While outlining his 2021 agenda (“Reimagine | Rebuild | Renew”) during yesterday’s State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed particulars of a sweeping overhaul planned for Manhattan’s Midtown West neighborhood, including a long-awaited Port Authority replacement.
The $51 billion redevelopment scheme is part of Cuomo’s proposed $306 billion infrastructure plan, the largest in the nation, and includes major upgrades to airports across the state (yes, continued work at the beleaguered LaGuardia Airport in Queens tops the list); statement updates to various roads, highways, and bridges; and improvements to the Long Island Rail Road and New York City Subway although “funding uncertainty” in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis lingers.
The redevelopment plans for Midtown West, which largely include projects that have already been formally announced, are in-progress or completed, or that have been fermenting for some time, come just weeks after the decades-in-the-making opening of the Penn Station-adjacent Moynihan Train Hall. The plans also come days after Cuomo announced a proposal to extend the High Line eastward and link it to a pedestrian corridor that terminates at the $1.6 billion new transit hub. Along with the Moynihan Train Hall connection, Cuomo also revealed plans for a northward extension of the High Line that would transverse the West Side Highway and end at Pier 76.
Currently the site of an NYPD tow pound, Pier 76 would be redeveloped and transformed into 5.6-acres of new riverfront parkland within Hudson River Park as part of the expansive Midtown West revamp.
“Connecting the High Line to Hudson River Park is something we have explored since our earliest days as an organization,” said Robert Hammond, co-founder and executive director of Friends of the High Line. “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. 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.”
In addition to the High Line-linked riverfront park at Pier 76, Cuomo’s ambitious plan includes the long-discussed move to completely replace the aging and labyrinthine Port Authority Bus Terminal with a new facility that would help to “not only reduce congestion on city streets and improve air quality but transform mass transit to and from the West Side of Manhattan,” according to a press release issued by the Governor’s Office. To the south, the plan also includes the previously announced 1.2-million-square-foot expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Center. This $1.5 billion undertaking, on track to be completed later this year, will see New York City’s primary convention center gain, among other things, a rooftop farm, 90,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, and a rooftop pavilion and outdoor terrace with room for 1,500 people.
Southwest of the Javits Center at Penn Station, development work will finally commence on the $16 billion Empire Station Complex. Under that criticism-attracting plan, first introduced in 2016 and revived at the top of last year, the existing Penn Station complex will be entirely reconstructed and expanded to the south to boost train capacity by 40 percent.
Per the Governor’s Office, the “signature transportation project” will generate nearly 60,000 direct jobs and “anticipates the Gateway Project, including two tunnels to bring more trains across the Hudson from the west and the renovation of the two existing tunnels, for a total of four train tunnels from New Jersey and beyond.”
Perhaps most notably, the infrastructure overhaul set to radically transform Midtown West and improve transportation throughout the region also entails plans for residential and commercial development that would span from Broadway to the Hudson River. Per Cuomo’s plan, the area would see the addition of over a dozen new buildings across more than 20 million square feet of retail, commercial, and residential development, including 1,400 units of affordable housing.
“History teaches us that when the private economy is lagging the public sector can spur activity. That when unemployment is high, the public sector can create jobs. That only the public sector can build the common economic platform for growth. Across the state, we’re now building bigger and better, and laying the foundation for our future. Not even COVID stopped us. We used the period of reduced traffic to accelerate projects throughout the state. Altogether we are expanding our infrastructure plan to invest $306 billion in the future of New York. That’s not just the largest infrastructure plan in New York history. It’s the largest, most ambitious plan put forward by any state in the nation.”
In addition to the $306 billion infrastructure plan and the ambitious redevelopment of Midtown West that’s part of it, Cuomo also provided updates on major ongoing projects across the state including the Buffalo Skyway, the Albany Skyway Conversion, the Binghamton University Health Sciences Campus, and last but not least, the new LEGOLAND theme park in Orange County, as part of his 2021 State of the State.