Governor Pataki on Friday will put the fate of the troubled Moynihan Station transit project in the hands of the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, for the third and potentially final time.
After about eight years of planning, the governor and his development team have pushed to start construction before they leave office at the end of December. The $900 million project would remake the Farley Post Office building on Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets into a transit hub that would accommodate some passengers from the crowded and dingy Penn Station.
Leveraging his critical vote on the Public Authorities Control Board, Mr. Silver blocked final approval in August and September, citing several outstanding financial questions and information gaps in Mr. Pataki's plan, and referring to an analysis produced by state comptroller Alan Hevesi, a fellow Democrat.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Silver, Eileen Larrabee, said yesterday that to date, those concerns have not been resolved. She said Mr. Silver favored a vote at a regularly scheduled PACB meeting on Wednesday, October 18, not the Friday, October 13, date that the Pataki administration is seeking.
The state's leading development official, Charles Gargano, said specific questions raised by Messrs. Silver and Hevesi had been answered in detail.
"We've tried everything," Mr. Gargano said. "They will probably say they have more questions."
"We have the money in place to build it. Any further delays will increase the cost and that could threaten the project," he said. "I don't think they will take the responsibility for killing the project."
This spring, the developers for the Moynihan Station project, the Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust, introduced a more ambitious plan to move Madison Square Garden into the west side of the Farley building from its current location over Penn Station. The move would allow the existing Penn Station to be expanded and opened up to daylight, a public benefit applauded by many elected officials, urban planners, and real estate experts.
Pataki administration officials contend that the Moynihan project is much further along in terms of financing and environmental review, and that renovating the Farley building is a prerequisite for moving ahead with the Garden relocation.
The assemblyman who represents the local district, Richard Gottfried, a Democrat, said yesterday that he prefers to wait on approving the state's plan until "a major decision" is made about moving Madison Square Garden and rebuilding Penn Station. He said that the latest plan for Moynihan Station falls short of what was promised and amounts to little more than a "shopping mall" with "new ticket booths for New Jersey Transit."
"It is a far cry from the grand vision that it started out as, " Mr. Gottfried said. "This is a nice idea, but it is not the glowing new gateway to New York City."
State officials say that the Assembly leadership has been influenced by Madison Square Garden's lobbyist, Patricia Lynch, who is Mr. Silver's former chief of staff. They say that the owners of Madison Square Garden, the Dolan family, are holding the Moynihan Station project hostage in order to expedite the approval of their larger plan.
"When the Pataki administration doesn't have anything substantive to say, they accuse you of being political," Mr. Gottfried said.