28 July 2013

Why moving Madison Square Garden is a good thing for New York

On Wednesday, in a rare example of consensus, the New York City Council voted to give Madison Square Garden a ten-year operating permit, after which the arena would have to move. This decision was made as a result of the need to renovate Penn Station, which sits below the arena, and as the arena is an obstacle to said renovation, it appears that MSG may be on the move. Of course, in the closing stages of a $1 billion renovation, the folks running MSG are not going to go down without a fight on moving from their current location where it has been since 1968.

And count me on board with the City Council's decision.

Just to start off, I think that some folks need to calm down a little because there is a fine chance that nothing comes about of this and that Madison Square Garden does not have to move. As we all know, ten years is a long time and thus there are plenty of opportunities down the line that something develops and plans change. If the renovation plans do not move as expected, we could see the can kicked down the road, or if the folks running MSG do not find a new home in that time (which I don't buy). Plus, this is not the first time that the city has tried to move the arena, which was built as a result of the demolition of the original Penn Station.

But I do believe that this is a good move that will benefit the city of New York. Here is why.

First of which, Penn Station desperately needs renovations. It is just about uniformally disliked, in part because of its grand predecessor being so much greater in every level than this edition but perhaps more importantly, the current station is far from being big enough to deal with the over 600,000 commuters that use it every day. The planned redevelopment of the James Farley Post Office next door, known as Moynihan Station after the long-time New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who played a key role in pushing for the project, which will house Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, will help matters but the core issues will still exist as that will benefit a fraction of the 600,000. And as stated before, what stands in the way of the redevelopment of Penn Station is what is located on top of it.

And let's be frank, but moving Madison Square Garden will not be the end of the world because after all, it has moved several times before. They call it the "World's Most Famous Arena" but Deadspin's Barry Petchesky puts it best in how the arena really not is as grand as it wants you to think:
"The Garden...earned icon status not by dint of beauty...or even of history: in 45 years of hosting the Knicks and Rangers it has seen only three championship banners raised, and the boxing matches that earned it the 'Mecca' nickname have long packed up for Las Vegas."
Yes, the Dolans are spending a billion on renovating the arena but first, they only decided to do that to give themselves a reason for not moving five years ago and even that will not make MSG the best arena for either basketball or hockey in the New York area.

Plus, even as we all know that New York is lacking for open space as is, there are plenty of options for a new home in Manhattan, so those folks fretting about the teams moving to Long Island can calm down. The United States Postal Services, always seemingly in need of cash, has been reported to have a nice chunk of property for sale, which could include the back of the aforementioned Farley Post Office, and if the Cuomo administration gets the new convention center that he has pushed for before somewhere in Queens or elsewhere, the Jacob K. Javits Center property could also be an option.

The bottom line is that if New York gets a much-needed Penn Station renovation and a new Madison Square Garden, what is wrong with that? I know the good Americans reading this blog may not like to hear this, but transportation, particularly in a city like New York, should take precedence over sports in a situation like this. New York needs fixing across the board in their public transportation system and we know that a new Penn Station will have huge economic benefits for the city. In that case, why not?

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