Moynihan Station Choked by Political Strong-arming
There was no shortage of agendas at work in yesterday's vote to delay the building of Moynihan Station yet again. Dithering by the U.S. Postal Service initially slowed things down, but George Pataki has had twelve years to put shovels to the old Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue. He shows a newfound sense of urgency in the project, perhaps because he has only ten weeks left in office and could use a legacy greater than setting a record for last-minute patronage appointments.
The Dolans and Cablevision are angling for a new Madison Square Garden on the post-office site, but the Bloomberg administration, still stung by James Dolan's torpedoing of the West Side stadium, is in no hurry to help with that piece of the puzzle. The Ross and Roth real-estate-development empires recently acquired big chunks of property adjacent to the prospective station, giving them a sizable bargaining chip in the negotiations. There may also be legitimate financing problems, as Alan Hevesi has claimed. Eliot Spitzer, governor-in-waiting, says he only wants the best deal for the city and state but he certainly wouldn't mind if that deal doesn't happen until he's officially in office.
Yet all of that stuff is subject to reasonable horse-trading, and it's all secondary to the role of state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver. He controls one of the three votes on the Public Authorities Control Board, which needs to approve the project unanimously. Yesterday Silver said no. He cited almost all of the above as reasons for his veto; what Silver didn't say is that by stalling the project, he puts some credit in the favor bank for his future give-and-take with Governor Spitzer.
But the overriding constant in all this has somehow been overlooked: Silver's demand that rebuilding ground zero and the downtown business district, which Silver represents in the assembly, take priority over any midtown development. To Silver, more midtown office space is a dangerous competitor to the more-deserving, still-recovering financial district. He's also suspicious that the real motivation for the Bloomberg administration's attempt to scatter new business districts throughout the city is an old-fashioned coziness with developers.
In some ways Silver's dogged focus is admirable. But for the thousands of commuters who'll trudge through the outmoded Penn Station even longer thanks to yesterday's maneuvering and for the rest of the city, which is missing out on a new architectural showpiece Silver's intransigence is only the latest example of why people hate Albany.