At a Feb. 22 Manhattan Community Board 5 meeting, Madison Square Garden Executive Vice President Joel Fisher indicated a willingness to move the arena one block east to where the Pennsylvania Hotel is now being demolished. However, as Fisher noted at the meeting, there’s no plan for doing so and no funding.
If the Buffalo Bills got $800 million in public funds to build their new stadium, why not work on a similar plan for the Garden? The sports and entertainment venue is home to the New York Rangers and the Knicks and hosts concerts year-round. One proposal by ReThink Penn Station NYC, the group pushing for a better Penn Station revitalization plan, would even have the arena designed to look like the Stanford White-designed Garden that stood across from Madison Square Park from 1890 to 1926. Eddie Small of Crain’s New York Business also suggested that the move could help play into Vornado Realty’s ambitious development plan around Penn Station, which was put on hold because of market conditions.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, whose hometown is Buffalo, took a lot of heat for orchestrating the Bills deal, but the plan is still moving forward. I’m personally saddened by the Hotel Pennsylvania’s loss, being that it was built to complement the original Penn Station across the street. However, using the site for a new arena does offer a consolation and opportunity for all interested parties to see progress made that ultimately benefits the community around the Garden and the rest of the city.