruction of Penn Station at no cost,’ said the legislators, Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly member Tony Simone.”

RT&S will continue to monitor this developing story.

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