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Sun: Shifting Moynihan to Port is “End Run Around Silver”

Today, Peter Kiefer reports that “Senator Schumer's plan to give the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey control of the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Station is being viewed as an end run around the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and the state Legislature.” Excerpts below:

As a bistate agency, the Port Authority is not subject to the Public Authorities Control Board, which gives final approval on financing for public projects in New York State. In recent years, Mr. Silver has controlled the PACB, and has used it to wield influence over a number of development projects — most notably to kill Mayor Bloomberg's plan to bring a new Jets stadium to the Hudson rail yards, and Governor Pataki's plan to convert the Farley Post Office building into Moynihan Station.

In the past, Mr. Silver has used his PACB vote to wrest concessions for his district, Lower Manhattan. Less than two weeks before Mr. Silver cast his vote to derail the Jets stadium project, Messrs. Pataki and Bloomberg announced plans to spend more than $800 million on a slew of projects for Lower Manhattan…

Proponents of the transfer say the Port Authority could use the $2 billion that is available in its capital plan to plug a public funding gap and get the project back on track. At the end of 2007, the Port Authority, which controls the area's ports, airports, and most New York City toll bridges and tunnels, reported gross operating revenues of about $3.2 billion.

Regarding Assemblyman Brodsky’s hearing on Friday:

The chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Corporations Authorities and Commissions, Richard Brodsky, opposes the Port Authority taking the lead role on the project, and is said to be addressing the matter at a hearing on Friday.

Mr. Brodsky said the problem stems from the state of New Jersey's refusal to alter the governing structure of the Port Authority. "There is no statute that can control Port Authority behavior," he said.
A spokesman for Mr. Silver, Daniel Weiler, said: "The speaker's concern is that before jumping on new projects, we need to see existing projects come to conclusion."

Mr. Schumer's office would not respond to a request for comment.

"The Moynihan Station is a vital project and we are pleased by the discussions of confidence in our role as a builder in the region. But any potential role is up to the board and consultations with the governors," a spokesman for the Port Authority, Steve Sigmund, said.

Today, the Port Authority’s board of directors is expected to officially appoint Chris Ward as the agency’s new executive director.

Read “An End Run Around Silver is Seen as Schumer’s Gain,” by Peter Kiefer for The New York Sun

Read “Brodsky, Gottfried None Too Happy About Moynihan’s Move to Port Authority,” by Eliot Brown for The New York Observer


Brodsky to Hold Hearing on West Side Projects

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky plans to hold a hearing on Friday regarding West Side projects. During last Tuesday’s MAS program: “Moynihan Station: What Needs to Happen Next,” Brodsky described the plans for the West Side as a “stadium vision without a stadium” and called the decision-making process “bizarre and un-American.” (The Atlantic Yards Report has a recap here)

We will have more on last week’s panel, including several videos, soon.

In other news, on Sunday Charles Bagli reported on the state of ESDC: “For more than a year, the state’s main economic development agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, has been in disarray, plagued by turf battles, poor management and the political collapse of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, business leaders and state officials say.”

Now with the economy slowing, credit markets tightening and tax revenues shrinking, the agency must make some hard decisions about its priorities. But at this important juncture, it remains rudderless.

As for who will take over the agency, the list of candidates is said to include Alan H. Fishman, the former chief executive of Independence Community Bank; John Kanas, the former chief executive of North Fork Bank; Mark A. Willis, an executive vice president at JPMorgan Chase; and Sharon L. Greenberger, president of the School Construction Authority. A nomination is expected in June.


MAS Video: The Struggle to Build Penn Station

On April 23, historian Jill Jonnes delivered a fascinating presentation on the construction of Penn Station and its tunnels, the subject of her recent book: Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic. The event was part of the MAS’s spring program series: Can New York Build Another Great Station?

With the aid of some amazing photographs rescued from the depths of the Pennsylvania Railroad archives, Jonnes recounted the “titanic battle with nature” that culminated in the construction of the original Penn Station.

Now you can watch a brief video of the highlights:

Learning From The Past: The Struggle to Build Penn Station from MAS on Vimeo

Join us on Wednesday, May 28 for our next event: "The Heart of the City: Grand Central Terminal & the Urban Railroad Station."

And check out our walking tour on May 31: "Finding Your Way: Penn Station vs. Grand Central."

Watch “Re-Discovering Rail,” a video from our April 9th panel

Read “Jill Jonnes Bucks Up the Moynihan Station Crowd”

Read “The Struggle to Build (New) Penn Station”

Read “ARC: 100 Years Later, An Attempt to Re-Conquer Gotham”


Sen. Schumer Proposes Next Steps for Moynihan Station

In an editorial in today’s New York Post, Senator Schumer says that “the next best steps to prepare New York to maintain its preeminence are to overhaul Penn Station and construct a grand Moynihan Station, spurring a Grand Central-like district with 8 million new square feet of office space.”

So how do we develop the Penn Station district, given all the recent setbacks and pall of doubt that has descended on big-development projects? I believe there are four steps we must take.

* First, project management should be given to the Port Authority. A lack of expertise and money has been the bane of this project, and the Port Authority has both of these in abundance. The agency should use New York's $2 billion share of Port Authority money to make it happen.

* Second, even if Madison Square Garden doesn't move, we can drastically improve Penn Station by relocating 200,000 square feet of Amtrak and NJ Transit operations offsite. Further, MSG has said it would be willing to move the WaMu Theater, which would bring daylight into the train station.

* Third, the money to achieve Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's vision of transforming the Farley Post Office into a magnificent train station is there. One last step, government approval, is needed to move forward. So let's start building.

* Fourth, we should move ahead with creating a special Penn Station zoning subdistrict, allowing for more building and giving more development rights to those who make a contribution to the transportation infrastructure. Additionally, Amtrak and NJ Transit should leverage their real-estate holdings to create new commercial buildings.

Let me be clear: We should develop the Penn Station area and the Far West Side, not one or the other. But the key to developing 10th and 11th avenues in the 30s and 40s is kick-starting Penn Station development; a new transit hub is vital to support and sustain the major development we all hope to achieve in the Penn Station area and beyond. As it's unlikely that we'll see commercial development on the Far West Side for several years until the new No. 7 line is operational, we need to get the Penn area moving first.

Read “Go West, NYC,” by Sen. Charles Schumer for The New York Post


Reader comment

A reader who attended the MAS panel on Tuesday took time to post a series of comments and reactions:

Last night I attended a lively MAS panel discussion on Farley/Moynihan and I would like to add some talking points on the Farley/Moynihan/Penn project. I will do so in stages so we can hopefully discuss them separately.

One of the attendees was a woman who very passionately described the current Penn Station as a “disgrace”. I would like to think that the officials at the LIRR, NJT and Amtrak would certainly disagree with her, especially after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the station proper over the past 23 years. Great strides have been made within the station to increase/improve access, comfort and appearance. In particular, here are some of the improvements that have helped the disgraceful Penn Station that Charles Luckman gave us in the 1960s…(Continue reading)


Daily News Praises Paterson’s “Penn Push”

In an editorial today, the Daily News says “there are hopeful signs Gov. Paterson is starting to focus on projects that would remake a huge swath of midtown.”

What's more important right now is that Paterson is trying to revive a development that would be a major boon to New York - provided the project is designed so as to maximize public benefits and minimize public costs.

Thanks to a rezoning that permitted construction of 5.5 million square feet of office space, the developers and Cablevision stood to reap handsome rewards as long as they invested in a new train station.

But no one ever settled how much the builders would pay, how much the public would kick in or even what kind of station they planned to offer. Still, it was clear that their most magnificent design was - and is - unaffordable at almost $3 billion.

So, first things first for Paterson, Bloomberg and all involved. As they seek to entice Cablevision back to the table, they must determine whether it is possible to design a station that provides major transportation improvements at minor public expense.

Aides say that's Paterson's goal. Excellent. Holding to it will mean refusing to simply tap into $2 billion that the Port Authority has set aside for transportation projects in New York. The public needs the biggest bang for the buck. Let's see what it is.

Yesterday, Paterson said he still has not mind up his mind about who should be in charge at Moynihan Station and reiterated his call for a summit of the key players. Newsday reports:

Paterson agreed with the rationale behind Port Authority control of the halted project - a position Mayor Michael Bloomberg bitterly opposes. But, he said, he hasn't decided if that agency is the best choice to lead the Penn Station redevelopment project. The Empire State Development Corp. is currently the overseer.

Paterson said he is open to a funding solution that would lead to actually moving dirt at Moynihan as well as at other financially troubled developments, including the Hudson Yard site.

"We've gotta take all those projects, bring the stake holders in, have a conversation about what is working and what isn't working and show leadership," Paterson said after a news conference at his executive chambers in Manhattan.

Read “Paterson’s Penn Push,” from The Daily News

Read “Considering Who Will Run Moynihan Station Project,” by Michael Frazier for Newsday


Paterson: Putting Port in Charge of Moynihan is a “Good Idea”

Yesterday, Governor Paterson endorsed Senator Schumer’s proposal to give the Port Authority control over Moynihan Station. “I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “The Port Authority is the area's transportation vehicle. The Moynihan Station is a transportation project.” (Watch a video of the press conference here)From the Daily News:

This, of course, pits Paterson against Mayor Bloomberg, who was less than thrilled with Schumer's rejection of a key part of the mayor's plan as "the goofiest thing" he had ever seen. Bloomberg retorted that perhaps Schumer should mind his own business.

The governor insisted the disagreement over Moynihan Station "isn't a personal feud," and praised Bloomberg for voicing concerns now rather than at some point down the road, adding: "He did what public servants should do."
Paterson said he will "weigh" Bloomberg's concerns as he works to reach a final decision on Moynihan, but he also called Schumer's proposal "a good idea."

Paterson also again defended his decision to do away with the two-chair structure Eliot Spitzer created at ESDC - a move that has brought him considerable grief from upstate business leaders and editorial boards.
The governor said he doesn't have anyone "teed up" to run the development corporation; he has appointed a commission to help him find someone.

The Post has an entertaining graphic called “The Fight for Moynihan Station.”

Read “Paterson Agrees With Schumer on Moynihan Station,” by Elizabeth Benjamin for The Daily News


MAS Hosts “Next Steps” Panel, Patterson Wants Summit on Big Projects, and other news

Last night, the Municipal Art Society convened a panel to discuss next steps for Moynihan Station and the priorities for the Far West Side.

Panelists included: Kent Barwick, president, Municipal Art Society; Richard L. Brodsky, assemblyman, New York State Assembly; Anna Hayes Levin, chair, Community Board 4; and Daniel A. Biederman, president, 34th Street Partnership; and Kathryn S. Wilde, president and CEO, Partnership for New York City. The moderator was Charles Bagli, reporter, The New York Times.

Pointing to a projected map of the Far West Side (pictured below and available for download here), Kent Barwick noted a lack of planning and coordination. “We’re dealing with mostly state projects being built by people who apparently don’t run into each other in the halls of Albany,” he said. It is essential that the public sector build the infrastructure to create the conditions for development – and “there is no theory in which Farley (Moynihan Station) is not the first step,” said Barwick. This is the challenge inherited by Governor Patterson and “if New York doesn’t grab this opportunity it will be a shame.”

“I still think moving MSG makes sense,” said Anna Hayes-Levin. She admitted that the Garden is currently out of the picture, but she said establishing some real leadership at the state level could bring the Dolans back to the table. “That’s what was missing before,” she quipped.

Meanwhile, up in Albany, Governor Patterson signaled that he is taking important steps to establish a strong role in Moynihan and other key projects. According to the Daily News, Paterson said that he wants to convene a summit involving the key parties of the projects in need of “real serious conversation” – Moynihan Station, Ground Zero, Hudson Yards, and Javits Center – an idea proposed by the New York Times in March. "I think they can be resurrected," he said. "That's why I would like to bring all those parties together to perhaps decide where are the priorities, No. 1, and secondly, what is achievable, and thirdly, what is not achievable."

Today, the editorial boards of the New York Times and the New York Observer jumped into the tussle between Sen. Schumer and Mayor Bloomberg over who should be in charge at Moynihan. In “Saving Moynihan Station,” the Times declared: “It is time to give the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey the lead role rebuilding this major gateway.”

There are many compelling reasons for giving this job to the Port Authority. It appears to have $2 billion to contribute, a very healthy start. Also, the Port Authority, which builds and maintains major public facilities, has hundreds of engineers, planners and experts. Transportation is their thing — bridges, ports, airports and, yes, train stations.

Today’s Port Authority also has the political leadership — and the transparency — needed to move forward successfully on this complicated project.

The Observer said the vision for Moynihan Station remains intact and should “keep moving.”

Both Moynihan Station and Hudson Yards would bring sizable, long-term benefits to the city’s economy. The main thing is to get them both fully on track now, while Mr. Bloomberg is still mayor. There is no guarantee his successor will share his vision and commitment to the large-scale, transformative, private-public projects that bring out the best of New York.

According to the Observer, Mayor Bloomberg today pointed to the gubernatorial roller coaster in Albany to explain the troubles for his economic development agenda - all the more reason to get behind Governor Paterson's efforts to get projects
under control.

“The chaos in Albany was not good for us,” he told reporters. “I’m not disparaging what they were trying to do, it’s just that when you change administrations, it does slow things down, and nobody expected when the administration changed a year and a third ago, that a year and a third later, they would go through the same process.”

This is a tune the mayor has been singing for a few days now—in London, he was more explicit, saying, “When Eliot Spitzer came in, he basically stopped every project that the Pataki administration negotiated, saying he wanted to look at it.”

We will have plenty more from last night’s event in the next few days.

Read “Saving Moynihan Station,” from The New York Times

Read “Keep Moving on Moynihan Station and Hudson Yards,” from The New York Observer

Read “Gov. Paterson Wants Sachs Break,” by Kenneth Lovett for The Daily News


Hudson Yards: With Tishman Out, MTA Turns to Other Developers

The MTA failed to come to terms with Tishman Speyer over the $1 billion Hudson Yards deal. According to a New York Times report from Charles Bagli (the moderator of the panel at MAS tonight), the MTA will resume discussions with three developers, including Vornado (in a joint venture with Durst) and Related, co-developers of Moynihan Station.

Tishman Speyer had sought to delay closing on the rights over the yard on the east side of 11th Avenue until it got a zoning change for the western yard, a process that could take 18 months. Under the terms of the deal struck in March, Tishman Speyer would have paid $18.8 million at the closing for the eastern yard later this year, and $24.7 million for the western yard sometime in 2009 or 2010.

In an attempt to salvage the project, the transportation authority said it will now turn to three other developers — Douglas Durst, Stephen Ross and Steven Roth — who had competed for the right to build a small city of office towers and apartment houses on a platform over the 26-acre rail yards.

“It’s an exciting and important project for New York City,” said Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Mr. Durst, who had offered $39 million less than Tishman Speyer. “We would be interested in resuming discussions on its development.”

Read “Talks Over West Side Yards Collapse Again,” by Charles Bagli for New York Times


MAS Video: Re-Discovering Rail

Re-Discovering Rail: The Smart, Green Alternative from MAS on Vimeo.

This video is from our April 9 panel discussion with Don Phillips, former transportation reporter for the Washington Post, and Walter Zullig, counsel emeritus for Metro-North Railroad.

We'll be posting videos of our April 23 and April 30 programs soon.

Read "MAS Panel Recap: What if They Gave a Crisis..."