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Vornado’s Roth on MSG Air Rights: “Come to Mama”

moynihan penn station concept rendering som

After a few quiet weeks in the world of Moynihan, the Farley Post Office emerged unscathed from a two-alarm fire on Tuesday night and Steve Roth, chairman of Vornado, and Steve Ross, chairman of Related – the Moynihan Venture tag team – spoke about the project at a real estate breakfast this morning in New York. The Venture’s latest scheme is to get the Port Authority to buy the Garden from the Dolans and liberate the coveted air rights on the arena site. Eliot Brown of the Observer has this report:

In case there was any doubt, Steve Roth and Steve Ross really want Madison Square Garden to move.

This morning, some 13 weeks after Madison Square Garden announced it was renovating and staying in place (i.e. not moving), the developer duo professed, once again, their eagerness to see the Paterson administration pick up the ball and move forward with the large-scale Moynihan Station plan. The plan, in its most recent iteration, would involve the state using Port Authority money intended for regional transportation projects to buy the Garden and its air rights from the Dolan family—that is, if they’re willing to sell (the Dolans have expressed no interest and are moving forward with the renovation).

Mr. Ross is the chairman of the Related Companies and Mr. Roth is chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, the two designated developers in the project that would redo Pennsylvania Station.

Why not let the dream die? The air rights that would be unleashed from the Garden moving, as Mr. Roth reminded the crowd at the Portfolio real estate breakfast at the Four Seasons Pool Room, are of great value.

“Since Vornado owns all the property around it, and half the air rights above Madison Square Garden, obviously, it’s ‘Come to mama,’” he said.

Some other tidbits from the breakfast:

  • Mr. Roth was candid as to why he wants the Garden to move to Farley: It’s the only other place they’ll consider besides their current site, he said. “We don’t care if they move to Iowa. … They can move as far west as they want.”
  • Apparently the plan to move the Garden to the rear of the Farley building was the brainchild of Mr. Ross, at least according to Mr. Roth.
  • Mr. Ross likes the Port Authority for reasons other than just its money. As he put it, “If the Port Authority does it, there isn’t any additional approvals, and you don’t have to go to the state or Shelly [Silver, the Assembly speaker] to get approvals to make it happen, so I believe that the governor will see it that way.”
  • Mr. Ross and Mr. Roth seemed to differ some in how strongly they feel about pushing the larger plan. Mr. Ross said he was optimistic that the whole thing would come together, (rating its chances 8 out of 10). Mr. Roth has previously trumped a scaled-down “Plan B,” though talk of that was absent today (at the end of the discussion on Moynihan, Mr. Roth put the chances of everything coming together at 7.5 out of 10 … though he also added later that the reason the two were so optimistic was there was a tenant in the room, looking squarely at S.I. Newhouse, whose Condé Nast is on the hunt for a new office tower.
  • Read “For Moynihan, Two Steves Still Want MSG to ‘Come to Mama,’” by Eliot Brown for New York Observer