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It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over

A New York Times headline on Thursday declared “As the Office Market Craters, Support for Penn Station Plan Evaporates.” The article quoted elected officials dismissive of Governor Hochul’s plan to level blocks around Penn Station for giant office towers. Powerful State Senator Leroy Comrie said there are other ways to finance improvements to Penn. Comrie has pronounced the plan “dead” on several occasions. Read the article.

Vornado CEO Steven Roth and One Penn Plaza (Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal with Getty Images, Vornado Realty Trust)

But the Plan isn’t “dead” until the Governor says so and tells the Empire State Development Board to nix the deal. Make no mistake, Vornado, the company that would build most of the towers, is working hard to keep it alive. The Times article said Vornado executives “have rushed in recent days to meet with State lawmakers in hopes of shoring up support.”

The Daily Dirt on Thursday quotes Vornado chief Steve Roth saying his earlier comments that the current environment is “not at all conducive to ground-up development” were misinterpreted as “our abandoning the grand plan.” Read the article.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the article quotes Roth, “a pause necessitated by economic conditions is not abandoning.”

Roth called it a “pause,” according to the article. “No rush, let’s get it right.”

There are other proposals for improvements to Penn that would not require demolishing thriving blocks full of residents, businesses, and landmark-quality buildings. It is also clear that Vornado would give relatively little for Penn improvements if the towers are built. Most of the proceeds would go to landscaping around the towers.

Vornado owns several sites around the Station. If the Governor abandons this plan, as she should, Vornado could still build towers. It would have to deal with the City’s zoning and public approval process—like every other developer. It also wouldn’t be getting the more than a billion dollars in tax breaks the Governor is prepared to give them now.

If, as is likely, a different plan for Penn is approved, why should Vornado keep the ability to get Midtown blocks demolished and build giant towers whenever it becomes profitable for them again?

Do we want people to walk out of an improved Penn Station into sterile “Hudson Yards East?” Or do we want them to walk out into New York?

Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy

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