Photo: Streets Blog NYC
It’s 2020 and the eminent domain blog posts from Sanchez & Polovetsky are gearing up for the excitement ahead!
Hot off the press is news that Governor Cuomo is backing a plan to acquire a block south of Penn Station to increase track capacity. Under a pre-existing plan, already backed by Cuomo, the State will make an attempt to purchase the properties between 30th and 31st Streets and Seventh and Eighth Avenues. We wouldn’t be blogging about it if this option didn’t have some whispers about using eminent domain as a last resort.
Currently, there are 21 tracks at Penn Station and this plan would create an additional eight. We will do the math for you – that’s a 40% increase in capacity. Over 175,000 people travel through Penn Station each day. “The problem with Penn Station is the functionality, the track capacity,” Cuomo said at a luncheon hosted by the Association for a Better New York, a group of business leaders.
“Sometimes there is no little fix that works, and this is one of those situations,” Cuomo added. “We believe the best alternative is to expand by acquiring the block south of Penn Station and increasing the footprint that way.”
With 22 properties that are a part of the block, that’s an ambitious project. “Amtrak owns property there, the Archdiocese of New York, office, residential-use and community facilities," Cuomo said. “The State will plan to acquire it for public use. We’re already speaking to people.”
New York State is also looking into acquiring the Theater at Madison Square Garden and converting it into a new entrance on Eight Avenue.
This part of the plan has been named the “Empire Station Complex” which includes the new Moynihan Train Hall. The Hall is expected to open in the Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue at the end of 2020, along with the renovation of the current Penn Station and the expanded tracks south of Penn.
Do not mistake this plan for the one named “Penn South.” That’s an expansion that has already been studied by Amtrak as part of the Gateway proposal which we blogged about previously.
“We are pleased to see a comprehensive plan that encompasses not only the Station itself, but also the district surrounding it,” Regional Plan Association president and CEO Tom Wright said in a statement. “Adding transit capacity and prioritizing safety is critical to the success of the region and for the hundreds of thousands of people that rely on the Station regularly.”
Details about the new project have been revealed by Cuomo’s office include that it will have a new 125,000-square foot terminal south of Penn Station and six entrances and exists that would reduce and dissipate congestion and enhance safety. The terminal is also planned to have retail development.
No word yet on the cost, but according to the governor, it will be paid for with revenue generated by the project. “Value Capture” will be used by the State to fund the improvements with payments in lieu of taxes — voluntary payments made by organizations as a substitute for regular property taxes — along with income from new commercial development.
The plan will be in collaboration with the MTA and Amtrak with the Empire State Development Agency overseeing it all. The MTA will be responsible for the transportation planning elements and Amtrak will help with the development and finance aspects of the project. FXCollaborative, an urban planning consultant, has already been contracted to carry out the plan.
As frequent Penn Station commuters ourselves, we cannot say we disagree with this plan. As always, we caution property and business owners affected by eminent domain to retain experienced eminent domain counsel to represent their interests. Condemnees do not have to accept the State’s offer of compensation as final, they are allowed to file claims for additional compensation in Court.
The new decade is certainly off to an exciting start!