State v. City

Cuomo adds controversial, last-minute proposal to control Penn Station-area development

Development East News Urbanism
Cuomo adds controversial, last-minute proposal to control Penn Station-area development. A rendering of the SOM-designed Moynihan Train Hall. (SOM/Image via New York State Governor's Office)
Cuomo adds controversial, last-minute proposal to control Penn Station-area development. A rendering of the SOM-designed Moynihan Train Hall. (SOM/Image via New York State Governor's Office)

As New York State’s 2018-2019 budget negotiations come down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s office has reportedly slipped in a proposal that would give the state virtually unrestricted development authority over the area surrounding Penn Station. According to the anonymous sources who briefed Politico yesterday, if passed, the state would gain the ability to build without restrictions on height or density, the need to conduct any environmental review, or to win community approval.

Through the use of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority­–both controlled by the governor’s office–the state would redevelop from 30th to 34th Streets between 6th and 8th Avenue. After facing serious blowback from city leaders, especially over how the proposal would exempt the state from local zoning or preservation laws, the governor’s office released the following statement:

“Penn Station is currently untenable. It is congested, chaotic and poses a serious threat to public safety in this time of heightened terrorist threats,” said Dani Lever, press secretary for the governor, in a statement to the New York Times. She emphasized that any potential development would be done in “consultation with community leaders and elected officials, environmental reviews and local government reviews.”

The Cuomo administration has previously played a major role in the redevelopment of the Penn Station area, including backing the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall. While the city has reportedly been in talks with the MTA and developers Vornado Realty Trust, who own much of the property surrounding Penn Station, Wednesday was apparently the first time that any party outside of Albany had seen the proposal.

When reached for comment by Politico, Cuomo spokesperson Peter Ajemian suggested that their reporting on the day-old plan was already outdated.

“Throughout the budget process, documents are exchanged hundreds of times over to advance solutions for New Yorkers,” said Ajemian. “The document you’re basing your story on is outdated, inaccurate and not comprehensive.”

The governor’s office has suggested that the original broad outline was simply a starting point, and would likely be narrowed down in the back-and-forth as budget negotiations continued. Still, with Governor Cuomo’s self-imposed March 30th deadline looming, it’s unclear if the plan will make the final cut.

The full version of the leaked document can be found here.

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