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Moynihan Station plans still hang in the balance.

Empire State Development Corporation chairman Charles Gargano recalled while speaking at a press conference last week a visit he had years ago with Robert Moses. Gargano said that when he went into the great urban planner's office, he saw on display models and renderings for countless development projects that Moses had never been able to realize.

"I saw about 500 projects that he had planned," Gargano said.

Now it seems as if the current plan to convert the Farley Post Office building into Moynihan Station, an extension of Penn Station through which an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 commuters could pass each day, is teetering on the brink of a similar fate.

The Public Authorities Control Board, a state agency whose approval is necessary for over $100 million of funding for Moynihan Station, is scheduled to meet today in what could very well decide the future of the plan in its current form.

The PACB postponed consideration of the project at its prior two meetings in August and September after State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Comptroller Alan Hevesi raised questions about its financing and the absence of a plan for the proposed relocation of Madison Square Garden to the Farley building's western annex.

Gargano and the man who appointed him to his position as the state's economic development czar, Governor Pataki, have envisioned only the conversion of Farley Post Office's eastern annex into a train station with significant mixed use commercial space.

It was the developers they tapped to execute the construction, a partnership between Vornado and The Related Companies, who circulated a more sweeping plan that includes the MSG swap, construction of office towers on MSG's current site, and the renovation of Penn Station.

Silver, who thinks that the larger project is the one which should be considered and rejects that its approval come in phases, has persisted in his objections for the current plan despite the assertion among ESDC officials that all of his questions have been answered and that the plan would not preclude an eventual MSG swap.

Silver skipped a special PACB meeting last Friday that had been called by the governor to specifically consider the Moynihan project, a strong indication, many say, that the powerful state politician who shot down the West Side Stadium with his PACB vote last year, will either veto the station plan or cause it to be again postponed.

Another postponement would essentially amount to a de facto disapproval because Wednesday's PACB meeting is the last before November's gubernatorial elections. Anything less than an approval would hand the project to Pataki's successor, who would likely expand its scope.

Such an outcome for today's meeting could also spell potentially significant changes to the design for Moynihan Station itself.

The Dolan Family, the owners of MSG, has been waging a quiet war against the ESDC's station plan not just because it doesn't include an MSG swap, but also because its disapproval would likely pave the way for a new plan that would allow MSG to permeate the entire building, rather than just the western annex, with its presence.

Peggy Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, spoke at the press conference last week, which was organized and attended by the governor to urge approval of the project, and indicated that MSG had tried to exert influence over the station design.

"MSG made it clear that they wanted signage and they want people coming in the Eighth Avenue entrance," Breen said.

The Eighth Avenue entrance has been envisioned in the current design as Moynihan Station's busiest above-ground entrance. Not wanting to crowd the entrance even more with MSG-goers, ESDC officials felt that those attending MSG events should walk down 34th street to a separate entrance in the western annex--a proposal stiffly opposed by MSG.

Another issue of contention was who would occupy the long row of booths that have been used by the post office just inside the Eighth Avenue entrance.

"I see no reason to throw out the post office, it's part of the history of New York," Breen said, adding that the ESDC plan would preserve them.

According to Green, MSG wants to convert the booths into ticket windows, which would give it a significant presence well beyond the confines of the western annex.

In its fight against the current plan, MSG has employed powerful lobbyists former New York State senator Alphonse D'Amato and Patricia Lynch, Silver's former chief of staff, according to reports in the New York Sun.
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Title Annotation:Empire State Development Corporation
Author:Geiger, Daniel
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 18, 2006
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