ESD President, CEO & Commissioner Hope Knight’s Op-Ed in the New York Daily News: “The Penn Revitalization Plan Is Good For New York”

July 26, 2022

Today, the New York Daily News published commentary by Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Hope Knight, on New York State’s partnership with New York City to fix Penn Station and transform the surrounding neighborhood. Text of the commentary is available below and can be viewed online here.


July 26, 2022

The Penn revitalization plan is good for New York

It’s no secret that Albany and City Hall often have different priorities. Yet one area of complete agreement is the need to fix Penn Station and revitalize the area surrounding it. Penn Station’s importance goes beyond Midtown or even the five boroughs; it’s the most trafficked transit hub in the Western Hemisphere. It’s how millions get to work. It’s the beating heart of the Eastern Seaboard’s rail system.

While Penn is reconstructed on the inside, we’re equally committed to fixing the failing conditions outside, and the agreement reached by Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams last week does exactly that. Neglected for decades, the neighborhood’s residents and the hundreds of thousands of commuters passing through the area deserve safer streets, less congestion and adequate open space.

As the former president and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, I have seen how transformational a transit hub can be to a community. The intersection of the MTA with the LIRR in Jamaica helped drive the growth of the neighborhood, providing commuters with access to jobs, businesses with access to customers, and New Yorkers at large with access to opportunity. Transportation connected Jamaica residents to opportunities across the region and brought customers, workers and investment to Jamaica, adding to its vibrancy. The governor’s plan to rebuild Penn Station has the power to do the same in the heart of Midtown. From Jamaica to Jersey, revitalizing Penn will help the entire New York region.

A small yet vocal group of people who aren’t satisfied with the governor’s plan and were critical that it lacked an agreement with the city are now upset we have one — and a fair, forward-looking one at that. But don’t take my word for it. As Mayor Adams said, “This partnership underscores the commitment by leadership at the city and state level to work together and ‘Get Stuff Done’ for New Yorkers. A state-of-the-art transportation system is at the heart of our ability to have a prosperous life and a prosperous city, and the key to an equitable recovery. [It is] a win-win for New Yorkers ± helping to deliver improved transit access, affordable housing, and quality jobs while also safeguarding future revenue and protecting against financial risk.”

The state’s partnership with the city guarantees benefits to New Yorkers beyond a new Penn Station:

City government will not lose tax revenue. In fact, the city will receive annual increases and when construction is complete, will have more valuable development commanding a higher tax rate. At the same time, the city and state will be reinvesting money from private development specifically to improve the area for residents and commuters alike. The dollars raised are the dollars reinvested right back into the neighborhood, without forcing fare hikes, tax increases, or services cuts on New Yorkers.

Development will not be ‘as-of-right.’ The agreement with the city doesn’t mean developers can do whatever they please. Whoever develops each one of the eight sites within the state’s plan must meet the required public realm and transportation improvements decided for that site. Those decisions are part of a formal state review, which includes a public hearing and additional opportunity for community input.

It’s the first major upgrade to the neighborhood in 50 years. The community and commuters have suffered from a half-century of disinvestment. It’s not fair to them, nor is it smart urban planning strategy. Under the governor’s plan, the state is guaranteeing hundreds of units of affordable and supportive housing; tens of millions of dollars in direct public realm and transit improvements within the area including wider sidewalks and new public plazas; pledges on historic preservation; and a commitment to enhance neighborhood social services. Like Lower Manhattan’s recovery since Sept. 11, 2001, this plan imagines a dynamic live/work community supporting a vibrant street life, with shops, acres of open space and long-overdue public amenities.

The plan helps make New York competitive for federal funding. The federal government is investing nearly a trillion dollars into public infrastructure across the country. Much of the funding is secured through a competitive application process that requires a local financial commitment. New York — competing against dozens of other states, cities, and regions — would have been ignored if the state and city didn’t show we were jointly invested in this project. Now, New York State and City are together declaring to federal funders that we have a sustainable local funding stream to support the reconstruction of Penn Station — and we are ready to get to work.

We can’t afford to wait to begin the long-overdue process of fixing Penn Station. With an election coming in November, New York State must act now to make its case for federal funding and secure this vital piece of our transit future.

Knight is president and CEO of Empire State Development.

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