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Architects present plans for new Penn Station

Four teams of architects presented plans Wednesday for a re-imagined Penn Station that would be a spacious, welcoming gateway to the city instead of the crowded, confusing and dark transportation hub now used by hundreds of thousands of daily commuters.

The four firms that took part in a design challenge sponsored by The Municipal Art Society all said the only way to improve Penn Station would be to move Madison Square Garden from its home atop the train station.

John Fantillas of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture said the arena crowds the station "like three fat men in a rowboat." Roger Duffy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill called Penn Station "a disaster" and said his firm has imagined "a magnificent future" for the area with Madison Square Garden moved just southwest of its current location.

Madison Square Garden called the plans "pie-in-the-sky drawings." "It's curious to see that there are so many ideas on how to tear down a privately owned building that is a thriving New York icon, supports thousands of jobs and is currently completing a $1 billion transformation," the company said in a statement.

The design challenge was prompted by an upcoming vote by New York's City Council on renewing Madison Square Garden's permit to operate on top of Penn Station.

Madison Square Garden wants the permit renewed in perpetuity, while the city Planning Commission is recommending a 15-year limit. The Municipal Art Society and some other civic groups want the permit renewed for 10 years.

In addition to H3 Hardy and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, architects of the under-construction 1 World Trade Center, the firms that presented new Penn Station designs were Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which has worked on the High Line and renovating Lincoln Center, and SHoP Architects, one of the firms that designed the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn.

They offered plans for an airy, light-filled Penn Station with shops, rooftop gardens and other amenities.

Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro called her firm's "city within a city" design "a large spongelike mass aerated in many directions." Some plans envisioned paying for the upgrades by replacing buildings in the Penn Station complex with new mixed-use skyscrapers.

Madison Square Garden would be moved west to a pier on the Hudson River under the H3 Hardy plan. The SHoP plan would place it blocks to the south and west in the Morgan mail processing facility.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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