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Dare We Start Feeling Optimistic?

The Times' editorial board thinks there may be hope that the dream of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and now Senator Schumer, may be realized. With the leadership of Senator Schumer, federal stimulus money and a major role of the Port Authority, New Yorker's may finally get the train station they deserve. Below is their statement in its entirety.

The Senators’ Railway Station

After years of starts and stalls, replacing New York City’s gloomy, subterranean Pennsylvania Station with an elegant transit hub suddenly looks possible again. Veterans of this project and its many iterations see a glimmer of hope that the grand old Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue can still be converted into a splendid new railroad hall named for the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

That renewed hope is there for two main reasons. First, Washington is handing out money. Second, Senator Charles Schumer, New York’s high-energy force on Capitol Hill, has moved the Moynihan project up on his priority list.

In a speech last week to business leaders, Senator Schumer laid out a cogent plan for making the new station come to life. Amtrak’s new leadership would have to play a major role and agree to make Moynihan the point of departure and arrival for its Northeast Corridor trains.

As a grand open hall — more a renovation with a new skylight than some of the dramatic and complicated schemes of the past — Farley would then become the uplifting gateway to New York City. The overall scheme would also allow for major renovations to the existing Penn Station, now an intolerably confusing maze.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would also be asked to play a major role. The authority has many items on its to-do list, including rebuilding at ground zero and creating a new tunnel under the Hudson from New Jersey. But as Mr. Schumer and others argue, it makes sense for the authority to coordinate what is essentially a major Midtown transportation project.

Mr. Schumer suggests, rightly, that the authority could contribute at least $1 billion of the money it now has earmarked for city projects. That would be added to $250 million designated for Moynihan that’s been sitting in the bank for years. Finally, Mr. Schumer and others want to move swiftly to get their hands on some of the money for high-speed rail and Amtrak included in the new stimulus package.

Mr. Schumer’s point, and one that deserves repeating, is that in the Great Depression, New Yorkers went for the sky. They built the Empire State Building. Now it’s time to reach again, to use the present economic crisis to fulfill Senator Moynihan’s enduring dream of a great railway entrance into New York City.

Read The Senators’ Railway Station in the New York Times.

node on the “Real West Side Story”

In an article posted today on, Paul Bubny assesses the state of various projects on the Far West Side of Manhattan and reports that “influential voices say the real catalyst for redeveloping the Far West Side is Moynihan Station.”

Among those voices is that of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who points out that there’s six million sf of class A office space in the Penn Station area compared to 36 million sf near Grand Central Terminal, even though more than twice as many commuters use Penn Station. Last month, Schumer reiterated his call for jump-starting the Moynihan Station project and putting the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in charge.

Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society, which advocates a redeveloped Penn Station, says he "couldn’t agree more. This is one of the most important projects for the future of this city, for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s a transportation project; it’s essential to strengthen our connections to the rest of the country. Secondly, of all the things that one might do, this is the most important in terms of creating access to the West Side. We’re aspiring to build a new city over there, one that’s roughly the size of downtown Seattle. It’s just not going to happen unless it’s convenient and easy to get to."

As a gateway not only to the Far West Side but also to the city itself, a redeveloped Penn Station could energize the commercial office market the way Grand Central did for its own district. "The site almost demands that the public sector give it the highest priority going forward," says Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. "That’s where you should put development." He cites Penn Station’s accessibility and capacity: with 550,000 daily users, it’s the busiest transportation facility in the US.

And that daily traffic may only increase. "As the price of gas goes up and flying becomes more inconvenient because of security, we think there’s going to be more and more rail travel," says Barwick.

Advocacy groups such as RPA and MAS argue that the station’s levels of convenience and aesthetic appeal need to be elevated along with its capacity, especially if it’s going to serve as the centerpiece of a mixed-use project that could include as much as one million sf of retail space. The original Pennsylvania Station, built in 1910 and demolished half a century later, was conceived as just such a centerpiece for large-scale development that never took place.

"We would love to see the broader concept—the one that involves moving the Garden—fall into place, but we’re enthusiastic about doing the Farley building whether that happens or not," says Barwick. "We think the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan had a great idea to create this additional capacity and in the bargain a grand space like Grand Central. If we can get the broader idea back together, terrific—provided it’s on reasonable terms. We don’t want to spend all this money to preserve and restore the building and then see it trashed by poorly thought-out commercial decisions. We’re optimistic that New York will not miss this chance."

Read “NYC’s Real West Side Story,” by Paul Bubny for


City Lightens Up to Putting Port Authority in Control

Today at a Crain’s breakfast, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber expressed interest in the Port Authority taking over Moynihan – “they have money,” he said. This comes one month after Mayor Bloomberg deemed it a “horrible idea.” Crain’s has a recap and video.


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


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


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


Schumer Wants Focus on Penn Station (updated)

In somewhat of a prologue to our panel discussion on Tuesday, Senator Charles Schumer told a Crain’s Breakfast Forum today that the city should focus on Moynihan Station and the extension of the 7 line before developing the Hudson Yards. According to a report from Crain’s:

The senator reiterated his call for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to take over management of the struggling Moynihan Station project, a new transit hub at the Farley post office. He said plans should proceed assuming Cablevision won’t change its mind about renovating the current Madison Square Garden instead of building a new arena at the Farley site, but that “parallel tracks” should be laid in case the company changes its mind. Progress might inspire it to do so, he said.

Mr. Schumer said Cablevision has told him it is willing to move its Wamu Theater, formerly known as the Felt Forum, which would allow a project to bring natural light into the dreary Penn Station below. He added that Amtrak should immediately free up 200,000 square feet at the station, which it owns, by moving “clutter” to a building it owns just south of the cramped transit hub.

The senator proclaimed a Port Authority takeover “likely to happen” and said that the agency, unlike the Empire State Development Corp., has $2 billion available and the expertise to bring Moynihan to fruition. “ESDC is not capable of being a major development agency here,” he said bluntly to approximately 300 businesspeople at a midtown hotel.

Mr. Schumer called on the city to create a special zoning district around Penn Station with density bonuses to encourage commercial development. Adding more office space will position the city to take advantage of the inevitable economic upturn, he said.


According to the Observer, Mayor Bloomberg responded to Schumer's comments at a press conference this afternoon, indicating that the city "would never agree" to the Port Authority taking over the project. “We certainly would never agree to the Port Authority being in charge of it because they can’t get done what they have to do downtown and the Port Authority’s first job has to be downtown and I don’t see how they could satisfy us at this point in time that they can take on that and do everything else,” he said.

Here is a video of the Mayor's comments.

Read “Schumer Calls for West Side Development,” by Erik Engquist for Crain’s


A New Director for the Port Authority

On Tuesday, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Anthony Coscia, expressed interest in taking over the Moynihan Station project - an idea proposed by Senator Schumer a few weeks back. "We believe the Port Authority is well positioned to help (the) Moynihan Station project move from architectural drawings to construction. We have financial capacity and technical know-how, and we have a proud history of building major transportation projects in the region," Coscia said.

Today, the New York Times reports that Christopher O. Ward, currently the managing director of the General Contractors Association of New York (member of the Friends of Moynihan Station), will likely replace Anthony E. Shorris as executive director of the Port Authority. A bit of background on Ward from the Times:

Mr. Ward was tapped in 2002 by a newly elected Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to become the city’s commissioner of environmental protection, a job he held for about three years. Mr. Ward is currently the managing director of the General Contractors Association of New York, a trade group…In his previous tenure at the Port Authority, Mr. Ward was involved in devising the Port’s master plans for New York Harbor.

We will certainly have more information and analysis of the possibility of PANYNJ taking over the project as it develops.

Read “Port Authority Chief Resigns,” by Ken Belson and Danny Hakim for The New York Times