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HomeSportsNYC officials set to give James Dolan five-year permit for MSG

NYC officials set to give James Dolan five-year permit for MSG

Get ready for Round 2!
The New York City Council is set to approve giving James Dolan — the controversial owner of Madison Square Garden and its two sports franchises, the Knicks and Rangers — a new five-year license to continue operating at full capacity, but the battle over the complex’s future is just beginning.
The expected greenlight Thursday will be the shortest-ever extension granted by lawmakers, who have signaled throughout the process they plan to once again press Dolan into moving the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Famous Arena” from its current location atop Pennsylvania Station.
“This will give us the opportunity to come up with a lasting solution for Penn Station,” said local Councilman Erik Bottcher (D-Manhattan) — whose approval is considered critical to any plan — in August, when he passed the five-year extension through the chamber’s zoning committee.
“It’ll give us the space and the time to come up with an answer to solve this puzzle — but not too much space and time,” he added.
The fight above ground is a prelude to an even bigger one below — how best to fix and expand Penn Station.
The future of Madison Square Garden and Penn Station have been interlocked ever since the Pennsylvania Railroad sold off the land in the 1960s in a desperate bid to shore up its finances — resulting in the demolition of the treasured McKim, Mead, and White train hall, the construction of MSG and the transformation of the nation’s busiest rail hub into today’s hated claustrophobic warren.
The original Penn Station’s train hall is pictured here in 1962, shortly before its demolition in 1963 to make way for Madison Square Garden. AP
The destruction of the original Penn Station, seen here in 1955, helped to ignite the preservation movement. ASSOCIATED PRESS
The complex’s system of support beams has proved to be both a blessing and a curse: The steel that holds up Penn Station’s underground concourse levels and, above it, MSG and its surrounding plaza is anchored into the train platforms below.
This has compounded endless efforts to address Penn Station’s biggest shortcomings — the narrow train platforms and stairwells that slow down boarding and exiting trains and pose a potential safety risk.
Rearranging the tracks to widen the platforms would require moving the columns that keep the whole complex upright.
A recently completed MTA study determined that it would be possible to rework the middle portions of the complex, but that completely addressing the issue would be infeasible as long as MSG remains on top.
Dolan has repeatedly said that he has no interest in moving the arena — nor have backers of the relocation identified potential sites where it might go.
It’s a collision of politics, egos, and engineering that the MTA, New Jersey Transit, and Amtrak are attempting to solve with money — in amounts measured in the billions, with proposals that have triggered their own pitched battles.
Renderings for the MTA’s proposed overhaul of the existing Penn Station complex Metropolitan Transit Authority
The MTA’s plans call for a dramatic new mid-block train hall that would be located between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and allow sunlight into the underground for the first time in decades. Metropolitan Transit Authority
The railroads have backed a $7 billion program that would rebuild and consolidate Penn Station’s split concourses into a single level with high ceilings and a soaring new midblock train hall that would allow sun into the complex for the first time since the original structure was demolished.
An Italian firm jumped into the contest — with quiet assistance from Dolan’s MSG — with their own $12.5 billion proposal to rebuild and operate the station for 50 years.
A plan from developer ASTM North America also includes consolidating the concourses to a single level but would swap the dramatic midblock hall for a new entrance on 8th Avenue, where MSG’s smaller Hulu Theater currently sits.
The dramatic Eighth Avenue entrance proposed by ASTM and pictured in this rendering would be across the street from Penn Station’s recently finished Moynihan Train Hall ASTM North America
The company has acknowledged that buying the Hulu theater from Dolan would likely net the billionaire a $500 million payout.
Meanwhile, ASTM has come under scrutiny for putting former MTA chairman Pat Foye at the center of their pitch to elected officials — a move that ethics watchdogs have said likely violates state conflict of interest laws, The Post revealed earlier this year.
Neither proposal would fix the long-standing capacity issues at Penn Station, which can handle just 24 trains per hour passing under the Hudson River.
The railroads have proposed demolishing the block immediately south — bounded by 30th and 31st streets and Seventh and Eighth Avenues — to build a new train station that would be connected to the existing Penn Station.
Neighborhood activists on the West Side have fought back hard against the new train terminal that would be predominately used by NJ Transit, which the railroads have estimated could cost $13 billion.



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