Will $500M Garden Party Doom NYC’s Moynihan Station?

The details released late yesterday for Madison Square Garden’s proposed $500 million makeover appear to scuttle plans for a $3 billion transit hub in Midtown Manhattan, as well as an $11 billion redevelopment of the surrounding area. Yet the stakes are high, as state and local officials consider the new train station vital to Midtown’s revitalization.   Cablevision Systems Corp.’s decision to overhaul the 40-year-old arena rather than building a new facility would remove the linchpin of the project. Madison Square Garden sits on top of Pennsylvania Station, which would be renovated and expanded as part of the Moynihan Station rail hub. Vornado Realty Trust and The Related Cos., selected in 2005 by New York State as the master developer, want to demolish Madison Square Garden.  That would enable construction of a new rail station, which would encompass both the existing Penn Station and the historic James A. Farley Post Office Building across Eighth Avenue. Many officials see the new rail hub as the potential new gateway to Midtown Manhattan’s far West Side, and Vornado and Related had hoped to build billions of dollars’ worth of office towers, residential high-rises and other projects nearby. But funding problems and other issues have delayed progress on the Moynihan Station project, and Cablevision got tired of waiting. The renovation plans disclosed yesterday call for extensive changes to Madison Square Garden’s interior and exterior, including the addition of luxury suites, a taller main entrance on Seventh Avenue, and replacement of existing exterior wall with glass.  Representatives from the Empire State Development Corp. and the Vornado and Related development team could not be reached for comment, but officials have said publicly that they still hope to go forward with the Moynihan Station project.