Michael Kimmelman makes a compelling case in today's Times that calls for the movement of Madison Square Garden to the west?all the way to 11th Avenue and the future locale of the High Line?if a true revitalization of Penn Station is ever going to be possible. The operative word being "true"; because for all the envisioned appropriateness of regaining the grandeur of Charles Follen McKim's Penn Station (destroyed in 1963) by relocating Amtrak passenger traffic to the Farley Post Office-turned-Moynihan Station, such a move would only reroute 5% of the total daily traffic that Penn Station sees from combined Amtrak, LIRR, and NJ Transit riders. That would leave 95% of Penn Station commuters stuck navigating the warren of tunnels submerged out of sight below Madison Square Garden.
The only way for Penn Station commuters to see the light is for Madison Square Garden to be lifted off the station's back. Kimmelman writes that this would allow the space for "at the bare minimum to bring light and air into this underground purgatory and, beyond that, to create for millions of people a new space worthy of New York." To accomplish this, MSG would have to move west, to 34th Street and 11th Avenue in a space created by the destruction of Javits Center, if and when that convention center is replaced by a larger, casino-fueled version out in Queens. The Dolans would lose their perch above a nexus of transit lines, but would gain a riverfront arena at the doorstep of the newly developed Hudson Yards and near the culmination of the popular High Line Phase 3 extension.
If this seems like an impossibly Rube Goldbergesque confluence of money, politics, and municipal vision?getting a Genting casino-convention center built in Queens, allowing the demolition of the Javits Center, convincing the Dolans to move the Garden, offering the opportunity to design and build a new Penn Station worthy of New York?it's because such a scheme truly is far-fetched. As are many plans of great and lasting value.
· Restore a Gateway to Dignity [NYT]