Opponents of Controversial Penn Station Mega-Towers Deal Rally to Stop Plan Ahead of Final State Vote
As State Rushes Toward Approval on Controversial Real Estate Deal at Penn Station, Coalition of Transit Activists, Community Residents + Small Biz Owners Urge Lawmakers to Stop Massive Giveaway to Billionaire Donor Steve Roth
NEW YORK, NY (07/14/2022) (readMedia)-- Rally follows letter from elected officials representing Penn Station calling for State to delay vote on plan
Trains Before Towers – a movement supported by community residents, housing and transit advocates, and local business owners – rallied on Thursday, calling on lawmakers to stop the plan to build 10 new massive towers around Penn Station. The rally took place a week ahead of Empire State Development Corporation's (ESD) final vote to approve the controversial real estate deal. Federal, state and local elected officials called for the State to halt the plan this week, pointing out that many questions remain about the project's necessity and financing.
Despite serious, unanswered concerns raised by New York City's Independent Budget Office, the New York City Planning Commission and nearly every State Senator representing the five boroughs, the Empire State Development Corporation plans to vote on approvals for 18 million square feet of new skyscrapers next week. The plan, which would usurp City land use authority, would enrich billionaire Steve Roth of Vornado without any guarantees the scheme would adequately fund transit improvements at Penn Station. Roth is also a major donor to Gov. Kathy Hochul's campaign.
VIDEO AVAILABLE HERE.
"The current plan for Penn is in strong need of change in order to truly benefit both our regional transportation infrastructure and the surrounding community. The plan lacks guarantees on affordable housing and community benefits, places residents and small businesses in the path of eminent domain, lacks proper oversight and transparency, and fails to provide the 21st century transportation upgrade our region desperately needs. The GPP must not go forward until outstanding issues and questions from the community and elected officials are addressed," said Tony Simone, Democratic Nominee for the 75th Assembly District.
"There can be no wonderful new Penn Station with Madison Square Garden squatting on top of it. But there can be no wonderful new Madison Square Garden with Penn Station squashed beneath it. Moving MSG is the best thing for Penn -- and the best thing for MSG. Imagine the glorious new station and modern arena we could build if their fates were uncoupled? It can be done. Frankly, it must be done," said Alexandros Washburn, Executive Director of the Grand Penn Community Alliance.
"?Empire State Development's lack of transparency or even the semblance of fiscal due diligence has again made a mockery of governance by and for the people. Every elected official at every level representing Penn Station, in addition to every segment of the public continues to say "stop" and "no" to the corrupt deal. To force this deal through would be a failure of epic proportions," said Charles Khan, Organizing Director of Strong for All.
Earlier this year, the City's Independent Budget Office released a report, raising serious questions about the financial viability of the project and whether there were enough details to gauge the plan's impact. The IBO report also concluded that while the State would collect payments from Vornado, the City would lose out on property tax revenue that it would have earned in a standard rezoning process. A majority of the city's Senate delegation have voiced opposition to the plan. The Senators specifically voiced concerns about how much Vornado will receive in subsidies and other State-sponsored benefits as part of the plan and how much the City stands to lose in property taxes, urging ESD to halt the plan until there are "??explanations provided and agreements made associated with the cost, design, scope, bond liabilities, and other aspects of the project that remain unknown." Good government groups including Common Cause, Reinvent Albany, BetaNYC, League of Women Voters and NYPIRG have also voiced opposition to the plan.
About Trains Before Towers
TBT is a coalition of community organizations, transit advocacy groups, preservation organizations, affordable housing advocacy groups, and good government organizations dedicated to improving the transit infrastructure at Penn Station.