Week 4

Apr 27, 2023

On April 17, I visited the office of councilman Erik Bottcher, whom I followed and observed for the day. My main reason for shadowing Bottcher was to follow the situation with Madison Square Garden potentially being relocated, which was discussed in a meeting with architectural firm Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU).

For those who are unaware, a permit is necessary for venues to hold as many people as Madison Square Garden does. MSG was given a permit to hold that many people, which expired in 2013. The venue was then given a 10-year extension in hopes of them finding a place to relocate to, which has also recently expired. Now there is discussion of what to do with the venue and whether or not to give them another three or so years to figure out relocating, though Bottcher is concerned that another extension would prolong inaction, stressing the importance of coalescence on one plan.

There are many factors that impede the process of relocating the venue. It is not easy to find another building to hold 20,000 people, meaning there can’t be a short notice. Much of MSG belongs to the private sector, especially the Dolan family that owns the site, so land acquisition would cost billions of dollars and likely mandate the invocation of eminent domain. This has made the project somewhat controversial with some of the involved parties and groups that have weighed in with proposals, as a problem arguably caused by the public sector will ultimately benefit the private sector greatly.

Several groups have proposed plans for the future of the venue. One group wants to move the Penn Station office spaces along with the Garden. Another wants to turn MSG into a park, though this is highly unlikely. PAU’s plan would essentially recycle The Garden into Penn Station, making it something of a palimpsest. According to PAU founder Vishaan Chakrabarti, this would save billions of dollars and be better for the environment and Penn Station. This plan was initially widely supported among legislators and seemed to be the course of action when MSG signed a 2006 memorandum of understanding to move to the Farley building in Midtown, though it was overshadowed by larger projects and never ended up happening.

Attending this meeting gave me an active land use project to research, which will likely make its way into my project. Coming up, I will be interviewing past onsite advisors, as well as scheduling future placements.

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