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Archive for March, 2008

NYT Calls for a Moynihan Station Summit Meeting

On Saturday, the New York Times editorial page said reviving Moynihan Station is the toughest job on Governor Paterson’s agenda, but he has a clear opportunity to take charge:
The Dolan family, owners of Madison Square Garden, announced on Thursday that they were pulling out of negotiations and were planning to renovate the arena. The timing of the announcement suggests that the Dolans are frustrated with the delays. They may well be taking advantage of what they see as confusion or weakness in the governor’s office to bolster their negotiating position. Certainly there is confusion. After the departure of Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his chief administrator on this project, nobody is really in charge of final negotiations on design and funding. One intriguing option, pushed most recently by Senator Charles Schumer, would be to let the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey take over the project. The Port Authority could fill the leadership vacuum and bring in some of its own finances. Governor Paterson could show that he is in charge by calling a summit meeting of the big players — Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Mayor Bloomberg, the Dolans, developers and executives of the Port Authority. This high-level group should hammer out a strategy to move forward on this important civic project before it really is too late.
Read “Incoming at the Governor’s Office,” from The New York Times

Meet the Advocates

Monday, May 5, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society Twice a year, MAS advocacy staff brief MAS members and their guests on current advocacy priorities and actions and invite members’ feedback. Come with your questions and comments. The program is free, but seating is limited and reservations are encouraged. Reserve your place online or 212-935-2075.

City of Water Film Screening

city of water film documentary new york city waterfront shorelineWednesday, April 23, 5.00 p.m., At Eugene Lang College, 65 West 11th St. MAP Co-sponsored by Renew School, Student Group at the New School The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance and the Municipal Art Society are proud to present their new documentary City of Water about the future of New York City’s waterfront. Two years in the making, City of Water explores the aspirations of Continue Reading>>

St. Vincent’s Demolition Application Could Set Dangerous Precedent

st vincents building exterior overbiteIn February 2008, MAS wrote to Chairman Tierney of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to express our concern about the application to demolish historic buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District for the redevelopment of St. Vincent’s Hospital. The overall redevelopment project was presented to the MAS preservation committee; in its analysis, the committee focused on the critical initial question – the validity of the proposed demolition. Click here to read the letter in full. As far as we know, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, in its 43 years of watching over our city’s heritage, has only very rarely permitted the demolition of a building that contributes to the historic district under a Certificate of Appropriateness and we see no reason for the Commission to do so now. We believe that, if the Commission were to approve such demolition, it would undoubtedly establish a dangerous precedent. Such an action would make it significantly more difficult for the Commission to deny future proposals to demolish designated buildings. Continue Reading>>

MAS Urges State to Keep Moynihan Station on Track

Appearing on WNYC‘s Morning Edition this past Friday, MAS President Kent Barwick expressed his disappointment at the recent decision by the owners of Madison Square Garden not to move the arena to the western end of the Farley Post Office building as currently proposed in the Moynihan Station project plan. This move has the potential to derail the most important project in the city, and Mr. Barwick suggested that the state ought to investigate using all of its powers to ensure the project stays on track. Listen to the interview Read the New York Times coverage of the news Learn more about our Moynihan Station advocacy.

Saarinen Terminal to Reopen, But Future of “Trumpet” in Doubt

twa saarinenThe Port Authority recently announced it plans to reopen the historic TWA, or Saarinen, Terminal at Kennedy Airport this fall allowing passengers to pass through the landmark structure on their way to the new JetBlue Airlines terminal that wraps around it. MAS is delighted that the original building will continue to be used, but remains concerned that the trumpet-shaped departure lounge that was cut apart from the rest of the structure last year will not be rehabilitated. Read more.

Listen to MAS President Kent Barwick on WNYC

Today on WNYC’s Morning Edition, MAS President Kent Barwick described the public benefit of Moynihan Station and suggested that the State should consider using its powers of eminent domain to take the Garden’s property. From WNYC:
“The state has been willing to use its powers to take land for Bruce Ratner in Brooklyn to do Atlantic Yards or to take land in Morningside Heights away from private property owners to give to Columbia. Those are arguable public benefits, but there’s no question about the public benefit of having a great new rail station. This is the most important project in New York and is the single most important step in getting the West Side developed which we need for the future of the city. And so the public benefit is clear and ultimately if the private property owners who everyone has been trying to deal with for years can’t be brought into a realistic arrangement then the state should consider using its powers to take the property.
Listen to “Garden Moves Forward with its Own Plan,” on WNYC’s Morning Edition.

Dolans Say They Want to Stay Put

msg madison square garden frontYesterday, the New York Sun received the following statement from a MSG spokesman when asked about Schumer’s call for the Port Authority to take over the project: “Madison Square Garden has decided to move forward with our renovation previously announced in 2004. After exploring several alternatives, it has become clear that the only viable option is a renovation. Details will be available in the coming days. Madison Square Garden supports West Side redevelopment and applauds Senator Schumer’s involvement.” This set off a flurry of media coverage, which we have listed below along with a few quotes from MAS president Kent Barwick. From The New York Times:
Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society, which has been supportive of the project but critical of the design for the new arena, said the Dolans had chosen an “extremely peculiar” moment to make their announcement, just when it appeared that the project’s financial problems were getting resolved. “It’s insulting to everybody,” Mr. Barwick said of the Garden announcement. “This is the most significant project on the horizon for the city of New York. There’s no other transportation project that has so much promise to not only strengthen the transportation system but to spark development in a new section of town.”
From the New York Sun:
“I don’t know if it’s a well-considered move on their part or a negotiating strategy, but it seems like peculiar timing,” said the president of the Municipal Art Society, Kent Barwick who called the Moynihan Station project the most important project in New York City. Mr. Barwick said there is no reason why the entire plan should die even if Madison Square Garden backs out, as the required funds necessary to start work on the west end of the project are already in place. “The Garden doesn’t have the power to kill rail travel in New York, but they are not negotiating in good faith or respecting the integrity of the building they want to move into. It really is troublesome and they should be giving as much attention to this as they are to the selection of their next basketball coach,” he said.
Barwick also appeared on WNYC this morning. We’ll post a link to the audio clip later today. Do you think it is possible for MSG to renovate in place? How would it work? Read “Station Plan Put in Doubt as Garden Opts to Stay,” by Charles Bagli for The New York Times Read “The Moynihan Station Mess: Who’s In Charge Here?” by Eliot Brown for The New York Observer Read “Madison Square Garden Imperils Moynihan Station,” by Joan Gralla for Reuters. Read “Garden Move Threatens Moynihan Plan,” by Peter Kiefer in New York Sun Read “Madison Square Garden backs out of plan to move into renovated Penn Station,” from the AP Read “Madison Square Garden Abandons Plan to Move to Moynihan Station,” by Henry Goldman for Bloomberg.

MAS Aids in Legal Victory Against Speculative Dorm Developer

el bohio ps 64On March 25, the New York State Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that an East Village developer could not build a 19 story dormitory without a commitment from an educational institution. The decision dealt a major blow to unscrupulous developers and signaled a major step forward in the protection of a New York City-designated landmark school building. MAS filed an amicus brief in support of the Department of Building’s requirement that a developer show a connection with an educational institution sufficient to persuade it that the building, when built, really would be a dormitory. In 2001, developer Gregg Singer proposed a tower on the site of P.S. 64, a landmark school building on E. 9th St. and Ave. B designed by the city’s most prolific school architect, C.B.J. Snyder, and constructed in 1904. From the late 1970s until it was sold by the city in 1998, the East Village community utilized the unique design of P.S. 64 for a community facility and arts space known as Charas/El Bohio. Continue Reading>>

Schumer Wants Port Authority to Take Over, Gov. Paterson Responds

Today, according to the The New York Times Senator Charles Schumer urged the state to cede control of Moynihan Station to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey:
“It makes eminent sense for Port Authority to do this,” Senator Schumer said in an interview today. “They have the know-how and they have the resources that could help make it happen.” The Port Authority, which plans to build a second commuter rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River that would connect with Pennsylvania Station, is keen on the idea. Indeed, the developers had hoped that Port Authority would get involved after they became frustrated with the inaction of Mr. Spitzer.”
Governor Paterson managed to take time out of his busy budget-making schedule to issue a statement in support of the project:
The immediate task we have in front of us is to secure the necessary funding and complete the environmental process. New York State is willing to lead by example in helping to provide funding for this project, but we can’t do it alone. We will need commitments from the developers, New York City, and the federal government to make this project a reality. It is critically important that we ensure that this project is on firm financial footing, especially given the challenging fiscal times facing all levels of government. I will consider the suggestion of Senator Schumer as well as suggestions from other stakeholders. Certainly the Port Authority has expertise in developing major transportation projects and has always played an important role in funding major regional transportation projects. I will be evaluating their future role as a partner in this project in the days ahead.
Read “Schumer Urges Action on a New Penn Station,” by Charles Bagli for The New York Times

Ouroussoff Rips Hudson Yards

hudson yards aerial train tracksIn an article in today’s paper, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff characterized Tishman’s winning bid for Hudson Yards as a “wishful fantasy,” its design as “miserably depressing,” and offered a scathing indictment of the state of large-scale development in New York:
If recent history teaches us anything, it is that the project is only likely to get worse. This is because of the nature of the urban planning process in New York, which tends to lock in the worst parts of a design while allowing a developer to chip away at what is most original and often most costly. New York is experiencing the repercussions of such thinking at ground zero, where Daniel Libeskind’s master plan, unveiled by Gov. George E. Pataki to mixed reviews in 2003, is now a distant memory. Various design components have been watered down until they are barely recognizable. In the Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Ratner acknowledged last week that it would delay building most of the elements of Frank Gehry’s design for that eight million-square-foot development because it is short of financing. If built, the project would be a pathetic distortion of the original design. And the developer already has city approval. There will be a similar predicament if the city manages to steamroll the Tishman Speyer railyards proposal through the public review process. The broad outlines will be virtually set in stone, from the position of the park to the location of a yet-unchosen cultural institution. So will the site’s density, among the highest in the city. And the architecture within the plan will gradually diminish in quality. The West Side railyards is as good a place as any to start rethinking this disastrous approach to charting the city’s future. The transportation authority could begin by taking the planning process out of the hands of bean counters who have little interest in anything but profit. It could bring in more thoughtful voices from the urban planning and architectural fields. It could take into account the ups and downs of the area’s economy and how a neighborhood of this scale might evolve. But that would mean championing the public good rather than hustling for money.
Read “Profit and Public Good Clash in Grand Plans,” by Nicolai Ouroussoff in The New York Times Read “Ada Louise Huxtable Lambasts Hudson Yards and West Side Planning”

Doctoroff Cleared to Continue Work on Moynihan Station

The Conflict of Interest Board ruled it is ok for former Deputy Mayor and current Bloomberg L.P. president Dan Doctoroff to remain involved in Moynihan Station and other city projects including the redevelopment of Governors Island, PlaNYC, and Queens West. Interestingly, Doctoroff is restricted in his dealings with Vornado Realty – the co-developer of Moynihan Station – because Bloomberg L.P. is negotiating with it for more commercial space. However, those restrictions do not apply to Moynihan Station:
The opinion issued on Tuesday limits the role he can play in matters involving Vornado Realty, which owns the building housing the Bloomberg L.P. headquarters. The company is negotiating with Vornado for additional space. The board said that given Mr. Doctoroff’s knowledge, it was best for the city for Mr. Doctoroff to continue his involvement with the Moynihan Station plans. Vornado is a developer of the station project and was one of the companies vying to develop the railyards with whom Mr. Doctoroff met earlier this month. On March 12, Mr. Doctoroff met with the Vornado chairman, Steven Roth, and the M.T.A. selection panel, and last Friday with David Greenbaum, a top Vornado executive. The opinion advises Mr. Doctoroff to recuse himself from any discussions between Bloomberg L.P. and Vornado for one year from the date of the conclusion of the Moynihan Station negotiations, and from all dealings involving Vornado or Bloomberg L.P. in any of the other projects addressed in the ruling.
Read “Ex-Official Cleared to Continue Work on Big City Projects,” in New York Times Read “Mayor Names New Point Person for Moynihan”