By Alan Neuhauser
MIDTOWN — Madison Square Garden could be given just 15 years to operate from its current location, a move that could potentially spur owners of the World's Most Famous Arena to move out of its spot above Penn Station.
The Department of City Planning recommended that its commissioners grant the Garden the limited renewal on its expired permit to operate as a large-scale arena. Its owner had wanted it to last "in perpetuity."
The recommendation was welcomed by community groups that have been calling for the World's Most Famous Arena to move and make way for an expanded Penn Station.
DCP staff made their recommendation Wednesday and the commission is scheduled to vote on it on May 22.
"This is an incredible step forward," said Raju Mann, chairman of the Transportation and Environment Committee for Community Board 5, which has been among the most vocal groups calling for the arena to relocate.
"Madison Square Garden fundamentally inhibits Penn Station's ability to grow and handle the transportation challenges it faces. This is a reminder again that if we focus and follow through on these things, we can actually get things done."
The Garden's special permit, a 50-year license that was granted when the arena opened in 1963, expired in January. That prompted the arena's management, led by Madison Square Garden Company executive chairman James Dolan, to seek a new permit that would not expire.
Local groups and politicians, from Community Board 5 to Borough President and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer, saw the renewal process as an opportunity to force Madison Square Garden to find a new location in New York City — and, in so doing, allow Penn Station to build above-ground and expand its capacity.
Together, the groups have urged DCP to grant the Garden only a 10-year permit, which they argued would allow the Dolan family enough time to find a place to build a new World's Most Famous Arena.
"MSG meets all required findings for this permit and operates in a city where no sports arena or stadium has a time limit to its use," the Garden said in a statement.
"Given these circumstances, we have the reasonable expectation that we will be treated like every other applicant.
"An arbitrary expiration for reasons unrelated to the special permit process or requirements would set a dangerous and questionable precedent."
DCP's decision must ultimately be approved by the City Council.