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Hochul’s Boondoggle

Governor Hochul has been mum on Penn Station’s redevelopment since Vornado announced this isn’t the time for giant new commercial towers. At the time, the Governor said she remained committed to her plan, comparing the neighborhood to “skid row.”

State’s shadow study of the effect of proposed Penn Towers – Image by ESD

Criticism of the plan continues. A New York Post column yesterday called it “Hochul’s boondoggle.” A citizens group last Thursday described the Station improvements as a “basement makeover,” seemingly inspired by the Port Authority bus terminal.

Post columnist Steve Cuozzo was blunt, He said the Governor and Empire State Development (ESD) need to “back off their insane plan that would override city zoning and demolish scores of sound buildings and businesses based on fraudulent claims that the area is “blighted”- all to make way for eight new office skyscrapers at a time of record office vacancies.”

Cuozzo is intrigued by plans to rebuild Penn Station as the “magnificent cathedral it was.”

“The original Penn Station retains a mythic hold on the memories of everyone who knew her,” he wrote, remembering his own “childhood awe.” He said it is time to “think beyond the minutiae and open our collective imagination to what could be…”

Sam Turvey, of Re-Think Penn Station NYC, debunked the State’s sun-filled depictions of an “improved” Penn Station. “High ceilings with no natural sunlight are generally claustrophobic and mundane,” he wrote. Recently renovated corridors at Penn were matched with photos of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The real kicker was the State’s own depiction of a large, dark blob of shadows covering blocks of midtown that would result from giant Penn towers.

Turvey also calls for an above-ground station instead of the current equivalent of re-doing a basement.

There are many issues with the State’s proposal. Our issue has always been the State’s threat to bulldoze blocks of midtown containing historic buildings for a massive real estate development that has little to do with any station improvements. Cuozzo agreed.

“It’s a terrible, corrupt $22 billion scheme nobody wants—unless you’re one of the governor’s wealthy real-estate donors.”

Peg Breen
President, The New York Landmarks Conservancy

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