Real Estates

New York’s Cathy Hochul shuts up on Penn Station’s $306 billion redevelopment plan at State of the State address

Gov. Kathy Hochul dropped her proposal to redevelop the Penn Station area — which would cost $306 billion to fully build — from her State of the State address, encouraging critics who want a less expensive and less destructive way to create a new station.

Nor did Penn’s scheme appear in the governor’s 267-page “Realizing the New York Dream” agenda of “147 bold initiatives” 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 odd.

Attorney Chuck Weinstock, who represents neighborhood groups and others opposed to the proposal, said, “She may be the only person in the state who is not talking about it. Maybe he’s starting to realize that nobody wants this.”

Hochul spokesman Justin Henry did not address why she did not mention the project in the speech or the Sun report. He said, “The reconstruction of Penn Station is a priority of the Hochul administration, which is reflected in the aggressive schedule for the reconstruction and the continuous, continuous progress of this project since Governor Hochul took office.

The plan she inherited from her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, would demolish several blocks of allegedly “blighted” real estate in the Penn Station/Madison Square Garden area, including occupied apartment buildings and historic churches, to make way for eight massive office towers, most of which will to be built by Vornado Realty Trust.

Penn Station Plans
The scheme involves the demolition of fully occupied residential buildings and historic churches.
Vornado Realty Trust
Plan of Penn Station
Vornado is expected to build most of the commercial towers.

But its prospects have dimmed after recent remarks by President Vornad and Penn-area developer Steven Roth that the time is not 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 from Ernst & Young, which ESD hired to crunch the numbers.

Weinstock called the state’s admission that it ignored the data “damning.”

A trio of architects will show alternative plans for Penn Station on Jan. 26 at Cooper Union.
Levin-Roberts/Sipa USA

Meanwhile, a trio of prominent architects will show alternative plans Jan. 26 at Cooper Union. These are the head of PAU Vishaan Chakrabarti, independent architect Alexandros Washburn and director of Atelier and Co. Richard Cameron.

Washburn’s proposal was first reported in The Post in December.

On a lighter note, a different Crain’s story about a lawsuit involving the project unearthed emails between ESD, Vornad and their spin doctors at two different PR firms about how to tone down “negative” coverage of The Post.

“We think we have.” [Steve Cuozzo] positioned” to report on a story I was working on as merely “drawing battle lines,” an unidentified person at PR firm Berlin Rosen gloated about Vornado suits and former ESD employee Holly Leicht in August 2021.

My take since then: I’ve characterized Hochul’s plan as “flawed,” “terrible,” “broken,” “fraudulent” and a “nightmare.”

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