The City Council on Wednesday approved a special permit that allows Madison Square Garden Co. to operate its namesake arena above Penn Station for only another 10 years instead of in perpetuity as the owners had requested.
The 47-1 vote gives federal, state and local governments a decade to find a new home for the Garden so that the nation's busiest transit hub can be overhauled to ease congestion.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who said the decision "puts us on the starting line," called for a commission -- with the governor and mayor leading the way -- to tackle the proposed Penn Station renovation and the possible relocation of Madison Square Garden. Quinn, a Democrat, is running for mayor.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed a 15-year extension with a requirement to have government leaders "come together and develop a plan." He will not seek to overturn the council's 10-year limit, his office said Wednesday.
No formal planning process has been established for the relocation of the Garden, and the next steps are unclear.
A council subcommittee last month recommended a 10-year extension. The New York City Planning Commission in May recommended 15 years.
MSG had sought a special operating permit with no time limit, arguing the Garden "meets all the requirements" for such a permit.
Planning commission chairwoman Amanda Burden said in May that the panel hoped that a 15-year permit for the Garden, where the Knicks and Rangers play, would give elected officials, transportation agencies and MSG time to reach a deal on improving Penn Station and moving the Garden.
MSG spokeswoman Kimberly Kerns declined to directly comment on the council's decision.
"Madison Square Garden has operated at its current site for generations, and has been proud to bring New Yorkers some of the greatest and most iconic moments in sports and entertainment," MSG said in statement. "We now look forward to the reopening of the arena in fall 2013, following the completion of our historic three-year, nearly billion-dollar transformation."
By the time the new 10-year permit expires, the owners will either have to move or go through the permit process again.
Remodeling Penn Station would be a multibillion-dollar project requiring city, state and federal approval, as well as support from Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road.
The Alliance for a New Penn Station, made up of civic groups and business leaders, applauded Wednesday's vote. Founding member Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, said the cramped transit hub -- one of the nation's busiest -- poses a "serious challenge" to the city's global competitiveness.
"A new Penn Station will spur economic activity just as other modern transportation hubs around the world have done," Yaro said in a statement. With James T. MadoreThe Dolan family owns a controlling interest in Madison Square Garden and Cablevision.
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