According to the author, the main arguments against the Cuomo Penn Station plan are fourfold [“Cuomo’s Great Budget Hole,” Voice, January 27]:
1. Retail has not been proven in rail stations;
2. The project will cost too much;
3. The plan will not increase capacity, since it will not lay new track to New Jersey; and
4. We should move MSG first, then worry about improving Penn Station.
With all due respect, I believe all of these arguments are easily refuted.
1. Retail in rail hubs is, I daresay, the norm elsewhere in the world. For example, Florence – Santa Maria Novella, Kyoto Station, and many other Japanese rail hubs — stations to which I have been — all have robust retail operations that feed back into station upkeep. In fact, in Florence, an expansion of the retail area was concomitant with a major improvement in the station environment. It is an example that bodes well for Penn Station, which has plenty of traffic for shops to feed off of.
2. Three billion dollars over three years is a very doable ask for a region that generates trillions of dollars in annual economic output, tens of billions of which derive directly from commuters passing through Penn Station. Three hundred and twenty-five million dollars of public money over three years is easily surmountable for a state whose yearly budget is about $140 billion and whose fiscal footing has improved under Cuomo. The Port Authority has annual operating income of roughly $5 billion. The remainder is small change for the federal government.
3. Capacity constraints exist both at the station head house and the tracks that feed it. There is no choice to be had between expanding Penn Station and digging new Hudson rail tunnels; both need to happen. That is why the RFP explicitly calls for more stairwells to the platforms, wider corridors, and more street access points and also calls for integration with Penn South!
4. I am sorry, but this is letting the perfect become the enemy of the very good. By this logic, why bother with any improvements to any infrastructure at all? The improvements envisioned in the RFP will help a lot. Moreover, what the thinking in the article neglects is that rekindling public appreciation of Penn Station through realizing the Cuomo plan may (likely will) spur the traveling public to push harder on MSG. Give a mouse (or rat, I should say) a cookie, it wants milk! We can get the rats the aperitif now while the prep work for the entrée goes on.
— Robert Hale, via Facebook
Friends in High Places
What is funny is that the tax abatement was worded so that it even applied if there was a change in ownership of the Garden [“Death, Taxes, and the Knicks,” Voice, January 27]. When it was granted, the Garden, Knicks, and Rangers were owned by the Gulf and Western corporation, but then the arena was sold to Cablevision. Usually such deals are structured so that a change in ownership would void out such contingencies that applied to the previous owner, but not in this case. In retribution, the legislature just recently created an operating permit with an expiration date to put pressure on the Dolans to relocate farther west, while before there was no such expiration date. I also remember that in an interview from many years ago with Koch, he had wanted the city to get a cut of the cable revenue when the Dolans created the MSG network, but somehow the Dolans reneged on that deal the city was involved in, too. The city never got a penny and never will. He was really bitter about being played on that one, as well. I guess it pays to have friends in high places.
— Glenn Krasner, via Facebook
One of a Kind
Yes, a legendary theater must be demolished — so that it can be converted to a corporate event space [“Curtains for the Ziegfeld,” Voice, January 27]. There are already a zillion such venues in Manhattan, but only one Ziegfeld.
— Glenn Krasner, via Facebook
I loved when they did those old movies in that program. I think they did it two or three times. Went to the Indiana Jones trilogy (agree it should’ve stayed three), too. Also saw My Fair Lady on the big screen for the first time (with a print in rough shape). I’d seen Close Encounters several times on TV, but I REALLY saw it on that screen.
— Dorine Walski, via Facebook
Out With a Bang
I see all my blockbusters there. The screen and sound are still in beautiful shape, and everyone there was there to share in the same experience. I hate the multiplex experience, with people walking in from another showing or plugging their phones into the wall to check their messages while the movie’s still on. Caught Star Wars at the Ziegfeld a couple of weeks ago, and it was great to see the place busier than I’d seen it in a long time, so at least it’s going out with a bang.
— Dan Romero, via Facebook
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