Will the Knicks be forced to call Long Island home in 10 years?
The City Council vote to limit Madison Square Garden's permit to 10 years surely has a segment of Knicks fans pondering such questions.
Before we start talking about nicknames for the Long Island Knicks, though, it's worth noting that there are several significant hurdles to clear before the Garden is forced to move from its current location atop Penn Station.
Below, we offer a breakdown of those steps and a look at the implications of a potential MSG move.
WHY DOES CITY COUNCIL WANT TO MOVE THE GARDEN? Speaker Christine Quinn and the Council would like to work on a plan to renovate Penn Station. Madison Square Garden, which sits atop Penn Station, presents a major hurdle in any renovation plans for the transportation hub. So Quinn and the City Council have ruled that the Garden's permit to operate an arena above Penn Station is good for another ten years. During this time period, the city and economic developers will attempt to create a plan for a Penn Station renovation that "appropriately suits the needs of the hundreds of thousands of travelers who pass through it every day and can accommodate its expected growth in the future."
WHEN DO THE KNICKS AND MSG HAVE TO LEAVE? There's no guarantee -- at this point -- that they will ever be forced to move from the current site. MSG's special permit that allows them to operate an arena that has more than 2,500 seats will expire in 10 years.
When it expires, the Garden can reapply for another permit. Traditionally, they would have to go through the city planning department and the city council to do so. Quinn has suggested that any change to the permit would require full public review and Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULUP).
It's worth noting that the current council members voted 49-1 to limit the Garden's permit, but there's no way to predict how future council members would vote. Ten years from now, there will be different members who may take a different stance on this land use issue.
CITY COUNCIL HAS VOTED. WHAT'S NEXT? Herein lies the trickiest part of the whole equation. The city and economic developers must come up with a viable plan to rebuild Penn Station. As Quinn notes, "this will require the participation of all the major stakeholders -- the City, the State, the Federal Government, the MTA, Amtrak, the community boards, local businesses, the commuting public, and, obviously, Madison Square Garden itself." This is not easy. There are plenty of moving parts that need to be in lockstep to accomplish a Penn Station renovation. Also, it will cost the city a large sum of money to do so. Will the regime in charge of the city five to 10 years from now be amenable to spending a large sum to renovate Penn Station? Surely, many will note that the public money used for Penn can be used for other worthy endeavors. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out.
HAS MSG BEEN ASKED TO MOVE TO ACCOMMODATE PENN STATION BEFORE? Yes. The restoration of Penn Station has been talked about for nearly 20 years. It's been a challenge for the various entities involved here to come together and form a plan. The Garden actually explored a move to the Farley Building across the street recently as part of a new vision for a revitalized Penn Station. But that vision fell apart due to lack of funding.
IF MSG HAD TO MOVE, WHERE WOULD IT GO? That's anyone's guess. There is land available on the West Side of Manhattan between 30th and 33rd streets and 10th and 12th Avenues. Some of this land is used to store commuter trains and is an attractive site for a sports complex. The area -- known as the Rail Yards -- was the proposed site of the Jets' West Side stadium, which a few years back failed to gain full approval for construction. Another option, though a long-shot, would be to move the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty to Long Island. But the fact that MSG chairman and Knicks owner James Dolan just spent $1 billion to renovate the current Garden means he probably won't go down without a fight. The guess here is that he'll challenge any attempts to force him to move in court before he agrees to relocate.
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