Moving Madison Square Garden

By Zack
April 4, 2013 4:40 pm Last Updated: April 7, 2013 10:06 pm

 NEW YORK—Manhattan’s only sports arena, and one of the most visited in the world, Madison Square Garden holds more than 400 events—including New York Knicks and Rangers games, and softer fare, such as the Westminster Kennel Club dog show—that draw 3.6 million people every year.

The Regional Plan Association and the Municipal Arts Society have come out against permanently renewing the special permit that enables the Garden to continue operating. So have Community Boards 4 and 5 and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

 Instead, the permit should be renewed for 10 years, or less, they say.

That would give city and Garden officials enough time to plot out where the Garden should be moved to, and where to get money to replace the current 11-story building with one that rivals Grand Central Terminal in grace and grandeur.

Because Midtown Manhattan is such a prime location—about 75 percent of visitors to the Garden arrive via one of the many modes of public transportation nearby—the Garden shouldn’t be moved far.

“The location for Madison Square Garden should be in Manhattan, in the Central Business District, because New York needs an arena there,” said L. Nicolas Ronderos, New York director for the Regional Plan Association (RPA). “And a new Madison Square Garden will be an important part of Manhattan.”

Scott Stringer, who is also the only candidate for city comptroller at the moment, also thinks that the Garden, currently between Seventh and Eighth avenues, and 31st and 33rd streets, should remain in the area, according to a spokesperson.

While Stringer, the RPA, and others involved emphasize that a master planning process for the development should happen—thus, the 10-year permit extension, to give the process time—several locations that could be future homes to the Garden have been identified.

Just across Eighth Avenue from the Garden, the James Farley Post Office is one of the potential new locations. But the arena would likely need to be squeezed into the western annex of the landmarked building, which would be a complicated construction project.

More likely locations include the plot of land off Ninth Avenue, about 2.5 acres that the Morgan Processing and Distribution Center currently sits on; and the 18-acre site off the Hudson River where the Jacob Javits Convention Center sits.

Unlike the Farley Post Office, these two other locations would likely involve tearing down the existing buildings and constructing a brand new one. One of the arguments by advocates of moving the Garden is that the current building, constructed in 1965, is becoming old, and unbefitting of a world-class arena.

The Garden’s owners, the Dolan family, disagree, after spending about $1 billion for a three-year renovation. The work has transformed the arena, according to Garden officials, and after being completed next year will “become as unforgettable as the moments that happen here,” according to the Garden’s website.

 After Community Board 5 and Scott Stringer’s conditional recommendations for a 10-year permit extension, the land use process continues next week. On April 10, the City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing during which the proposed permit extension will be discussed, and likely voted on. If it passes through the commission, the City Council has the final vote.

Christine Quinn, City Council speaker and mayoral candidate, who represents the district Madison Square Garden sits in, is planning on reviewing the proposal and working with all the interested parties, said Justin Goodman, spokesman for the council, in an email.

“At the conclusion of this thorough review, the speaker will take a public position,” he said.