MSG must leave home atop Penn in 10 years

Photo by Philip Newman
By Philip Newman

Madison Square Garden’s days above Penn Station, through which thousands of Queens commuters pass daily, are now numbered and community activists hope it means a new start toward an elegant rail station named for Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The City Council last week voted overwhelmingly to allow Madison Square Garden 10 more years in its current spot, although Garden officials had asked to stay in perpetuity.

Conversion of the 100-year-old Farley Post Office adorned by a row of 50-foot-high columns into a grand Penn Station was the brainchild of U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New Yorker who died in 2003.

Extensive renovation would be required on Penn Station as part of the ambitious project, which would move the terminal across Eighth Avenue to the post office. Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the station’s current site as a “dreary, subterranean failure.”

Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society, called the project to build a new railroad station on Manhattan’s West Side “the key infrastructure and development project of our time and an essential investment in the future of our city. Now is the time to make it happen.”

The Alliance for a New Penn Station said the Council “has made clear that now is the time to get to work and build the Penn Station that New York City and the region desperately need.”

Kim Kerns, spokeswoman for Madison Square Garden Co., noted that the Garden is in the midst of a three-year renovation costing almost $1 billion.

“Madison Square Garden has operated at its current site for generations and has been proud to bring New Yorkers some of the greatest and most iconic moments in sports and entertainment,” Kerns said.

MSG moved to its current site in 1968 from 49th Street and Eighth Avenue.

Nearly 550,000 people, including multitudes of Queens residents, pass daily through the underground station, the terminus of the Long Island Rail Road and a central stop on several major subway lines.

The original Pennsylvania Station was torn down in 1963. The original station, a magnificent structure that opened in 1911, was designed by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White and its demolition resulted in the establishment of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Planners say they hope to preserve the motto that stretches for two blocks high above the row of columns of the Farley Post Office: “Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night Stays These Couriers From the Swift Completion of their Appointed Rounds.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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