Politicians and housing advocates respond to Vornado’s plan to bring tennis courts to former Hotel Pennsylvania site

In Midtown courtside seats could soon be streetside. A plan from Vornado Realty Trust could convert the recently demolished Hotel Pennsylvania site into tennis courts and a 10-story billboard. Last summer, New Yorkers saw the Beaux Arts Hotel Pennsylvania by McKim, Meade, and White meet its fate with the wrecking ball . Vornado, the firm behind much of the recent development in the neighborhood circling Penn Station, originally planned for a tower by Foster + Partners, PENN15 for the site. COVID capsized demand for commercial office space, forcing Vornado back to the drawing board with a proposal to bringing the U.S. Open or similar sports tournaments to Manhattan’s 7th Avenue.

Penn Platform is the name of Vornado’s tentative makeover for the site where Hotel Pennsylvania once stood. Vornado’s renderings show a perimeter wall perambulating the 200 foot by 400 foot block. Nestled between 32nd and 33rd Streets, Penn Platform would facilitate a variety of uses, ranging from tennis and basketball courts, a concert venue, or red carpet galas, to even fashion shows. The blank (150 foot by 197 foot) facade of the building perched above Penn Platform, under Vornado’s scheme, would become a massive billboard to support these events.

The streetside venue could also host dance events. (Courtesy Vornado Realty Trust)
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A red carpet event at Penn Platform (Courtesy Vornado Realty Trust)

For some, the proposal was a lob in the face: Couldn’t a former hotel have been repurposed for housing, given New York City’s debilitating shortage?

In an interview with Fox5 news, New York Assembly Member Tony Simone said: “In the middle of a housing crisis, it’s outrageous that we want to build tennis courts for the well to do and a big billboard.” He added: “There’s a grand opportunity there. They knocked down Hotel Pennsylvania, amazing grand hotel. We should create grand housing for the middle class for our fire fighters for our teachers.”

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) also has spoken out against the plan. It said in a statement today that its members are “both baffled and outraged by Vornado’s latest plan.” The Council offered that the former hotel “could have been converted into thousands of units of centrally located housing in one of the city’s most transit rich environments.”

A spokesperson for Vornado told AN: “We are currently considering a number of potential interim options for the Hotel Pennsylvania site.  The renderings in the presentation are for conceptual purposes.”

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