Massive Empire Station Complex project that will revamp Penn Station area moves forward
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build an interconnected public transportation hub and revitalize Penn Station took a major step forward this week. The Empire State Development’s Board of Directors on Thursday adopted the General Project Plan (GPP) and certified the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Empire Station Complexproject, which would link an upgraded Penn Station, the newly opened Moynihan Train Hall, and a tentative new terminal one block south of Penn Station. The board also set a public hearing on the project for March 23, followed by a 30-day public comment period.
The DEIS, seen in full here, identifies areas that could be adversely affected by the project, including impacts on open space, shadows from proposed buildings, subway stations, construction-related impacts in the neighborhood, and neighborhood character. The statement found the proposed project would cause adverse shadow impacts to five open spaces and four historic architectural resources with “sunlight sensitive features,” starting in phase two of construction.
According to the DEIS, the GPP requires the commercial development to be designed and constructed to accommodate the expansion of Penn Station at three of the site and underneath the streets, if the block south is approved for the terminal’s expansion. The GPP “would allow for the override of use, bulk, density, and other applicable provisions of New York City’s Zoning Resolution and possibly other laws, codes, and requirements.”
“New York has repeatedly proven that government can still successfully deliver transformational infrastructure projects that are not only on-time and on-budget, but withstand the test of time,” Cuomo said in a press release Friday.
“The Moynihan Train Hall’s successful completion was a milestone, but it’s only the first step in a neighborhood-wide revitalization. The Empire Station Complex project represents the next great investment in our efforts to rebuild and expand this crucial piece of our state’s infrastructure and will support economic growth in New York City and across the entire state.”
Last January, Cuomo revived his Empire Station Complex proposal, an idea he first put forth in 2016. The first phase of the project, the new Moynihan Train Hall at the historic James A. Farley Post Office, opened this year as a new home for Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road.
His plan also involves the overhaul of Penn Station with new entrances and improved pedestrian space and the potential expansion of the existing station by building a new terminal south of it. “Penn South” would accommodate nine additional tracks and five new platforms to add transit capacity and “commuter comfort.” Designed to handle 250,000 commuters per day but saw 650,000 in 2019, Penn Station remains one of the nation’s busiest.
Empire Station Complex is one part of Cuomo’s broader plan to transform Midtown West. Last month, the governor unveiled a $51 billion plan to redevelop over 100 acres of area with a proposal to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal, extend the High Line, and create 1,400 units of affordable housing, in addition to the Penn Station revamp and expansion.
The plan calls for the construction of 10 new buildings–consisting of office, retail, and possibly hotel and residential space–on eight sites in the surrounding area and improvements to public space. A proposal to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal released last month by the agency involves demolishing the existing bus station to make way for a larger, state-of-the-art terminal, and the construction of a four-story facility that would serve as a temporary bus terminal while the new terminal is under construction.
Officials say it could fund the bus project with $3 billion from the PANYNJ’s 2017-2026 capital plan, the sale of development rights from up to four nearby high-rise towers, and federal funding. The Port Authority’s replacement plan coupled with the Empire Station Complex plan could result in 14 new towers in a stretch of Midtown West.
The DEIS estimates that the project will be completed and fully operational, including the commercial developments and expansion of Penn Station, by 2038.
The public hearing will be held via Zoom on March 23 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The public can also submit comments to ESD by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org through Friday, April 23, 2021. Sign up to register for the public hearing and see the full GPP and the DEIS on Empire State Development’s website.
Following the public hearing and subsequent 30-day public comment period, the ESD will issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement and affirm or modify the GPP.