When the Alliance for a New Penn Station recommended in 2013 finding a new home for Madison Square Garden and overhauling a severely overcrowded Penn Station, the challenge was to find a suitable site in Manhattan for the sports and entertainment arena. Today, the Alliance, led by Municipal Art Society and Regional Plan Association, can report that we have identified a very promising location around the corner from the current Garden.
Stretching between 9th and 10th avenues and 28th and 30th streets, the superblock site is large enough to accommodate a state-of-the-art arena along with public open spaces that would be a great asset to the neighborhood. (View the full study here.) Currently occupied by a postal facility, the site is a three- to seven-minute walk from Penn Station. By moving the Garden to this location, New York City and the metropolitan region would gain a modern arena to replace the nearly 50-year-old Garden. It also would allow for the reconstruction and expansion of Penn Station. Together, these new civic hubs would vastly improve conditions in a district that today is lagging far behind other areas of Midtown.
The yearlong study led by MAS and RPA examined a number of alternatives for the sports and entertainment arena. One was to revisit the possibility of moving the Garden across 8th Avenue to the Farley Post Office Annex, an option that was first explored in 2008. We concluded that it would be extremely challenging to carve out adequate space for the Garden without overwhelming the building's landmarked facade.
The Alliance also explored the idea of leaving the Garden in its current location atop Penn Station, while making improvements to both facilities. A team at architecture firm Woods Bagot developed an attractive concept that would bring natural light into station areas and improve entrances and public areas. But the design recognizes that many challenges, including Penn Station's capacity issues and the Garden's poor freight access, would be left unaddressed by this approach.
When the old Penn Station was demolished 51 years ago, there was a belief that the era of passenger rail was drawing to a close. "We now know the opposite to be true," said Robert D. Yaro, president of RPA. Passenger traffic on the commuter and long-distance trains that serve Penn Station has more than doubled since then -- a station designed to accommodate 200,000 passengers now handles more than half a million a day. Yet the station's location beneath the arena limits the extent of potential improvements.
In 2013, the City Council approved a 10-year limit on Madison Square Garden's permit to operate in its current location. The vote was a recognition that the time had come to re-evaluate the predicament that leaves the city and region with an aging, substandard sports arena, a congested, miserable transit hub and an urban area falls far short of its potential. Madison Square Garden has moved three times before in its history. The vision laid out in this report shows that it can successfully move again.
Download the full report (53MB)