Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll look at why Madison Square Garden needs a new permit — and why getting it will probably be more complicated than getting a new driver’s license. And, in a city of skyscrapers, there’s a bid to build a casino underground.
Credit…Amir Hamja for The New York Times
In New York there are building permits, permits for wastewater treatment plants, learner’s permits for new drivers and special permits for trucks that are unusually large or heavy.
And, it turns out, there is a permit, issued by New York City, for Madison Square Garden.
The Garden’s current permit is expiring. The Garden has told city officials it would seek a permanent one. I asked my colleague Dana Rubinstein to explain what’s at stake.
Why does the Garden need a permit now?
The permit they have is for 10 years rather than permanent because in 2013, when Christine Quinn was the speaker of the City Council, she wanted to pressure Madison Square Garden to find a new home. They put a time limit on the permit that was issued then.
But the Garden hasn’t gone anywhere.
No, that gambit didn’t work. In the years since 2013, the political will to force the Garden to relocate seems to have ebbed. There was a time when the Regional Plan Association and the Municipal Art Society, which both carry influence in New York, were outspoken in their desire to force the Garden to move. They argued that was really the only way to rebuild Penn Station and make it worthy of the city and of its standing as the nation’s busiest railroad station.
But things have changed. Andrew Cuomo, when he was governor, put out a different plan that he said would result in a better Penn Station. The plan involves allowing 10 skyscrapers to go up around the station, which he said would generate enough revenue to help rebuild it.
After he left office, his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, adopted a similar plan. It’s controversial, especially in light of the decline in office use and the rise of working from home, but it is still the plan. And the state has begun renovation plans for Penn Station, so there’s a feeling that New York could get a resurrected Penn Station even with Madison Square Garden crouching on top of it.
There’s also Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, which has yet to build the second half of that project and is arguing that Madison Square Garden could go there. It is an argument that has won the support of Erik Bottcher, the current council member, which does not mean it will happen but is noteworthy. This permit process is a land-use process that culminates in a vote in the City Council. Traditionally, land-use decisions defer to the local member in the district that’s affected. In this case, that would be Bottcher.
Madison Square Garden Entertainment has been in the headlines lately for using facial recognition technology to target lawyers going to games or shows at Radio City Music Hall, which the company also operates. Will that affect the permit process?
The fact that this operating permit is arising in the middle of the facial recognition controversy would seem to be less than ideal timing.
There’s also a personnel move that might be unpopular with lawmakers on the City Council, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. James Dolan, the chief executive of MSG Entertainment, has Hope Hicks, Donald Trump’s former communications director in the White House, as a consultant. Dolan was a major contributor to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
What is involved in the permit process?
It has to run a gantlet of reviews at different levels of city government that will take at least seven months.
The current permit is likely to expire before the process is complete, but the city can issue a letter saying the Garden can continue to operate while the process is continuing. If the Garden were somehow not to get a new permit, which seems unlikely, it would be confined to 2,500 seats. Its capacity is just under 20,000.
“A kiss of snow,” Jay Engle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, called it. He was describing the four-tenths of an inch that skimmed Central Park on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, ending the so-called snow drought at 329 days and breaking a record for the latest-ever first-measurable snow.
And today? Expect mostly clear skies with temperatures near the low 40s. Expect a partly cloudy sky at night, with temps dropping to around the low 20s.
In effect until Feb. 13 (Lincoln’s Birthday).
The top New York news
State budget: Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled a $227 billion state budget aimed at tackling some of New York City’s most pressing needs. The budget proposal included a multiyear plan to help bail out the city’s ailing subway system and address the migrant crisis.
Santos’s treasurer: Representative George Santos’s longtime campaign treasurer resigned, potentially exacerbating the congressman’s already troubled finances.
Amazon violated labor law: A judge ruled that Amazon violated labor law ahead of unionization elections at two warehouses on Staten Island last year.
Arts & Culture
A return to Broadway: Leslie Odom Jr. plans to return to Broadway to star in, and co-produce, a revival of Ossie Davis’s 1961 play, “Purlie Victorious.”
Tony Awards gendered categories: Justin David Sullivan, a trans nonbinary performer in the musical “& Juliet,” withdrew from consideration for the Tony Awards. The decision shines a renewed spotlight on whether major awards should continue to have separate categories for men and women.
A casino that would go beneath the surface
The latest proposal for a casino in Manhattan is going down — down underground, that is, on a large vacant site near the United Nations.
Submerging the casino would leave room above ground for a 1,200-room hotel and two buildings with 1,400 to 1,500 rental apartments and condominiums, along with nearly four acres for green space with a Ferris wheel, playing fields and pedestrian paths that would be open to the public, gamblers and nongamblers alike. Also on the drawing board is a museum with slabs from the Berlin Wall.
The casino proposal, for one of three casino licenses expected to be approved for the New York City area, came from Soloviev Group, the longtime owner of the land. It is partnering with the casino and resort operator Mohegan.
My colleague Stefanos Chen writes that the bid will face competition from competing casino hopefuls and pushback from local leaders. Kyle Athayde, the chairman of Community Board 6 in Manhattan, said the panel is “very opposed” to a plan that includes a casino and entertainment. He called the housing component and the green space “Trojan horses to get the casino through.”
Michael Hershman, the chief executive of the Soloviev Group, said the location, a 10-minute walk from Grand Central Terminal, is ideal. Also, he said, “there really is a lack of hotel rooms, retail and restaurants” in that stretch of Midtown East.
Athayde is skeptical, noting the traffic headaches when the United Nations General Assembly convenes every year. There are long periods when diplomacy seems to move faster than the limousines and sport utility vehicles carrying the visiting presidents and prime ministers.
On a bitter-cold Christmas Day in 1995, my wife and I were visiting Manhattan with our 2-year-old son.
After a day of shopping, we got on a crosstown bus filled with the usual group of chilled New York faces looking holiday-tired.
Across from us sat an older woman who was all bundled up and clutching more gift-filled shopping bags than it would seem she could carry comfortably. Next to her sat a man who appeared to be sleeping. At one of the stops, the driver called out to him.
“Hey, fellow,” the driver said. “This is your stop. You asked me to tell you.”
The man opened his eyes, waved a thank you, got off the bus and walked into a nearby park.
The woman with the packages called after him as he was heading for the door.
“Sir,” she said. “You forgot your hat!”
But he didn’t notice and walked on.
The woman then called to the driver.
“Mister, that man forgot his hat, and it’s going to be bitter cold tonight,” she said. “Can you stop and wait for me to run and give it to him.”
The driver told her that he could not stop the bus to wait, but that he would drive slowly and pick her up at the next corner.
Looking anxious, she gathered her bags and packages and the knit cap the man had left behind. She caught up to him, gave him his hat and then ran to the next corner.
True to his word, the driver moved very slowly so he could meet her at the corner. Just as the bus got to the corner, so did she.
She climbed back onto the bus, the doors closed and the passengers all burst into applause.
— James Roddy
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Emmett Lindner and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org