This makes good sense. Penn Station IS a problem, and we need the flexibility to be able to address capacity constraints without being held hostage to a 50 year deal.
The Penn Station problem, as I've written lately, is often tough to discern in media coverage. Some prominent city historians and architectural critics have grown too obsessed with rectifying a 50-year wrong. They want to promote the Moynihan Station venture as penance for Penn Central's decision to tear down the Beaux Arts Penn Station, and they want to move Madison Square Garden to build something that looks majestic. That solution doesn't address the fundamental problem: Penn Station rail capacity is maxed out. The platforms are too narrow, and the trans-Hudson rail tubes are too few. How can a new MSG and a new Penn Station improve rail capacity into and through New York City?
To that end, Stringer has an answer, and he lays it out in the ULURP recommendation [pdf]. Noting that both Moynihan Station and the Penn Visioning plan do not "go far enough, nor address the physical constraint of the Garden on meaningful improvements to Penn Station," Stringer first calls for improvements at the track level. Amtrak's Gateway Tunnel will work, he says, only if platforms are wider, and to widen platforms, MSG and its support columns must go. "While moving Madison Square Garden," he writes, "would potentially lead to a new, modern head house serving as a grand gateway into New York City, the true benefits in moving the arena would be increased below-grade flexibility that would allow for efficient track design."
Thus, says Stringer, it's time to develop a master plan for area. Involving all stakeholders — MSG, the city, the state, the feds, the MTA, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, area business — will be a challenge, but the future economic development of the Midtown area and the city on the whole depend on it. "Master plans for regional and mass transit improvements can take years, sometimes decades, to implement," Stringer says. "The city must begin to create a master plan now and not wait until the system is so congested as to be broken."
Of course the arena operators have to talk their book, but it's funny how a 50 year renewal is a natural right, and a 10 year renewal is an artificial constraint. If we're not ready to move forward with improvements in ten years, give them another ten. And if necessary, another ten after that. But to write off the possibility of a fix for 50 years is madness.