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Governor and Mayor Ignore Serious Questions RE Penn Plan

Rendering of Penn Station Redevelopment Project for Midtown Manhattan

The Governor and Mayor’s press release yesterday made one thing clear. The massive real estate deal they are pushing has little to do with improving Penn Station.

The statement said most of the money paid by the developer would cover above ground streets, sidewalks and subway entrances. Some “12.5%” would go to station improvements. 12.5% of what? We still don’t know. There are no details on the State’s deal with the developer that would allow giant towers containing mostly Class A office space. There were no answers to the recent economic studies questioning whether the deal will work–or is even needed.

The Governor claimed it’s “the best possible deal for New Yorkers.” If so, why not tell us what it is? The Governor has not answered any of the many questions about this scheme.

The Governor and Mayor have no concerns about overriding local zoning and land use procedures to level Midtown blocks that include landmark quality buildings, homes, jobs and community services.

The State’s description of the area as “substandard, insanitary” and full of “blight” was even more overwrought in the “Revised General Project Plan” Empire State Development (ESD) released this morning, two days ahead of their vote on the Plan.

The State’s disdain for a lively, varied, classic New York area with modest rents is clear. The Project Plan complains about “outmoded” buildings of “varying heights with no cohesive design.” “Diverse ownership of some small lots “impedes assemblage and development.” Rents are also apparently too low with a “significant underperformance of Class A office space.” Tenants around Penn pay only $40 per square foot. Buildings around Grand Central rent for $69.

The Project Plan includes pictures of the buildings that would be demolished. Some clearly could be improved. But there are many lovely, large Art Deco and Neo-Classical Revival buildings, as well as the 1872 Gothic Revival Church of St. John the Baptist by noted architect Napoleon LeBrun. They are serving businesses and the community and could continue to do so.

But the Governor and Mayor are enthusiastic about bringing back urban renewal and promoting high-rent, glass towers. The ESD is likely to approve the plan Thursday.

The State Public Authorities Control Board and the State Comptroller would also have to approve the deal. We will bring all the unanswered questions to them.

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