Calls Come in for Penn Station Overhaul
NEW YORK CITY—Considered by many to be
an outdated transportation hub, Penn
Station is ripe for restoration, but there are
several issues with getting the upgrade
done. Chief among the challenges is
Madison Square Garden’s location. Its spot
directly above Penn inhibits the flow of
ample light, air and space into the station,
say the Municipal Art Society and the
Regional Plan Association, which recently
announced a public campaign to overhaul
the beleaguered facility. The following
week, Manhattan Borough President Scott
Stringer recommended limiting the
Garden’s special-use permit to 10 years,
rather than allowing the facility to stay put
The idea isn’t a radical one, either. It was
first put forth by Community Board Five in
February, according to the New York Times.
Stringer’s recommendation on extending
the Garden’s special permit followed suit.
Meanwhile, the MAS has put forth a
“design challenge,” according to a spokes-
woman, asking design firms to redesign
“not just Penn Station or MSG, but the
whole area surrounding the facilities. The
West Side deserves better.”
In addition, the Times reported, there is
no shortage of proposals to revamp the
space being considered. The Postal Service,
which has been suffering financially for
some time, is reportedly looking to sell off
city properties. It owns several on the West
Side, including the Morgan General Mail
Facility, a processing and distribution cen-
ter that spans a two-block site—from 28th
to 30th streets, between Ninth and Tenth
avenues—making it a perfect spot for a new
arena, the Times says.
One plan envisions constructing an
extension of the High Line spur from 10th
Avenue at 30th Street to Penn Station,
which would pass by the Morgan site. A new
Garden there, in an area still very convenient to mass transit, could become the
catalyst to much leisure and commercial
development, the paper notes.
Stringer’s recommendation is part of
his call for a Moynihan-Penn Station mas-
ter plan, which would “spur economic
development and transportation growth,”
according to the announcement.
Moynihan Station refers to existing plans
to move Amtrak and some other opera-
tions into the Post Office’s James A. Farley
Building, across Eighth Avenue.
G Train Improvement Would Boost Greenpoint
As real estate investors and developers, we always ask ourselves two questions: “How can
we create more desirable inventory? What neighborhoods will give the greatest return
Convenient transportation is the key to these answers. Look at the extension of the 7
Train to Hudson Yards—that move unlocked more than $5 billion of investment into the
neighborhood—or take a look at how re-routing the M train to Manhattan dramatically
increased the growth and investment in neighborhoods served by M stations in Brooklyn
and Queens. Greenpoint has already seen significant growth over the past few years, but
that growth would be exponential if the G train added and upgraded cars, created new
stations and ran reliably.
While the city took action in rezoning Greenpoint to accommodate the needs of a growing community, the neighborhood
hasn’t taken off at the speed at which it could. Development
along the waterfront holds great promise, but the single-greatest driver of growth lies in
better transportation. Owners are paying around $150 per square foot here compared
to $250 per square foot in neighboring Williamsburg. Better transportation in this area
will mean a 20% to 25% price increase for landlords.
One solution to this transportation problem, which could be done rather cheaply,
would be to offer free above-ground transfers between the G train’s Broadway stop
with the J and M trains at Hewes and Lorimer, which shuttle commuters to Manhattan.
Or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could add more rolling stock to the
inadequate four-car line; most other lines have trains with eight to 10 cars. But even
more importantly, adding two additional stops on the G that runs under Manhattan
Avenue—one on the corner of Manhattan and Green Street, the other a few blocks
down on the corner of Box Street—if completed in stages, would improve quality of
life, drive growth to the neighborhood and give confidence to investors and lenders to
invest in Greenpoint.
Greenpoint already enjoys a solid infrastructure with retail, fine housing stock, banks,
supermarkets, dry cleaners and gentrified hotspots like Five Leaves (behind an investment from the late actor Heath Ledger), Nights and Weekends, Calexico and the 6,000-
square-foot beer hall Spritzenhaus—as well as the short-lived Rotgut, a 180-square-foot
illegal speakeasy-cum public art project at the corner of Greenpoint and Franklin, created by tattoo and installation artist Duke Riley, where drinks were priced at a nickel.
While hip is important, a better driver of growth is quality education over speakeasies,
so I’m pleased that there are fine alternatives to private school with P.S. 110 and P.S. 34
offering great educational options. The ferry directly to Manhattan is a great option for
those who work on the East Side of Midtown. However, I hope that the extension of the G
train becomes a reality for Greenpoint once the MTA completes a full-line review of the
service by June 2013 and realizes what this change could mean for the neighborhood.
Mayor Bloomberg, you have done an incredible job driving investment in New York City;
perhaps you could help push for the reconfiguration of the G train to finish what you
started in North Brooklyn?
By David Behin
David Behin is partner and president of investment sales at MNS. He may be contacted at sdb@
mns.com. The views expressed here are the author’s own.
Vital Signs...Long Island’s Q4 industrial vacancy was 5.6%, less than half the 12.3% rate for office.—Newmark Grubb Knight Frank