Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked up big-ticket projects for Manhattan’s West Side in the final of four State of the State speeches that on Thursday focused on infrastructure — including the continuing makeover of Penn Station, building a new Port Authority Bus terminal and expanding the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
The governor also proposed extending the High Line walkway to the new Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station as part of the Manhattan Midtown West plan.
Cuomo’s Thursday speech on infrastructure was the fourth and final installment of his 2021 State of the State Agenda — coming at a time when he’s grappling to tame the coronavirus and deal with a massive pandemic-fueled fiscal crisis.
On Monday, he talked about tackling the coronavirus and getting aid from the incoming Biden administration.
On Tuesday, he talked about jump-starting the economy and reviving the Broadway district and the arts by expanding COVID-19 rapid testing that was used to allow fans to go to the Buffalo playoff game.
On Wednesday, he discussed his agenda to transition New York to green energy economy by expanding the use of wind and solar power.
But Thursday was focused on Manhattan’s west side. “Moynihan Hall is just the beginning. Now we will expand our vision with a new Manhattan Midtown West development project to create a new west side transit hub, and build upon it with new residential, commercial and public works projects that will combine to form a new, vibrant, exciting district extending over 140 acres,” Cuomo promised.
“One hundred forty acres may not sound like much Upstate, but in Manhattan, it’s huge. It will be transit oriented development on a scale never attempted.”
Penn Station needs to expand track capacity as well as a cosmetic lift. Cuomo said he wants to expand track capacity by 40 percent by having the state acquire the square block to the south of Penn Station, a proposal he discussed last year.
“We can build another terminal we call Penn South,” he said.
He said 14 building sites around Penn Station will be redeveloped and provide 20 million square feet of retail, commercial and residential development. A portion of the site will be used to create 1,400 units of affordable housing.
“Taken together, the Moynihan Hall, the block south of Penn Station and the renovated Penn Station will double our capacity, and make travel easier, safer, more reliable, and more enjoyable. The new project will be called The Empire Station Complex, and will be the most ambitious mass transit development in the nation.”
Cuomo was unsuccessful in persuading President Trump to approve the Gateway Tunnel project to increase rail tunnel capacity under the Hudson River connecting New York and New Jersey. He is hopeful President-elect Biden will sign off on the long-sought project.
“This new complex also anticipates two new cross-river train tunnels to bring more trains across the Hudson from the west and the renovation of the two existing cross-river train tunnels for a total of four train tunnels from points south and west of New York,” he said.
Elsewhere, Cuomo said space at the Javits Center will increase by 50 percent and promised that “it will be done this year.”
“To make this a walkable, enjoyable part of Manhattan, we will also be able to expand the hugely popular High Line,” the governor said.
In Phase One, the High Line will be expanded eastward from 10th Avenue and 30th Street through the Brookfield Properties, creating a 1,200 foot pathway to the Moynihan Train Hall.
He said the High Line may eventually extend to Pier 76 on the Hudson, a former NYPD tow pound that the state is turning into a park with a pedestrian bridge across 12th Avenue.
Cuomo discussed another old chestnut — overhauling the drab Port Authority Bus terminal in Times Square. He called it an “eyesore.”
Overhauling the bus terminal has been complicated because it’s run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and requires support from the political leaders of both states.
Cuomo said he’s putting his muscle behind constructing a sleek, airy new bus terminal at the same site released renderings of what it would look like. Most commuters who use the terminal are Jersey commuters.
“We will completely redevelop the terminal, adding space for commercial development, dramatically improving the commuting experience and removing bus traffic and pollution from the surrounding community,” he said.
On Manhattan’s East Side, Cuomo renewed efforts to expand the Second Avenue subway from 96th to 125th Street as part of the MTA’s five-year, $51.5 billion capital plan.
The new home for the Islanders hockey team –the Belmont Arena by Belmont racetrack near the Nassau-Queens border, will be open later this year.
There was good news for kids –a new LEGOLAND theme park in Orange County will open.
The metro-region planning advocacy group gave Cuomo’s presentation a thumbs up.
“Moving forward with vital infrastructure projects such as Gateway, Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the MTA Capital plan will greatly benefit our region, the entire Northeast corridor, and the nation’s economy as a whole, “ said Tom Wright, President and CEO, Regional Plan Association.
“Today’s announcement, coupled with what the incoming Biden Administration looks to achieve, offers a great deal of promise and potential for the tri-state metropolitan region.”
Meanwhile High Line co-founder and executive director Robert Hammond applauded the governor’s support of expanding the popular walkway.
“Connecting the High Line to Hudson River Park is something we have explored since our earliest days as an organization. Our communities and neighborhood groups have expressed overwhelming support for this connection, which would give people the ability to walk from Penn Station to Hudson River Park and only have to cross one street,” Hammond said.
“The plan would not only improve public safety and mobility in the area, but also serve as way for New Yorkers to better access all of the incredible offerings in the district. We are thrilled to work with the Governor and our community to bring this incredible plan to fruition.”
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