Delay foils NYC megaproject?

rendering of proposed Eighth Avenue facade of Penn Station. (Nova Concepts/Richard Cameron)

Crain’s New York, the financial newspaper, reports that Vornado Realty Trust has announced it is delaying its plan to build ten skyscrapers in the near vicinity of Pennsylvania Station. “The headwinds in the current environment are not at all conducive to … development,” Vornado’s Steven Roth told Crain’s yesterday. That is a delay, not a cancellation, to be sure, but today’s delay often becomes tomorrow’s cancellation.

Because that news is so good, I have interrupted this blog’s reprinting of chapters from my book Lost Providence. The series will resume with my next post.

The Empire Station Complex project, as the state megaproject is known, would use lease money from ten new towers to raise money to pay for renovating Penn Station. The plan has raised almost universal opposition by those in the city who see it as urban renewal most New Yorkers thought had disappeared in the 1960s and 70s. As such, it would demolish at least a dozen historic buildings and displace thousands of workers and residents. However, it had been considered a done deal in the real-estate community. Yesterday’s news may change that.

The delay certainly must improve chances that the state will entertain alternate proposals to the so-called  Empire Station Complex. Perhaps the best plan, known as ReThink Penn Station, would rebuild along the lines of Charles Follen McKim’s original Penn Station design, completed in 1910 and demolished in the 1960s. The underground station that resulted from that blockhead decision has served passengers and New York poorly for decades. The ReThink Penn Station plan would relocate the Madison Square Garden sports arena from atop the station and adopt a modern “through-running” regional rail system to end its current terminal status, which hinders system efficiency.

Sixty percent of New Yorkers prefer a plan that would include rebuilding Penn Station, just as two of three (or more) American prefer traditional design. As historian Vincent Scully said after the original station was demolished, “We entered the city as gods; now we scuttle in like rats.” A more uplifting entry into the world’s greatest city can happen if we want it to. It is above all a political decision. Yesterday’s news may help promote that possibility.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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2 Responses to Delay foils NYC megaproject?

  1. LazyReader says:

    Even before the pandemic, the idea that getting everyone to work in the same office would increase collaboration was losing favor.

    Downtowns are the main market for transit ridership. If they lose 40 percent of their workers on any given day, then transit will lose at least as many riders. ..
    Why spend to refurbish Penn Station, which half it’s basic ridership base is gone…….

    The human brain does not really appreciate buildings that even just look like they are liable to fall down — especially post-9/11, when several gigantic buildings actually did fall down. New York does not require any more skyscrapers, and cities in US don’t either. You can have tall buildings, towers, spires, churches…. high rise buildings become enormous traps in real estate market.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Delay foils NYC megaproject? | Structure Right here and There – Knowledge of world

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