Gov. Kathy Hochul left her $33 billion Penn Station-area redevelopment proposal out of her State of the State address, heartening critics who want a less costly and less destructive way to create a new station.
The Penn scheme didn’t appear, either, in the governor’s 267-page, “Achieving the New York Dream” agenda featuring “147 bold initiatives” that was released in conjunction with the speech.
The “Dream” list included many transit and MTA-related projects such as the Metro-North Penn Station Access project to build new stations in the Bronx. Since the whole point of the so-called “Empire Station Complex” is supposedly to create a better Penn Station, its omission from Hochul’s agenda was curious.
Lawyer Chuck Weinstock, who represents neighborhood groups and others opposed to the proposal, quipped, “She might be the only person in the state who isn’t talking about it. Maybe she’s beginning to understand that nobody wants this thing.”
Hochul spokesman Justin Henry didn’t address why she didn’t mention the project in the speech or the “Dream” report. He said, “The reconstruction of Penn Station is a priority of the Hochul administration as reflected in the aggressive timetable for reconstruction and the continued, sustained progress on this project since Governor Hochul took office.”
The plan which she inherited from her predecessor Andrew Cuomo would demolish several blocks of supposedly “blighted” properties in the Penn Station/Madison Square Garden area, including occupied apartment buildings and historic churches, to make room for eight giant office towers, most to be built by Vornado Realty Trust.
But its prospects dimmed after Vornado chairman and Penn-area developer Steven Roth’s recent remark that the time wasn’t right for new ground-up-development.
The latest black eye was the revelation, reported in Crain’s, that the Empire State Development agency approved it without even looking at cost and revenue estimates by Ernst & Young, which ESD hired to crunch the numbers.
Weinstock called the state’s admission that it ignored the data “damning.”
Meanwhile, a trio of distinguished architects will show alternative plans on Jan. 26 at Cooper Union. They are PAU firm head Vishaan Chakrabarti, independent architect Alexandros Washburn and Atelier and Co. principal Richard Cameron.
Washburn’s proposal was first shown in The Post in December.
On a lighter note, a different Crain’s story on a court case involving the project dug up e-mails between ESD, Vornado and their spin doctors at two different P.R. firms over how to water down The Post’s “negative” coverage.
“We think we have [Steve Cuozzo] positioned” to report one story I was working on as merely “battle lines being drawn,” an unidentified person at P.R. firm Berlin Rosen gloated to Vornado suits and former ESD official Holly Leicht in August 2021.
My position since then: I’ve characterized Hochul’s plan as “a boondoggle,” “terrible,” “corrupt,” “fraudulent” and “a nightmare.”