The Real Deal New York

This month in real estate history

Transportation Building rises, costs of Bellevue plan escalate, and city zones below ground
By Farah Halime | February 01, 2016 11:00AM
The Garden’s 19,000-seat arena built in 1968 was its fourth incarnation.

The Garden’s 19,000-seat arena built in 1968 was its fourth incarnation.

1968: Madison Square Garden opens above Penn Station

A“lavish” new Madison Square Garden replaced its “grimy” predecessor in the form of a $150 million complex atop Pennsylvania Station 48 years ago this month. The fourth incarnation of the arena, known simply as The Garden, opened at its current venue on 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue just as the final pieces of furniture were moved out of its former building further north on 50th Street, according to the New York Times. Mayor John Lindsay said in a farewell statement, “The old Garden was an institution; the greatest arena of them all. For two generations, performing at the Garden meant reaching the top.” The old venue had served as a stage for politicians as well as performers. From its opening in 1925 to 1968, the old Garden drew 250 million patrons to 144 events. Its replacement, which boasted a construction cost of approximately $123 million, was one of the most expensive stadium venues ever built at the time. In subsequent years, The Garden underwent further renovations. In 2013, the arena received a $1 billion upgrade. It still retains its title as one of the busiest entertainment venues, ranking fifth in the world for ticket sales in 2015.

The Ed Sullivan Theater in 2007

The Ed Sullivan Theater in 2007

1993: CBS buys Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway

CBS paid $4 million to buy the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway for David Letterman’s new late-night show 23 years ago this month. The deal with Winthrop Financial Associates of Boston, which included the purchase of an adjacent 14-story office building, ended speculation that Letterman might move to Los Angeles. That very summer, Letterman was to leave his 12:30 p.m. show at NBC, which had been filmed in New York, to host a new 11:30 p.m. program on CBS. Mayor David Dinkins had campaigned hard for the late-night host to stay in the city, the New York Times reported. As part of the purchase, the network was planning to pay several million dollars more for the renovation of the theater. Polshek Partnership was hired to reconfigure the space from 1,200 seats to a more intimate 400-seat studio. “Everyone is excited about this,” said Howard Stringer, the president of the CBS Broadcast Group. “We intend to make this a showcase.” The historic theater had been home to Ed Sullivan’s variety show as well as memorable performances by the Beatles, Elvis and other famous artists. Today, it serves as the studio for Stephen Colbert, who took over the late show from Letterman in September.

Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind

2003: Architect selected to redesign WTC site

A Berlin-based architectural firm was tapped by city and state officials 13 years ago this month to lead the rebuilding of Ground Zero. Studio Daniel Libeskind was selected as part of a nine-month competition that involved heated debate and lobbying among stakeholders. The winning design centered on creating an excavated pit ringed by glass towers. The pit’s exposed concrete walls were taken as representing “the foundations of democracy, standing fast under the onslaught of a swift and terrifying enemy,” wrote the New York Times. Libeskind was considered the front-runner for weeks. Both Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who were on the selection committee, were said to support Libeskind’s design. Yet it was unclear at the time whether Libeskind’s plan would be fully realized. Larry Silverstein, the developer of One WTC, had already hired David Childs, an architect at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, to design the first tower. That building, along with the National September 11 Memorial Museum, opened in 2014. Slated as the first of six buildings at the site, One WTC has a more traditional profile than what was originally envisioned. But the building does adhere to Libeskind’s height concept of 1,776 feet, making it the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.