The City Council voted Wednesday to limit the arena’s permit for its location atop Penn Station to a decade — ignoring pleas from the Garden’s owners and celebrities like Knicks superfan Spike Lee and former Knicks greats like Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier, who lobbied the Council to extend the Garden’s permit indefinitely.
Council members say they would rather see the Garden move to make way for an improved Penn Station and voted, 47 to 1, to offer the more limited permit, although it could be extended in the future.
It was never a great idea to tear down the legendary classic designed Old Penn Station in the mid-sixties. Kind of creative to put a big arena over the subterranean tunnels and rail tracks below street level. But everything else was a hassle and crowded, crowded, crowded when a well-functioning train station got shoved underground to make it convenient for season basketball tickets holders to grab a ten minute subway ride to midtown.
After 911 they did a major redo of the subterranean tunnels, labyrinth station under MSG that served both east coast trains and the Long Island Railroad traffic. Now they are digging a tunnel to connect Grand Central and Metro North with Penn Station. There are plenty of other empty places or underused places in the five boroughs to serve a new arena. Case in point the Barclay Arena across the East River and built over a bunch of rail tracks of the Long Island Railroad.
The flow of the pedestrian tunnels in the post 911 redo was directed toward expanded and increased exits with disasters or acts of terror in mind. The old World Trade Center went through a similar major redo of expanded and increased exit space after the 1993 bombing. Perhaps some lives were saved in the 911 attack in the underground plaza area of the WTC with the redo. It was needed even if the result to fulfill maximum usage in time of emergency was not realized.
The conversion of the Old Classic Central Post Office into a new above ground Penn Station needs a lot of other components in the new connecting tunnel with Grand Central Terminal and the expanding transportation hub of the now old number four Madison Square Garden.
New York is a forever changing fluid place of building, tearing down and rebuilding the New York Dream.