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Hochul Needs New Plan for Penn Station

“Hochul Needs New Plan for Penn Station.”

That was the headline after Governor Hochul’s plan for Penn Station took it on the chin Wednesday at a Crain’s forum on Penn’s future. A powerful State Senator called it a “1970s plan” that failed to meet transportation needs, He called for a new plan for the Station. Two other panelists said hopes for federal funding were hampered because it isn’t a real plan, and former Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch declared the Vornado plan for supertalls around the Station “dead.”

Two level interior of Penn Station Plan

Panelists discussed the need for improvements around Penn. But none were suggesting destroying blocks of homes, businesses, and historic buildings to accomplish that.

State Senator Leroy Comrie said he has seen better and less expensive plans for Station improvements but the various government agencies are too busy protecting their “silos” rather than cooperating. Ravitch, who also once headed the MTA, called on Governor Hochul to reach out to New Jersey and stakeholders immediately and forge a new plan.

“We’ve spent two years talking about proposed development around the Station instead of transit,” said panelist Layla Law-Gisiko of Community Board 5. She insisted the current proposal wasn’t a real plan. “Where is the agreement with New Jersey?” she asked. “Where is the agreement among the railroads?”

Panelists were divided on whether Madison Square Garden should move. Regional Plan Association President Tom Wright said he has concluded that a modern station can be built under the Garden. Alex Washburn of the Grand Penn Community Alliance disagreed. “You have to realize the costs of keeping the Garden in place,” he said.

Virtually all the panelists called for “through-running” that would allow passengers to continue beyond Penn to other destinations. The State has insisted that isn’t possible. But Law-Gisiko noted that other countries had already built the modern facilities the panelists sought.

Everyone agreed that it is vital to improve Penn Station now.

It isn’t clear if the giant Vornado development proposal is “dead.” But it is clear that it has little to do with improving Penn Station. It was barely part of Wednesday’s discussion. Law-Gisiko made clear, however, that “eminent domain is not acceptable” to the community.

Comrie, who sits on the powerful Public Authorities Control Board, said he felt that the Governor would adopt a better plan. Her response was that she is committed to Penn Station. We’ll see if that results in a modern plan that doesn’t destroy neighborhoods.

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