MSG Special Permit Limited to 5 Years With City Council Committee Vote

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Madison Square Garden may have to avoid getting to comfy at its traditional location above Pennsylvania Station.

Two New York City Council committees voted Monday to approve the special permit for the venue to remain in Midtown on the condition that it expire in five years — instead of the 10 years MSG wanted — and that it fit with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) plans for Penn Station.

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The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises approved the renewal of MSG’s special permit without stipulations recommended by the Department of City Planning in July, followed by members of the Committee on Land Use.

But, even with the approval, which will likely be given the thumbs up by the full City Council next month, MSG wasn’t happy with the length of the special permit.

“A short-term special permit is not in anyone’s best interest and undermines the ability to immediately revamp Penn Station and the surrounding area,” a spokesperson for MSG Entertainment said in a statement. “The committees have done a grave disservice to New Yorkers today, in a shortsighted move that will further contribute to the erosion of the city — that’s true now and will be true five years from now.” 

MSG originally had a 50-year special permit following the destruction of the original Penn Station that expired in 2013, which was then renewed for 10 years. But questions arose over how the MTA would restore the station below to become a more functional — and aesthetically pleasing — transit hub.

The special permit actually expired on July 24.

Under DCP’s proposal, the company, led by James Dolan, would have needed to prove that it is compatible with the redevelopment once the planning phase is 30 percent completed and if the special permit was granted, as well as implementing a slew of public realm improvements within six months of receiving the new permit. But that provision was left out of the City Council’s version of the text amendment. 

The stadium does not have many friends on its side in government or the community.

Councilmember Erik Bottcher said during the Monday hearing that operations at the stadium have outgrown its spot while public use of Penn Station has also increased. 

Manhattan’s Community Board 5 adopted a resolution in April that asked the City Council to deny renewing MSG’s permit and the Independent Budget Office released a report in July showing the arena’s permanent tax break has cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion since 1982.

The special permit will now go to a full City Council vote at a future date.

Update: This story was edited to clarify that the stipulations introduced by DCP in July were not part of the special permit approved by the committees on Monday.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.