Moynihan Station Approved by Key State Board

From the Eliot Brown article in the New York Observer:

Plans for an expanded Penn Station received a boost today as the Public Authorities Control Board—a state-run board that previously blocked a different version of the project—approved a first phase for the plan, known as Moynihan Station.

With each additional approval (of which there are many), it’s actually looking like the project, which would eventually move Amtrak into the Corinthian column-lined Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue, will see the start of construction. The long-sought expansion, which has been in the works for two decades, has become a symbol of the tortured progress of New York public works projects.

The approval today was for $267 million in infrastructure construction that would expand a concourse and complete ventilation work–most certainly not the sexiest or visually appealing part of the project. On its own, this probably isn’t worth $267 million in value for riders, as the spending rests on the assumption that the state will eventually find money for the rest of the project.

Back in 2006, the PACB, which is controlled jointly by the governor and the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly, blocked Governor Pataki’s plans for the project, as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stood in the way of the plan. Complete with the project’s narrative of ever-overreaching visions, the incoming Governor Spitzer then championed a larger version that involved moving Madison Square Garden to the post office, which more than a year later fell apart, due largely to the tremendous level of complication involved. (In retrospect, this plan approved today isn’t all that different from what the PACB was being asked to approve three-and-a-half years ago. Of course, that was before tens of millions of additional spending on consultants, borrowing costs, etc.)

This time, however, all the legislative leaders were on board with the spending, which was mostly federal money earmarked for the project. (Here’s the PACB agenda.) In the past year, state officials reworked the plan to be able to construct the project in chunks, as opposed to the prior strategy of waiting until all the various moving pieces fell into place. Should construction actually begin, it will be in large part due to this new strategy.

Still on the table, in theory: the sale of at least 1 million square feet of air rights over the Farley Building to a venture of developers Vornado and Related, which would build a tower across the street next to 1 Penn Plaza. (That, too, would need further approvals.)

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