Governor Hochul’s announcement yesterday of plans for a “world-class” Penn Station no longer relies on any future payments from massive office development in the area. But the Governor held out possible future use of eminent domain for other development around Penn.
So we are very gratified that the Conservancy’s amicus brief challenging the State’s General Project Plan (GPP), and its use of eminent domain, was accepted by State Supreme Court Judge Lucy Billings on June 16.
The brief, submitted with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation League of New York State, refuted the State’s claim that the area is “blighted ” and noted the number of architecturally distinct buildings in the area eligible for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It was filed in support of a lawsuit brought by the Penn Community Defense Fund, City Club of New York, Re-Think NYC, and residents of 251 West 30th Street.
The Court rejected arguments from Empire State Development Corporation challenging the amicus brief.
We are grateful to State Senators Liz Krueger, Brad Hoylman-Sigal, and Leroy Comrie for their opposition to the GPP. Even if massive office towers were eventually built, the State admitted that payments would be a minimal contribution to the $7 billion cost of station improvements.
The Governor said she is now relying on State money already set aside for the Station, payments by the railroads, and applying for federal funding.
We are disappointed that the Governor doesn’t recognize that a better Penn would naturally generate improvements and new development. Putting new development through the City’s normal land use review process would also allow public input. The continued threat of eminent domain will likely discourage any improvements to the area now.
“World-class” evidently means natural light and higher ceilings. But there’s not much about actually improving transit. It was also clear from the Governor’s announcement that Madison Square Garden is staying put.
We need a new Penn Station. We never needed to destroy a swath of Midtown to achieve it. And we don’t need to level homes, businesses, and institutions to improve the area at some point in the future.
Hearings on the lawsuit are scheduled to continue later in July.
Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy