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Pols Fear Moynihan Station Air Rights Sale Could Lead to Overdevelopment

By Mathew Katz | March 10, 2014 9:08am
 A rendering of the proposed Moynihan Station.
A rendering of the proposed Moynihan Station.
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HELL'S KITCHEN — Moynihan Station is set to become a huge new transit hub at the Farley Post Office, but several local politicians are afraid it could bring huge overdevelopment with it.

The Empire State Development Corporation quietly moved to hire a broker to sell off 1.5 million square feet of air rights from the Farley Post Office on Feb. 6, clearing the way for nearby developers to buy them and build even taller buildings.

Neighbors and local elected officials said they had no idea the sale was coming, and now want the community to have input — and any buildings that get the air rights to undergo a full public review process.

In a March 5 letter to Empire State Development, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, state Sens. Adriano Espaillat and Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilman Corey Johnson all slammed the corporation for a lack of transparency.

"The RFP [for a broker] came as an unwelcome surprise to us," the politicians wrote in the March 5 letter. "We had not been given notice of the timetable for or any indication of a plan or policy to guide the sale of the Farley air rights...As representatives of this area, we share our community's concern about significantly increasing density in the immediate area surrounding the station."

The air rights would likely sell for hundreds of millions of dollars to a development near the congested area, which is already set to see several new skyscrapers with the Hudson Yards project. According to the RFP, the sale will help fund the second phase of construction on Moynihan Station, turning the post office into a cavernous train hub.

"Phase 2 will transform the Old Sorting Hall within the Farley Building into the new, sky-lit train hall comparable in size to Grand Central Station — increasing the concourse capacity of Penn Station by a third," Empire State Development wrote in the request for proposals. "Amtrak will relocate its operations from Penn Station to Moynihan Station upon completion of Phase 2."

The politicians hope that any development that buys the air rights go through a public review process and that urban planners are involved. They also want to open up the air rights sale to sites outside the immediate area around the post office.

"We want to ensure that if there are air rights that are sold, it goes through ULURP," Johnson said, referring to the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which would require City Planning and City Council approval. 

Prospective brokers had to submit their proposals by Feb. 20, but Empire State Development has yet to announce which firm was chosen to market the air rights.

"The Request for Proposals for a broker is the very first step in this part of the process, and we will continue to work closely with the community and local elected officials as we have been throughout the entire project," an Empire State Development spokesman said.