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The Governor and the Station

The Governor and the Station

New York Times 10/21/2006

It had been Gov. George Pataki’s fervent wish to put a ceremonial shovel in the ground this month to begin the redevelopment of part of Manhattan’s grand old post office building into a railroad station named after the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. That won’t happen now that the governor has lost a critical vote on the project.

Angry and frustrated, the governor is threatening to kill the project altogether. We understand his disappointment, but he has no right to take his feelings out on the city. Mr. Pataki had 12 years to get this project going, and it is utterly unreasonable of him to do anything that could leave New Yorkers without the hope of replacing the dismal Penn Station for a very long time. Mr. Pataki has no choice but to let a new governor pick up this project.

The Moynihan Station has been in the works, often in fits and starts, for all of Mr. Pataki’s three terms in office. This week, with his administration nearing an end, the station finally went to the Public Authorities Control Board, where state development projects must get unanimous support from the speaker of the State Assembly, the president of the State Senate and the governor. The lone Democrat, Speaker Sheldon Silver, vetoed the plan.

Bringing everything to a halt until his own, sometimes oblique, concerns are satisfied is a familiar posture for Mr. Silver. In this case, he is right in saying the current plan does only part of the work — renovating a third of the Farley Post Office building into an alternative entrance to Penn Station. It’s obvious that a better approach would be to consider the bigger but still mostly unformed proposal that would move Madison Square Garden to the back of the Farley building, renovate the front part of the building, raze the hideous current Garden and redevelop that site to restore the entire Penn Station complex to some of its former glory.

The promise of Moynihan Station has been tantalizing for too long. The current Penn Station is an abomination — underground, harshly lit and graceless. The original building, a stately twin to the post office, was torn down four decades ago. Merely renovating the Farley would not bring back the old glory, nor would it accommodate enough commuter rail traffic. What’s needed is a complete solution.

Calling the project dead — as Mr. Pataki’s appointee, Charles Gargano, did — only risks losing $230 million in federal financing for Moynihan Station, and that is unacceptable. As it now stands, the developers should be able to begin a supplemental environmental impact statement, and resubmit a plan for a vote. That could happen as early as next spring, when Mr. Pataki’s successor is in office.