There has been increased focus by the press recently on Governor Kathy Hochul and Empire State Development’s plan to transform the Penn Station Area. Many of these articles point out the lack of transparency and details in this plan. While the Historic Districts Council agrees that there need to be major improvements to Penn Station, we strongly believe the plan is deeply and possibly fatally flawed. And yet it seems like full speed ahead on a proposal that will demolish blocks of historic buildings, displace thousands of residents and businesses, and essentially give this area over to a private developer for unnecessary office high rises, even though there is a major surplus of office space all over the city–all this while providing no direct improvement of Penn Station itself.
This Thursday, July 21, Empire State Development will take its final vote on the project, despite all the opposition and unanswered questions. We call on the Governor to halt the plan and for the ESD to not vote to approve the project in this form.
In 2022, HDC selected the Penn Station area as a Six to Celebrate recipient due to the historic resources in the area threatened with demolition. Almost 40 buildings in the area have been identified in the Environment Impact Statement as being worthy of local, state or national landmark recognition. Losing these structures and the neighboring buildings would create a void in a vital part of midtown Manhattan.
“Old” should not be equated with “obsolete.” These streets are lined with independent businesses that contribute to the economic health of the city. Thousands of New Yorkers live and work in this neighborhood. The proposal reminds us of a misguided 1950’s era urban renewal project. Has the city not learned from the mistakes of its past? The words, “Don’t tear it down” was a familiar battle cry at a time when wholesale destruction of intact neighborhoods was happening throughout the city. The fact that those words are finding their way into the public discourse again should be a wakeup call.
Finally, we have heard several times from the agencies behind this plan that New York needs new buildings that can provide tax revenue to the city and state. But what about the existing tax revenue? It is estimated that in 2022, the buildings proposed for demolition contributed $60 million dollars in tax revenue to New York City. Now all of this will be swept away for a huge developer giveaway and an eventual project that a recent report notes may have a more than $3 BILLION gap.
You can contact the Governor and tell her to stop the Penn Station plan!