Plans to Renovate Madison Square Garden Put Moynihan Station Project in Jeopardy

A decision by the owners of Madison Square Garden to renovate the 40-year-old arena rather than move it as part of the $14 billion Moynihan Station development in Manhattan may derail the project, at least temporarily.“After exploring several alternatives, it has become clear that the only viable option is a renovation,” Barry Watkins , a spokesman for Madison Square Garden, said Thursday in a statement reported in the New York Sun and other city media.MSG, which is built atop Penn Station at Eighth Avenue, said it would go ahead with a renovation announced in 2004 rather than move a block away to the Ninth Avenue side of a new train station in a redeveloped Farley Post Office Building. Under the Moynihan Station plan, the Garden would have been demolished to make way for a mixed-use development featuring the new train station, retail and office towers. Construction was to take place between 2008 and 2018 with the Farley renovation and new MSG development occurring between this year and 2011.The Related Cos. and Vornado Realty Trust, which are the joint venture developers of the plan, restated their commitment to the project. “Our joint venture remains committed to this tremendous opportunity to rebuild Pennsylvania Station,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, president of Moynihan Station Venture, the JV between the Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust. “While we understand the frustrations of Madison Square Garden after three lengthy years of pursuing this grand but complex plan, we have every faith that our city, state and federal leadership will enable this project to become a reality for all New Yorkers.”City Council President Christine Quinn was quoted in today’s New York Times as saying the decision “demonstrates a callous disregard for both the future of the Moynihan Station project and the future of New York City.”The announcement came the same day that Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, urged the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to take a lead role in the development plan and provide up to $2 billion in transportation funds. New York Gov. David Paterson said in a statement that he would consider Schumer’s suggestions and noted that the Empire State Development Corp. has been making progress in the past year to move the project along including purchasing the Farley building, releasing the scoping documents that outline the plans and working on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.Paterson added that the ESDC, “has been working with the developers and other partners on finalizing the funding package for the station.” With a reference to the faltering economy and ongoing credit crunch, Paterson stated, “It is critically important that we ensure that this project is on firm financial footing, especially given the challenging times facing all levels of government.”