Eminent domain could be used for Penn Station plans thanks to clause in state budget

Gov. Cuomo last month announced plans to acquire private real estate to expand outdated transit hub

Governor Andrew Cuomo and a rendering of Penn Station (Credit: Getty Images, Governor's Office)
Governor Andrew Cuomo and a rendering of Penn Station (Credit: Getty Images, Governor's Office)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid the groundwork for his ambitious new plan to redevelop Penn Station almost two years ago.

The governor included a clause in budget legislation that would allow the state to use eminent domain in the Penn Station neighborhood, according to the Wall Street Journal. The language said that Penn Station was “antiquated, substandard and inadequate” and needed to be modernized for the sake of public safety.

The language also instructed the state to fix these problems by starting to plan for the station and surrounding areas, which were not specified. Legal experts say the state could use this language to justify using eminent domain to carry out its plans.

Cuomo announced in January that he would look to acquire private real estate to expand Penn Station. The area in question spans 30th and 31st streets between Seventh and Eighth avenues, and it includes a homeless shelter, a Roman Catholic church, restaurants, bars and offices.

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Landlord Michael Orbach, whose company owns an office building in the area, has already said he has no intention of selling his property to the state.

Cuomo did not explicitly mention using eminent domain to acquire the land, but Manhattan Institute senior fellow Nicole Gelinas was skeptical.

“It’s the normal interplay between the state and the city,” she said, “where Cuomo is almost always the smarter party and gets the better end of the deal.”

Officials at Empire State Development told the Journal that they haven’t ruled out the use of eminent domain, but would work with the city and other stakeholders on the redevelopment plans.
[WSJ] – Eddie Small