Politicians and housing advocates respond to Vornado’s plan to bring tennis courts to former Hotel Pennsylvania site

Why Not Housing?

Politicians and housing advocates respond to Vornado’s plan to bring tennis courts to former Hotel Pennsylvania site

Under a proposed Vornado scheme, the U.S. Open would set up along 7th Avenue. (Courtesy Vornado Realty Trust)

Last summer, New Yorkers saw Hotel Pennsylvania by McKim, Meade, and White fall by way of wrecking ball. Now, a plan from Vornado Realty Trust could convert the recently demolished Hotel Pennsylvania site into tennis courts and a 10-story billboard.

Vornado, the realty behind Penn District, originally planned a tower on the site across from Penn Station by Foster + Partners, PENN15. But COVID capsized demand for commercial office space, forcing Vornado back to the drawing board. Vornado returned with a proposal that would keep the lot open for varying uses, and even bring the U.S. Open to Manhattan’s 7th Avenue.

Penn Platform is the name of Vornado’s tentative makeover for the site where Hotel Pennsylvania once stood. Vornado’s renderings show a perimeter wall perambulating the 200 foot by 400 foot block. Nestled between 32nd and 33rd Streets, Penn Platform would facilitate tennis and basketball courts, a concert venue, red carpet galas, and even fashion shows. The blank (150 foot by 197 foot) facade of the building perched above Penn Platform, under Vornado’s scheme, would become a massive billboard to support these events.

The streetside venue could also host dance events. (Courtesy Vornado Realty Trust)
A red carpet event at Penn Platform (Courtesy Vornado Realty Trust)

For some, the proposal was perplexing: Couldn’t the former hotel have been repurposed for housing, given New York City’s debilitating shortage?

In an interview with Fox5 news, New York Assembly Member Tony Simone said: “In the middle of a housing crisis, it’s outrageous that we want to build tennis courts for the well to do and a big billboard.” He added: “There’s a grand opportunity there. They knocked down Hotel Pennsylvania, amazing grand hotel. We should create grand housing for the middle class for our fire fighters for our teachers.”

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) also spoke out against the concept. It said in a statement today that its members are “both baffled and outraged by Vornado’s latest plan.” The Council offered that the former hotel “could have been converted into thousands of units of centrally located housing in one of the city’s most transit rich environments.”

A spokesperson for Vornado told AN: “We are currently considering a number of potential interim options for the Hotel Pennsylvania site.  The renderings in the presentation are for conceptual purposes.”