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Last Chance to Speak Out Against Destruction Around Penn Station

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has now joined the Conservancy, and other local groups, in opposition to Governor Hochul’s plan to level large blocks around Penn Station, destroy dozens of architecturally significant buildings, and promote the creation of giant towers rivaling Hudson Yards.

Rendering of Penn Station Civic and Land Use Project, an 18.3-million-square-foot redevelopment plan for Midtown Manhattan.

In a January 7 letter to Empire State Development (ESD), the Trust agreed with us that the area around the station contains significant historic structures and is not the “substandard and insanitary area” the State describes. It also agreed that the State’s approach “is hauntingly reminiscent of the failed urban renewal strategy of the 1960s.”

The State has acknowledged that the project will require federal review. But the Trust said the State is subverting that review by “segmenting” the project. The State insists ”revitalization” efforts around Penn are one project, and that the reconstruction and expansion of the Station is separate. The Trust rejected that, noting that the federal review process requires looking at a project in its entirety.

The letter also warned that keeping the projects separate, and demolishing historic structures before a complete federal review, may jeopardize obtaining federal permits and funding.

The letter also echoes local criticism that ESD has “fast-tracked” its own review with only limited opportunities for public comment. We encouraged the Trust to become involved and are grateful for their thoughtful and detailed letter.

ESD is holding part two of a prior public hearing this Thursday, January 20. More than 200 persons signed up to testify last month—most of them, like us, in opposition.

Read our testimony.

Penn Station Civic and Land Use Project area from the west, image by Andrew Campbell Nelson

So a continuation of the hearing was necessary to hear everyone out. Thursday is the last chance for public comment before the State submits its Environmental Impact Statement for federal review.

Let’s hope the Trust’s letter is a wake-up call for the State. ESD must quit avoiding a public discussion of how, and if, the new buildings would fund Station improvements. It’s time for a response to criticism of the Project and the thoughtful alternatives proposed. It’s time for the federal agencies to hold the State to a comprehensive review.

There is no need to sacrifice the diverse buildings, offices, businesses, apartments, and pubs that give the blocks around the station their unique character. Outside of some government officials and planners, no one is clamoring for another Hudson Yards.

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