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Statement on Madison Square Garden

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

The City Club of New York advocates for the success of New York City. We believe this is best achieved through participatory planning which balances the equities among residents, businesses, and politics.

The City Club believes Madison Square Garden needs to be relocated to allow a better Penn Station. More specifically, in order to encourage relocation, it advocates for extinguishing the real estate tax exemption for Madison Square Garden and for the near term termination of its special zoning permit that allows it to operate.

We have seen no demonstration that a proper renovation of Penn Station can be accomplished without the relocation of Madison Square Garden.

The hundreds of columns supporting MSG obstruct the platforms of Penn Station. This constrains the circulation of passengers to, from, and along the platforms. The restricted capacity of the platforms requires boarding passengers to wait at the concourse above until disembarking passengers have cleared the platform, which greatly increases the dwell time of trains in the station.

The volume of MSG blocks visibility and circulation between platforms and the street and restricts ceiling height within Penn Station. Even the removal of the Hulu Theater to create a new Eighth Avenue entrance to Penn Station does little to alleviate the crowd of columns and the limited ceiling heights that constrain the public experience of Penn Station. It also does not address access from the east.

Access to MSG obstructs adjacent public space and circulation. Large trucks are unable to use existing loading space within MSG and therefore obstruct public street and plaza space. Designs to bring these trucks within MSG will further limit ceiling heights of the public spaces in the station. Facilities to bring patrons in and out of MSG will also constrain the public spaces of Penn Station.

This block is not large enough for both Penn Station and MSG. MSG is not compatible with the existing and proposed rail infrastructure and it overburdens the surrounding public right of way. The arena does not meet the findings spelled out in the Zoning Resolution for a special permit.

We were impressed with the Palimpsest proposal which removed the innards of MSG and many of its supporting columns and reused the historic drum structure as a new headhouse for the station.

Relocation of MSG, by reducing constraints at the platforms, will facilitate thru running. This is the key to efficient operation in Penn Station and avoiding the disruption and cost of expanding the station to the south. The most effective through running would include a track connection between Penn Station and Grand Central allowing NJ transit trains to serve the East Side and Metro-North trains to serve the West Side.

The City Club recommends that Madison Square Garden be relocated both to allow a better Penn Station and to allow a better MSG arena.

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