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State, NYC reach accord on funding for new Penn Station

(AP) DAVID PORTER, July 18, 2022

 A funding agreement has been reached for the multibillion-dollar redevelopment of New York’s aging Penn Station, the country’s busiest rail hub.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams were to announce details of the deal, obtained by The Associated Press, Monday. It calls for private developers to make payments in lieu of taxes on new commercial and residential buildings around the station for a period of 40 to 45 years, with the amount collected in excess of existing property taxes applied to the project.

According to the agreement, that money would pay for all improvements to streets, sidewalks and other public spaces — a cost estimated at more than $1 billion — and 50% of the improvements to transit infrastructure including underground concourses and subway entrances. 

“This agreement brings us one step closer to a beautiful, modern station worthy of New York with vibrant open space, lively streetscapes, and better, more seamless connections to local transit,” Hochul said in a statement.

The overall project is expected to cost roughly $8.5 billion. A recent study commissioned by Reinvent Albany, a state government watchdog group, estimated that the payments in lieu of taxes would amount to about $4 billion. Combined with $1.3 billion the state has already earmarked for the project, that would leave roughly $3 billion to be raised. That gap is expected to be filled by federal dollars and contributions from New York, New Jersey and other public sources. 

The funding agreement still needs final approval from the state’s Public Authorities Control Board, which oversees project-related financing for the state’s public authorities. 

Last fall, Hochul announced a plan to transform the crowded, dingy 54-year-old station that sits underneath the Madison Square Garden arena into a modern, traveler-friendly facility. In pre-pandemic times, Penn Station served roughly 600,000 passengers per day on regional rail lines from New Jersey and Long Island, Amtrak and the New York subway system.

The plan calls for a large, single-level train hall with higher ceilings and a 450-foot-long skylight to replace the current cramped, windowless interior; more escalators, stairs and elevators to platforms, and more street entrances to reduce sidewalk crowding.

Hochul’s vision, a scaled-down version of earlier plans announced by her predecessor, fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo, would create new residential and office space around the station and has provoked criticism from neighborhood groups who contend it will destroy a vibrant area and displace residents and businesses. 

A smaller share of the revenue from payments in lieu of taxes will go toward the expansion of Penn Station’s track network to accommodate more trains once a second $10 billion rail tunnel is built under the Hudson River in several years. 

Those plans are still in discussion, but the memorandum of agreement released Monday sounded a potentially ominous note: A study is underway to determine whether two additional tunnels would need to be built to connect the Hudson River tunnels to an expanded Penn Station, it said.

Source: Associate Press