Kathy Hochul is preparing to relocate Madison Square Garden

(January 11, 2022) — Governor Kathy Hochul is preparing to relocate Madison Square Garden to a permanent new home on the site of Dewitt Clinton Park, a 5.8 acre city park in a trendy section of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River between 52nd and 54th Streets The relocation of the nearly 20,000-seat multi-use arena event center is intended to accelerate Hochul’s sweeping improvement plan for Penn Station, which sits under the 60s-era venue that critics have always lamented as congested and misplaced.

The Governor believes that the new arena’s construction could be completed in as little as three years, and she wants to hire a ‘star architect’ with deep ties to New York to begin designing the facility as soon as possible.  Hochul envisions that the arena will ‘sit on-top’ of glassy television studios at street level, which she hopes that businessman James Dolan will populate with nationally-broadcasted sports and entertainment programming on MSG’s television network.

Many of the studio spaces will include in-studio audiences and others will overlook the Hudson River.  Hochul believes that national programing will help improve the city’s image, believing that New York City’s waterfront has gone under-appreciated in the national consciousness.

“The new arena is expected to be a super-modern, super-comfortable venue in a corner of Manhattan that is very centrally located but doesn’t feel as hyper-congested and gritty as the 33rd Street location,” an official with Empire State Development explains.  “The new arena’s construction cost is expected to cost New York State taxpayers $800 million, which also happens to be the estimated fair market cost of using eminent domain to acquire MSG’s interests in the property.”

Dolan, the longtime CEO of MSG, prefers to collaborate with the Hochul administration, and is likely to ink a public-private partnership deal in order to avoid a costly drawn-out litigation with the State.

Hochul is willing to use eminent domain to acquire the park from the City, but believes she will have the endorsement of Mayor Eric Adams — who shares her goal of expediting transit and public space improvements at Penn Station.  While Adams is concerned about the loss of public space in the neighborhood, Hochul plans to replace the 5.8 acres of public space by acquiring and redeveloping additional piers as park space along the Hudson River in the immediate vicinity of the facility.

The facility will accommodate boxing, mixed martial arts, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, and national concert tours.

The old Madison Square Garden will be demolished and it’s 250,000-square-foot site between 33rd 31st Streets will be repurposed as a large public square that will sit above Penn Station’s loading platforms and in front of a glassy new entrance atrium that was announced by the Governor last month.

Hochul has been planning to rename Penn Station after a worthy New Yorker, but has been struggling to decide whether to bestow that honor on former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, women’s sufferage activist Susan B. Anthony, former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, the Reverend Fredrick Douglas, or the recording artist Billy Joel.  Hochul is likely to name the station and the public square atop it after the same New Yorker, though that could change.

Some architects have been calling on Hochul to repurpose Madison Square Garden’s structure as a vast entrance atrium to Penn Station, while urban planners have been calling on her to demolish the structure for an outdoor public square.

 

Some Hochul advisors are tying to convince her to gut Madison Square Garden’s structure and adaptively repurpose it as a soaring glass entrance atrium to Penn Station below, rather than demolishing it.  

Madison Square Garden was granted a 50-year operating permit in 1963, and was granted a 10-year extension in 2013.  That 10-year operating permit expires in 2023. Dolan has previously been reluctant to move from the current site above Penn Station because he was granted a permanent property tax exemption under Mayor Ed Koch in 1983.

“We can’t afford to pass on the once-in-a generation federal infrastructure opportunity under President Biden, and deny New Yorkers a world-class Penn Station while a few planners continue their 30-year-long debate about moving MSG,” Abbey Collins, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority told The New York Post early last year.

Sources say that Dolan is “generally onboard” with Hochul’s proposal, but is concerned that the Dewitt Clinton Park site is located a full four city blocks from the nearest subway station.  He thinks the obstacle could most easily be resolved by constructing a 1.5-mile light rail train on 53rd Street, from Dewitt Clinton Park to Second Avenue.  That at-grade light rail would transport riders from the arena site to subway stations across Midtown and would cost between $300 million and $400 million.

Another alternative would make use of Amtrak’s Hudson River Line, which runs underground a block away from the Dewitt Clinton Park site and links Penn Station to the northward suburbs along the Hudson River.  Using the sparsely used rail line, which currently accommodates only Amtrak’s Empire Service to Niagara Falls, would require the construction of as many as eight new subway stations to access those tracks along the Westside of Manhattan and under Riverside Park.

Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan is “generally onboard” with Hochul’s proposal but wants assurances that New York State will make efforts to improve mass transit to the new arena site.  

 

The Dewitt Clinton Park site is nearly identical to Madison Square Garden’s current footprint. It is located less than two miles from Penn Station, and could catalyze a waterfront renaissance that sees the continued transformation of Manhattan’s many piers along the Hudson River. 

20 Comments

    • Sure. Why not? The Department of Transportation seems all too willing enough to fund the ripping away of old historic buildings from 31st to 34th Sts. and from 6th to 8th Avenues, so big corporate Vornado can put up huge, super-tall hideous glass buildings for commercial (cha-ching) use. Bye-bye Hotel Pennsylvania, Gimbel’s walking bridge, and a very old church, and that’s only a few. They are bent on destroying our city. And will stop at nothing if they can get away with it.

      • Sunnyside rail yards would be a better location and not destroy a city park and have access to trains,, railways which could add metro nort as well as Amtrrak and subways, ferry service and vehicle access between Manhattan,Queens, Brooklyn and LI.

        Many believed this was the real motivation to ban elephants from Barnum and Bailey Circus the gardens biggest and longest client to end the circus to cause financial instability to force Madison Garden to relocate to another location I believe an old post office so those developers could rebuild Pennsylvania Station. But don’t take away a city park overlooking the Hudson River near the Clinton Stables the Central Park Horse carriages in and for which the developers and Diblasio wanted to ban the horse carriages because the carriage owners wouldn’t sell the developers of the Hudson Yards project the land. The developers planned a multimillion dollar highrise and sicked PITA on the horse carriage owners on false exaggerated animal rights claims for which PITA and the Developers were both fired. Diblasio was under investigation for campaign finance violations but charges were dropped when developer President Trump fired the investigator Attorney Preet Baharra. There are no coincidences.

  1. LEAVE MY PARK ALONE !!
    HAVE YOU BEEN DOWN HERE SEEING THE BACKED UP TRAFFIC WITH THE TUNNEL??? YES! TRAFFIC BACKED UP BY THE PARK AND UPWARD! CITI BIKES ADD TO CONGESTION AND NOT ENOUGH PARKING SPACES FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN AREA.. LEAVE OUR ONLY PARK ALONE!!!!

  2. You live in a city where if everyone came down at the same time to the ground they would be stacked three high and your worried about parking🤦‍♂️

  3. So now I’m gonna have to take a train to penn and then pay for another train over to this Shole. Guess I’m done going to rangers games. This clown didny even get elected in. Smh

  4. I’m confused. So, spend a few billion to acquire a new site and build an arena on it, while meanwhile back at Penn Station the space that used to be the Garden will be an open air atrium? How is this better than just leaving the Garden right where it is, in that space? To say nothing of losing a park in a densely developed neighborhood.

  5. Wow! Moving MSG is critical for improved train service across the region. This would be transformational for millions! Cautiously optimistic!!! Also unfair that MSG pays no property tax. Very encouraged by Hochul.

  6. In china, the government subsidizes capital intensive industries. In this country, the government subsidizes sports arenas.

  7. Any development that puts people to work is a better idea than doing nothing . There will always be naysayers against any major project, but a new MSG, along with transit improvements, will allow the city to recover and regain its status as the greatest city in the world.

  8. How about you leave the dam Garden alone and move Penn Station across 8th ave in place of the Post Office instead. The tracks are already running under and beside it already. If you think back a number of years ago they wanted to rebuild the Garden there as a solution so why not the reverse ? I would even be on board if they build a new Arena there. At least its close to the current location.

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