An alternate concept for the renovation of Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station was presented on Wednesday by ASTM North America, a private development company which claims its plan would be much less expensive than the MTA’s preferred choice.
As part of its updated design, ASTM calls for renovating America’s busiest train station and encasing Madison Square Garden in a massive stone façade. Representatives from the Italian-based company said that the proposal would be $1 billion less expensive than its main rival and provide a more cohesive train hall. However, its detractors contend that James Dolan, owner of MSG, might benefit financially from the scheme.
ASTM’s project was unveiled only days after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul hinted that the state was ready to go forward with a makeover.
The eagerly awaited plan would enclose Madison Square Garden in a contemporary new stone building that could be finished in less than six years. Instead of the present claustrophobic layout, the reconstructed Penn Station would have two main train halls, a “glass-wrapped” mid-block structure, a naturally lighted passenger concourse, and higher ceilings.
In order to make room for a new Eighth Avenue entrance, the project also includes for demolishing Hulu Theater. The plan, which has been criticized by the MTA, would, according to officials, enable the construction of a new commuter train hall on Eighth Avenue, better pedestrian traffic flow, and much-needed loading dock upgrades.
“Our vision will once again return Penn Station to be an iconic transit hub worthy of New York City with a grand entrance on Eighth Avenue, more light, more space, more accessibility and more efficiency,” ASTM North America Senior Vice President Peter Cipriano said in a statement.
Some opponents of ASTM’s proposal, including as MTA officials, have voiced their outrage, claiming that the idea to buy Hulu Theater from Dolan would essentially equate to a $1 billion bailout for Madison Square Garden. Cipriano, however, rejected the notion that a deal for the theater would be a “giveaway” to Dolan.
Civic leaders have been advocating for a new Penn Station Since at least the 1990s, despite the fact that various renovation proposals for Penn Station have been floated and later abandoned throughout the years due to their inability to get past political and administrative roadblocks. Several local and state politicians, as well as heads of significant charitable organizations, have shown support for ASTM’s idea, which would be financed mainly by federal and state taxes.
After the site’s construction, ASTM would stay on to manage operations and maintenance for a 50-year period, during which time it would be paid annually by Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road, and New Jersey Transit.
The $6 billion price tag was described by the ASTM team as a “fully wrapped” option for the project because it covered the cost of building, designing, buying property, and long-term asset management. The company announced that it will put up $1 billion in “upfront equity” to buy the site’s requisite land.