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Madison Square Garden Special Operating Permit Hits Halfway Point

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The current Madison Square Garden special operating permit is at the halfway mark, and there is uncertainty about whether it will be renewed or if there will be calls for a new arena elsewhere.

Madison Square Garden operates on a special operating permit with New York City, as it stands above Penn Station. For years, there has been discussion about a new above-ground Penn Station, while demolishing Madison Square Garden and replacing it at another site. The original Pennsylvania Station was torn down to make way for Madison Square Garden and some additional development, a demolition that helped create the preservation movement in New York City.

In 2013, the New York City Council authorized a 10-year special operating permit for Madison Square Garden, and some officials hoped at the time that a new arena would be constructed by 2023. That special operating permit has reached its halfway point, and there are questions as to what MSG and New York City officials are considering for a long-term plan. MSG has neither disclosed plans for a new arena nor filed an application for an extension, while the city is not stating whether it expects MSG to build a new arena within that time frame. More from The Real Deal:

“We have not provided any public information” on the matter, MSG spokesperson Kimberly Kerns told The Real Deal.

Stakeholders such as the Regional Plan Association and the Municipal Arts Society that have called for the Garden to move said they have not been informed of any plans to do so. Madison Square Garden has not filed an application with the City Planning Commission to extend its special permit, and sources said the City Council hasn’t been made aware of the stadium’s future plans.

The City Council made it clear five years ago that it expected MSG to be gone by 2023, but a Council spokesperson would not say whether the legislative body expected the Garden to stick to the deadline.

“MSG over the years has looked at variety of different options and the Council hopes to work with them and other stakeholders to make sure we address the long term needs of Penn Station and our transit riders,”spokesperson Jennifer Fermino wrote in an email.

Madison Square Garden’s presence has always been viewed as an obstacle in eventually expanding Penn Station. However, five years is not an insignificant window, given the time frame that would likely be needed to complete an arena project. Madison Square Garden is also a very active facility, hosting both the New York Knicks (NBA) and New York Rangers (NHL), while also being used for a variety of concerts, tournaments, and other events. A report in 2016 also outlined the total price tag of a new Manhattan arena and a new Penn Station at $5 billion, so the cost would have be significant factor in any discussions.

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