Schumer urges West Side building

May 12, 2008 8:02:49 AM PDT
Sen. Charles Schumer on Monday called for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to oversee a new building boom on Manhattan's West Side, starting with the stalled Pennsylvania Station project. Schumer, D-N.Y., told Crain's New York Business Forum that the current economic slowdown should not get in the way of big development plans for the area. The city, he argued, needs more office space right now and will need even more in the future.

New York has seen a number of major development efforts tabled recently as the region adjusts to the economic downturn afflicting the financial firms that drive the city's economy.

Schumer said it would be a mistake to let a looming recession short-circuit big construction projects.

"The natural inclination in these conditions can be to retract. Pull back. Put all big projects on hold. Yet that is exactly the wrong approach and will leave us in worse condition than we are in today when the next upswing occurs," Schumer said in the written version of his speech.

The high price of office space in Manhattan means there is more than enough demand for new towers, the senator said. He buttressed his argument by pointing out that Grand Central Terminal has about 36 million square feet of high-end office space, compared to about 6 million for the area around Penn Station.

Building up the West Side will eventually spur more development further west, Schumer argued.

As he has gained stature in New York politics and the Congress, Schumer has sought to take an increasingly larger role in the development issues facing New York City. Recently, that has meant advocating a greater role for the Port Authority, an agency whose leadership is appointed by the governors of New York and New Jersey.

A $14 billion project to rebuild Penn Station and develop Manhattan's Far West Side appeared to die last month. The Madison Square Garden Sports arena backed out of the plan, and Schumer said city leaders must press on without them.

Last month, Port Authority leadership expressed interest in helping rebuild Penn Station.