NYC urged to take over Madison Square Garden

NEW YORK Fri May 23, 2008 7:34pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City should explore using the power of eminent domain to take over Madison Square Garden to speed long-delayed plans to improve the overcrowded Pennsylvania Station below the arena, the chairman of the state Assembly's transportation committee said on Friday.

But Robert Lieber, deputy mayor for economic development, and Avi Schick, who runs a state development agency, disagreed with Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, saying such a step would further delay any improvements.

The Garden arena must be moved to add train tracks, part of a $2.5 billion overhaul. A simpler $875 million plan would give the station a grander entrance by moving the train station to the nearby Farley post office.

Madison Square Garden, owned by Cablevision Systems Corp, this spring rejected moving and instead unveiled a $500 million upgrade. Garden spokesman Barry Watkins said the renovation was moving forward. "Any discussion of eminent domain would completely disrupt the Moynihan station project at Farley," he said.

Financing the railroad station project is a big hurdle. It would be partly paid for by selling 5.4 million square feet of development rights at about $125 a square foot, Schick said.

But Anna Levin, a lawyer who serves on the local community board, said this was far below the market price, which she put at $250-$300 a square foot.

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