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State Can’t Keep “Zombie” Plan

Governor Hochul’s recent announcement “decoupling” the plan for giant office towers around Penn Station from the funding of Station improvements “removes the only remotely plausible justification” for the towers. It is “fatal” to the State’s General Project Plan (GPP) that threatens eminent domain to level homes, businesses and non-profits to make way for the towers.

The Governor said she would keep the GPP for possible future development. But the law requires an actual plan. It “expressly prohibits an agency from overriding city zoning laws…merely because it might have some use for the new development rights down the road.”

Rendering of Penn Station Redevelopment Project for Midtown Manhattan

Attorney Charles Weinstock made these statements in an “Affirmation” filed in State Supreme Court yesterday in conjunction with a lawsuit challenging the GPP, which he now deems a “Zombie” plan. The Conservancy submitted an amicus brief supporting the lawsuit, where Weinstock is also an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The Governor’s announcement also renders the State’s Environmental Impact Statement obsolete, according to Weinstock. The State justified the need for the GPP to “improve passenger rail and transit facilities, support improvements to address substandard conditions in Penn and support and accommodate future capacity increases at Penn Station.”

“The Governor’s announcement last week made clear that the GPP will not accomplish any of these objectives,” Weinstock wrote.

Weinstock asked who benefits from leaving the GPP on the books. “The answer is Vornado and the other owners,” he wrote. “By doubling the development potential of their properties, the GPP increases their value astronomically. At the same time it imposes no obligations on them.”

The attorney stated that keeping the GPP shows the government’s “willingness to favor private interests over public good.” He also noted that the uncertainty over the neighborhood’s future leaves “residents in the lurch” and inhibits other developers from using existing City zoning to pursue projects.

“There are not only good reasons why the GPP should never have been approved;” Weinstock concluded, ”there are equally good reasons why it must now be vacated.”

We agree.

Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy

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