MIDTOWN EAST — Madison Square Garden wants the city to waive existing rules to let them double the size of their signs and cover them in LED lights — in what neighbors are calling an attempt to turn the area into Times Square.
MSG reps are asking for the right to install four 77-foot LED display panels — almost twice the size of the existing regulation-sized 40-foot signs — on four sides of arena, representatives of MSG told Community Board Five last week.
"We want to create a pedestrian-friendly experience, enhance presence as an iconic destination, and bring excitement of the interior into the exterior of the area," said Sidney Nielson, an urban designer, during the MSG presentation to Community Board Five’s Land use Committee.
The signs would display messages about MSG events, sponsorships, and would include advertisements, MSG representatives told the committee.
If approved, the massive new signs would appear on each of the escalator towers.
The plans would also replace MSG's Eighth Avenue marquee with an 18-foot-tall by 230-foot wide LED media wall that would wrap all the way around the northern and southern end of the facade, according to City Planning documents.
The application, which would ultimately have to be approved by the City Council before passing, is a part of MSG's $1 billion plan to renovate the arena's facade and to improve surrounding open spaces.
The plans also include adding more bench seating, lighting up the area outside MSG, and adding a pair of 8-foot-tall signs on pylons at both sides of the Eighth Avenue entrance of Penn Station directing MSG fans to the Seventh Avenue entrance.
MSG reps said they are confident that they are doing the right thing for the neighborhood.
"We like to pride ourselves as a good member of the community and we're very proud of that," Joel Fisher, Executive Vice President of Madison Square Garden, said in his presentation.
But the plan sparked criticism from members who say the plan is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood.
“It isn’t Times Square,” said Raju Mann, acting chair of Community Board Five’s Land use Committee. “I don’t see how it will fit into the surrounding neighborhood, with residential neighborhoods nearby and a landmarked building across the street.”
The plan has already passed the hurdle of the City Planning Commission, which found in an environmental assessment statement Dec. 12 that the proposed signage would have “no significant effect on the quality of environment.”
"Eighth Avenue is an entrance to the train stain station, not the garden, so the train station signage needs to be prominent, not advertising signage for MSG corporate partners," said Mann.
Currently the plan is still going through the ULURP process, which is expected to be completed by the end of February, said a spokeswoman for the City Planning Commission.
The proposal is currently in the 60-day community review stage of the ULURP process, and once community feedback is gathered, the plan will be presented to the Manhattan Borough President, City Council and the City Planning Commission for approval, explained Rachaele Raynoff, a spokeswoman for the CPC.