Letter Urging NYC Council’s Not To Issue An Operating Permit For Madison Square Garden

(Empire State Coalition) February 15, 2023

Dear City Council Member;
On behalf of the Empire Station Coalition, we are writing to urge you not to issue an operating permit for Madison Square Garden (MSG) to continue its use as a sports entertainment facility for more than 2,500 persons. MSG received a 10-year extension in 2013 when the original 50-year permit expired. This extension was granted so that MSG could find and relocate to a different site. Though several proposals have been made for an alternate site in the last ten years by groups ranging from the RPA, PAU Associates, the Grand Penn Community Alliance, and ReThinkNYC, nothing has been done. Our reasons for asking that MSG’s operating permit not be renewed are as follows:
First,  Moving Madison Square Garden would allow for the city, state, and region to build a worthy above-ground station including modernized track operations (through-running) for one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest transit hubs. We believe that Madison Square Garden should be moved for a fourth time to an appropriate location in Manhattan. Manhattan is the true source of its “magic,” not its present location.
Second,  We believe that the incremental convenience of concert and sports events attendees in an arena perched atop the present station shouldn’t take precedence over the opportunity to anchor a region-altering conversion to unified transit at a train station akin to Grand Central Terminal, Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, or Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. 
Third,  We need to move this conversation to a win-win situation. Leaving the Garden, one of the oldest arenas in the NBA with many operational challenges in place with Penn Station pinned under it, is the epitome of a lose-lose and will last for generations if we get this wrong. We have the opportunity of a century to get this right and transform the region’s economic strength and connectivity while addressing a major environmental challenge. A win-win involves moving MSG to an appropriate Manhattan location where a new state-of-the-art arena can be built while allowing Penn Station to also become the world-class transit hub that the city, state, and region deserve. We cannot allow it to be squandered.

In sum, to create a transit plan and a Pennsylvania Station truly worthy of New York City, the region and the nation; Madison Square Garden MUST be moved. MSG owners have had enough time to craft a plan – and have done nothing. The facility is the subject of a tax exemption worth about $50 million a year while the rest of us foot the bill. This has gone on long enough. The permit has an expiration date for a reason.
We cannot allow one organization to prevent what more than eight million New York City residents (and millions of other commuters) deserve – a great Penn Station.
Lynn Ellsworth
Sam Turvey
Empire Station Coalition