May 23, 2024

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A competition plan to redesign Penn Station has been announced by ASTM

A competition plan to redesign Penn Station has been announced by ASTM

A private developer with an alternative vision for remaking Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station said Wednesday its plan would be much cheaper than a competing proposal backed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A new plan by ASTM North America includes overhauling Penn Station, the busiest train hub in the United States, and wrapping Madison Square Garden in a towering stone facade. It was revealed days after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul indicated that the state was ready to move forward with renovations.

ASTM officials said in a presentation Tuesday that the company’s plan was better than the one backed by the MTA because it would be $1 billion cheaper and lead to a more standardized train hall.

The announcement was likely to inflame conflict between ASTM and the MTA, whose president, Jano Lieber, He said in April that the plan was a waste of timein part because it involved paying the owners a huge fee to Madison Square Garden, which sits on top of the station, to demolish part of the complex.

Although Amtrak owns the building, the decision on which remodeling plan to pursue was expected to be made jointly by the railroad and the states of New York and New Jersey, which control the MTA and New Jersey Transit.

Civic leaders have advocated for a new Pennsylvania station since at least the 1990s, when former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan proposed converting the old James A. Farley Post Office building across Eighth Avenue into a train hall. This idea became a reality under former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, but did little to alleviate the crowding and dismal conditions at Penn Station itself. Efforts to renovate the train center were hampered by the presence of a plaza above it, and for years officials demanded that the park be moved, to little effect.

Although other plans to renovate Penn Station have been proposed and then discarded over the years, unable to overcome bureaucratic and political hurdles, many city and state officials and leaders of influential nonprofit organizations have indicated support for the ASTM proposal. The bulk of any renewal will be funded by state dollars and federal taxes.

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Responding to the TCA’s criticism, Peter Cipriano, senior vice president of ASTM North America, said in a presentation Tuesday that his company’s proposal would be less expensive and that there was a clear plan to pay for it.

“They have more than $7 billion in money, and it’s not entirely clear where the money for that is coming from,” he said, referring to cost estimates for the MTA plan, which were as high as $10 billion.

The ASTM proposal would include the purchase and demolition of the Theater at MSG, a 160,000-square-foot venue on the west side of the entertainment complex, to make way for two new light-filled auditoriums: a grand entrance on Eighth Street with 55-foot ceilings and a 105-foot atrium in the middle of the block where it empties. The trucks are currently the equipment. The renovation will provide easier access to all 21 tracks, reduce congestion and allow for additional track capacity in subsequent upgrades. The company said construction could be completed within six years.

ASTM will allocate $1 billion to start the project and rely on a mix of state and federal funding to cover the balance. The company would then manage and operate the station for 50 years, while the three railroad agencies that use the space — Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and MTA — would pay a total of about $250 million annually for the franchise. Any overruns in construction costs will be borne by the private company.

Cipriano said the cost to buy the theater at MSG would be less than $500 million. In ASTM’s plan, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, run by billionaire James Dolan, will also pay to renovate the park’s iconic roller coaster.

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The plan was revealed in March. The design team, led by PAU and HOK, the architectural firm that bears La Guardia Airport’s commendable Terminal B icon, has made several changes since then.

The glass box that would have enclosed the MSG is gone, replaced by a neoclassical platform of limestone or granite, with lines that echo the Corinthian columns of the Beaux-Arts Farley building across the street.

Demolishing the stage will not only create space for an exciting new entrance, but also make room for an alternative truck loading scheme which is crucial to traffic flow, said Vishan Chakrabarty, creative director of PAU.

“This cannot be dismissed as cosmetic,” he said.

The MTA plan would achieve many of the same goals, except for a new entrance on Eighth Avenue, which the agency described as unnecessarily expensive, since the majority of commuters use the Seventh Avenue entrance. The Transportation Authority estimated that the total cost of building the train hall on Eighth Avenue would range between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

The ASTM plan is less expensive in part because the design would not remove an important structural bridge between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Chakrabarti said the removal could add more than $1 billion to construction costs.

Jamie Torres-Springer, MTA’s president of construction and development, said rebuilding the middle bridge was important to the agency’s plan.

ASTM also worked closely with engineering firms familiar with the intricacies of the park. Mr. Torres-Springer said the air transport authority was not interested in paying for the engineering details it already had.

“It’s very funny – every offer, big and small, from ASTM involves paying MSG money,” Mr. Torres Springer said.

A spokeswoman for MSG Entertainment said there was no discussion with the MTA about charging the agency for engineering services.

On Monday, Ms. Hochul officially abandoned a plan she had called for 10 skyscrapers to be built near existing Penn Station to help fund a new train hub. It announced the start of a preliminary design process that is expected to culminate in the state tender for a contract to complete the project.

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The timing of its announcement was no coincidence: It occurred just days before ASTM was expected to reveal financial details of its own plan.

The decision to proceed without the tower component was not surprising. The 10-tower plan, which Hochul inherited from Mr Cuomo, involved developing millions of square feet of office space at a time when the commercial market was faltering and borrowing costs were high. Vornado Realty Trust, the developer that was set to build those skyscrapers, paused its plans in February.

Ms. Hochul said she is “open-minded about all potential scenarios,” which seems to create an opportunity for ASTM. She made the announcement standing next to Manhattan borough boss Mark Levine, who did just that effectively endorsed ASTM plan, and Anthony Koscia, president of Amtrak, his rail line is open to the idea. An Amtrak spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

But ASTM’s plan is strongly opposed by Mr. Lieber, the chief executive of the Air Transport Authority, who bristled at the idea that a private company would insert itself into an operation he was running.

He and his team have pointed to the station’s new Long Island Rail Road corridor as evidence that the MTA can efficiently oversee major projects, and he objected to the idea of ​​pushing Madison Square Garden Entertainment to acquire the stage at MSG.

Madison Square Garden Entertainment indicated opening up to the ASTM plan. He seems less open to the MTA’s suggestion.

during recent hearing About the park’s attempt to renew the stadium’s operating permit in perpetuity, an MSG representative dismissed the MTA plan as a “concept piece” that “doesn’t work from an engineering perspective.”