Think Big, Act Fast: Vornado’s Shameful Land Grab Must be Blocked

A recent rally found the Empire Station Coalition on the literal steps of a land grab orchestrated by NYS and NYC Big Real Estate. | Photo by Pamela Wolff

BY PAMELA WOLFF | The needlessly destructive class warfare plan to hand over Midtown’s Penn Station area to a lone, monied real estate interest—cooked up by disgraced former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo and inherited with blind gusto by his successor—must not be permitted to move forward. To do so would forever alter thousands of lives, by declaring time-honored small businesses, lifelong residences, and iconic houses of worship to be expendable.

We get one shot at getting this right.

With Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan gathering steam with each passing day, our elected officials and activist coalitions must use our collective voices to retake the Penn Station narrative. First and foremost, we must forge a path to move Madison Square Garden—the giant toadstool that smothers Penn Station. The Garden’s lease expires next year.

We get one shot at getting this right.

That’s our one shot. Then we must convince the skeptics of the perfect logic of through-running trains. Both these goals are essential to getting an all-stop on the entire greedy, grubby plan.

It won’t be easy. Vornado Realty Trust did their homework over decades to assemble their block-busting, campus-building, sky-high monstrosity. We all were suckers not to see it coming. Now that it’s in our sights, we mustn’t blink, not even for a moment.

We get one shot at getting this right.
We have to become the initiators, the visionary thinkers and doers. Ed Kirkland got it right with the Ladies Mile planning, the Chelsea Zoning Plan, and the West Chelsea Historic District. Bob Trentlyon got it right when he jumped into the vacuum left when Westway failed, to get a world-class park built for Chelsea, against all odds. He showed the way for the Hudson River Park, and gave it the jewel in the crown. These visionary urban planners didn’t wait around to get bested by some  shameless corporate boondoggle, to scamper about, begging for a few scraps of “affordable housing” that somehow never quite materialize. They got out of the box and showed what could be done with the opportunities no one else saw.

Now, this very day, we need our elected and City officials to think big and stand their ground, and we need to stand alongside them.

Vornado’s big gamble, full of hubris and false promise, would cut Manhattan in half.  Should the day ever come, all 10 glassy (and probably empty) corporate towers will serve as sentinels, leading the way across the East Side to the other river. They will not stop until Manhattan is covered in towering corporate gluttony and political greed.

We get one shot at getting this right.


Note: Pamela Wolff, who writes on her own behalf, is a public member of Manhattan Community Board 4 and president of Save Chelsea, a preservationist group that is part of the Empire Station Coalition, formed to halt the proposed Penn Station complex and advocate for a better solution.



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