Midtown Community Board 5 is blocking Madison Square Garden’s permit renewal in an attempt to move the iconic concert venue to a different location in the city. The Garden has been operating for three weeks without a permit, and Community Board opposition may keep the permit away even longer.
The World’s Most Famous Arena was granted a special permit 50 years ago by the New York City Board of Estimate to allow a new 22,000 seat venue to be constructed. This permit was necessary because the new arena exceeded the 2,500 seat limit imposed by the zoning rules of the time. On Jan. 24, that permit expired and the Garden has since been operating without one.
On Feb. 14, Community Board 5 rejected the Garden’s application for an indefinite permit renewal, voting 36 to 0 with one abstention. Instead, the Board voiced its favor of moving the Garden to a different location in the best interests of local property owners and Penn Station commuters.
According to a document provided by Wally Rubin, district manager of Community Board 5, Penn Station was designed for a capacity of approximately 200,000 people but is occupied by approximately 650,000 daily users and is outdated. The Board also claims that because the Garden sits atop Penn Station, opportunities to make significant improvements are constrained. This also caused a loss of approximately $350 million in property tax revenue since 1982, due to a tax abatement.
Madison Square Garden did not respond to a request for comment at press time.
Yet many New Yorkers hope that the Garden can stay in its current location for the sake of tradition.
“It’s convenient for me because I live in Long Island so getting off at Penn Station makes it much easier. But for as long as I can remember it’s been here. I remember coming to my first events at Madison Square Garden,” said Paul Edward, 45.
“I think it would make it easier [to keep it where it is now]. Plus, it is a landmark for Manhattan. I think [Penn Station] would be that busy anyway, like Grand Central,” said GSAS second-year student Katie Jagel.
Community Board 5 also rejected the Garden’s request for a permit renewal because the arena wanted to increase its signage. The board fears more signs would be a blight on the neighborhood and would confuse tourists and commuters. It also wants to eliminate the Garden’s tax abatement, which cost the city $16.5 million in lost revenue last year.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 21 print edition. Tanay Hudson is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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