Design & Development

MSG to be ordered to comply with Penn Station plans under new special permit

A rendering of the redeveloped Penn Station

Featured image credit: New York Governor’s Office / Rendering by FXCollaborative/Bezier/VUW

A rendering of the redeveloped Penn Station

Featured image credit: New York Governor’s Office / Rendering by FXCollaborative/Bezier/VUW

Madison Square Garden has been ordered by New York City officials to cooperate with Penn Station redevelopment plans or risk closure.

The Department of City Planning on Monday recommended renewing MSG’s special permit to operate for just 10 years as the iconic arena failed in its request for permanent authority. The 10-year licence recommendation will be voted upon by the City Planning Commission later this week, with City Council and then New York Mayor Eric Adams also having the opportunity to consider the matter.

Under the terms of the proposed licence, Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp (MSGE) would have to ensure that the arena is ‘compatible’ with the Penn Station plans drawn up by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) — including allowing the railroads to potentially make major changes to the above-ground portion of the complex. If MSGE is not compliant it could lose its permit, a city planning official explained to reporters during a briefing.

“It is city planning’s view that New Yorkers cannot wait for those plans for Penn Station to be finalised in order to benefit from these significant improvements to the area around MSG,” said Dan Garodnick, director of the Department of City Planning.

“We hope and expect that the rail agencies will deliver a great plan for Penn Station, and MSG has committed to collaborating with them.”

MSG is required to come back to the Department of City Planning once Penn Station plans are 30% complete to ensure that the arena remains appropriately compatible.

An MSG Entertainment spokesperson said: “We appreciate the recommendation from the City Planning Commission and look forward to collaborating with all key stakeholders on improving Penn Station.”

MSG’s first permit, for 50 years, was approved in 1963. Though the 22,000-seat arena also sought a permanent permit in 2013, the City Council only granted it 10 years, creating leverage for the city to negotiate for changes this time around.

Three years ago, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $7bn plan to completely redevelop and revitalise Penn Station and the neighbourhood surrounding it. Last year, Governor Kathy Hochul took over the project, revealing a scaled-back proposal. In June, the MTA and its railroad partners issued a notice to proceed to kick off preliminary design along with new renderings of the project. The project is helmed by the MTA, in partnership with Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT. NYC Mayor Adams has also expressed support for the renovation.

The overarching plan would see the creation of a single level, double-height train hall that doubles passenger circulation space on the new public level and eliminates cramped and overcrowded passageways in existing Penn Station.

Earlier this year, MSGE filed a lawsuit against the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), which is accused of threatening to ban the consumption of alcohol at the company’s venues. MSGE demanded an injunction against the SLA in response to what MSGE claims is the SLA’s “irrational abuse of its authority in filing pretextual charges against MSGE in connection with its adverse attorney policy”.