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State Senate Oversight Hearing Wants To Shed Light On Missing Details In Penn Station Redevelopment Plan

Officials from the Empire State Development Corporation, which is leading the project, said the developers, primarily Vornado Realty Trust, would not have to pay property taxes on their properties, but would instead pay the state compensation through a program known as Payments. Instead of taxes (PILOTs). State officials did not disclose how much the real estate companies could pay, but only said the city’s taxpayers would not be blamed for funding shortfalls.

The state also believes that these fees would be enough to cover the cost of the pedestrian improvements to the area and some of the improvements to Penn Station.

“We don’t have a funding plan that tells us exactly how much money the development is going to bring in, exactly how much money the federal government can provide, and exactly how much the state will provide,” said Rachael Fauss, senior research analyst. with the good government group Reinvent Albany. “We don’t have a clear financing plan, which is why this hearing is so necessary to answer those questions.”

Sam Turvey, chairman of the ReThinkNYC group and co-coordinator of Empire Station Coalition, is leading the opposition to the project, which he calls “old style urban regeneration.”

“There’s this idea that what’s there is bad, what’s there has been destroyed, what’s there isn’t working and we need to eliminate it and fix it up and make it fun,” Turvey told Gothamist. “I think history has shown us more often than not that this is the wrong response.”

So far the focus of the project has been on improving the appearance of the train station and the surrounding neighbourhood, but little has been said about increasing train capacity at the station. Before the pandemic, 600,000 commuters a day passed through Penn Station. The station, as designed in 1968, was built to accommodate 200,000 people a day. The Penn Station project planning website notes that platform space could be increased by 40%, but nothing about how this will increase the number of trains entering the station.

The final part of the Gateway program involves increasing the number of tracks at Penn Station once the long-term project to build a second Hudson River tunnel and repair the existing one is complete.

Turvey is willing to file a lawsuit to stop the project because the fragmented rollout of the project makes it impossible to comment publicly on the entire project, which could violate federal environmental laws. Turvey believes that the project should be presented holistically, not with the MTA responsible for some aspects and the state for others. The project is expected to be completed in 2028.

“The lawyers we spoke to believe that this is one of the strongest cases prevailing over that theory that they have seen,” Turvey said.

The state senate hearing is scheduled for June 24 at 10 a.m.

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