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Design Challenge for a New Penn Station and Madison Square Garden

The Municipal Art Society of New York today announced the launch of its Design Challenge for a New Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.  Four of New York’s most well-known and respected design firms will re-envision New York’s Penn Station – the busiest train station in North America – and Madison Square Garden.

The four firms, Santiago Calatrava, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SHoP Architects and SOM, will have until May 29 to complete the challenge.  MAS will hold a public unveiling at an event at the TimesCenter (242 West 41st Street) on May 29 (check back here soon for RSVP information).  These four firms were selected because of their wide ranging experience on extraordinarily complicated urban sites – from the Highline in Chelsea, to a new arena linked to a subway station in downtown Brooklyn, to the World Trade Center site, in addition to large infrastructure projects all over the world.

MAS believes 2013 presents New York City with a truly unique opportunity.  Madison Square Garden’s 50-year special permit to operate an arena on its current site has expired.  In December 2012, Madison Square Garden filed an application to continue to operate an arena on this site in perpetuity and that request is now going through the City’s land use review process with a final decision by the City Council in late June or early July.

New York City deserves a world-class train station and truly dynamic arena but if the City Council approves the Garden’s special permit in perpetuity New York City will have neither.   MAS is working in close partnership with the Regional Plan Association (RPA) to build a coalition – the Alliance for a New Penn Station – to advocate for the millions of people who use Penn Station every year and the extraordinary economic potential of a new state-of-the-art train station and arena.

Last week Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer moved the discussion an important step forward, recommending that the MSG permit be restricted to a 10 year term in order to allow a careful plan to be developed for this important district.  MAS applauds the Borough President for taking on this difficult and important question and for recognizing the incredible transportation and economic opportunities a new Penn Station would create for New York City.

Madison Square Garden, although it has undergone an expensive renovation, continues to fall further behind as new more modern arenas are built.  What should be one of the most exciting and dynamic buildings in New York City, is unfortunately one of the least.  Over the years many alternative locations have been suggested for MSG and this process will explore the sites that offer the greatest opportunity.

The 1963 plan for MSG and Penn Station – designed by architect Charles Luckman – was developed at a time when the future of train travel was less certain and when approximately 200,000 people per day were using Penn Station.  Today, New York has a station that was designed for approximately 200,000 but moves 640,000 people daily.  Construction on Moynihan Station, across the street from Penn Station in the Farley Post Office building, is moving forward and is an important piece of the transportation future of Midtown, but it alone will not be able to accommodate the incredible growth in transit expected in the NYC region.  MAS has long been a passionate advocate for Moynihan Station and its critical role in servicing Amtrak passengers as a vital piece of a solution.  Moynihan alone however will not address the needs of and conditions for hundreds of thousands of subway, New Jersey Transit and LIRR users a day.