Cuomo adds housing to $51B Midtown West project

Development could include 1,400 affordable units

New York /
Jan.January 14, 2021 07:30 PM
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a major development surrounding Penn Station. (Getty)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a major development surrounding Penn Station. (Getty)

The state’s massive development plans for the area surrounding Penn Station now includes affordable housing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that the 20 million square feet of development planned for the neighborhood would not only include retail and commercial space, but also housing — a significant chunk of it affordable.

Officials had previously drafted a proposal to develop 10 buildings with more than 1,000 hotel rooms and 14 million square feet of office space, according to a scope of work issued in December.

But during a briefing to elaborate on his myriad State of the State proposals, Cuomo unveiled more extensive plans, including up to 1,400 affordable units. The governor said the state would make “14 building sites available” for the development and that affordable homes would be the priority.

The four additional buildings are planned for two state-owned sites next to and across the street from the Javits Center, according to state officials.

Empire State Development, the state’s development arm, initially envisioned only commercial space for the eight sites in the immediate vicinity of Penn Station. But in its final plan, the agency opened the door to three of those sites having residential space. To allow for the development of these and the other five sites, the state is seeking to override city zoning regulations to construct larger buildings.

The plans are part of an estimated $51 billion, 114-acre “Midtown West,” a new district that would duel with existing monikers including Hudson Yards, Manhattan West, the Far West Side, Chelsea, West Chelsea or simply Midtown. That price tag also includes the expansions of Penn Station and the Javits Center, as well as the redevelopment of Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The new buildings around Penn would generate revenue to help pay for the station’s redevelopment. The state plans to add another eight tracks by acquiring a block south of Penn, which contains 51 separate properties. That initiative is part of a broader overhaul of the transit hub, called Empire Station Complex, which Cuomo announced in his State of the State last year. Little about the project has been announced publicly since.

It has not yet been determined what agency — Amtrak, Empire State Development, the MTA or NJ Transit — would be charged with acquiring the properties surrounding Penn Station. The state has the option of using eminent domain should negotiations with the property owners fail.

Representatives for Amtrak were not available to discuss the governor’s announcement. A representative for Vornado Realty Trust, the predominant landlord in the area and a development partner on the new Moynihan Train Hall, did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

In last year’s speech, Cuomo also announced that Pier 76, currently used by the New York City Police Department as a tow yard, would be transformed into a public park. He reiterated that plan on Thursday and said the state is considering extending the High Line to connect the park with a pedestrian bridge across 12th Avenue. Earlier this week the governor announced a $60 million plan to extend the High Line to Brookfield’s Manhattan West project and then to the newly completed Moynihan Train Hall.

The inclusion of residential space in the state’s plan for Midtown West complements the governor’s announcement this week that he would introduce legislation to promote the conversion of empty office space into affordable and supportive housing. The pandemic has caused many hotels to permanently close and office vacancy rates to climb.





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