Penn Station Project Foes Fund Assembly Candidate who pledges to stop redevelopment

Property owners on the path to a planned redevelopment tied to a Penn Station renovation are paying tens of thousands of dollars to help elect a candidate for state assembly who has vowed to stop the project.

Real estate mogul Arnold Gumowitz is the sole funder of Support the West Side, an independent spending group that has dedicated $49,000 so far to support a single candidate, Layla Law-Gisiko – one of four Democrats vying to succeed incumbent Assemblyman Dick Gottfried.

Additionally, Law-Gisiko’s campaign received more than $18,000 in individual donations from Gumowitz, two companies associated with his real estate business, and his son Gary, according to state Board of Elections records. In total, Gumowitz and the owners of a nearby restaurant account for half of the $145,000 raised so far to support his candidacy.

Gumowitz is the longtime owner of 421 Seventh Ave., a 15-story office building on the corner of 33rd Street, which is notable for a Sbarro pizzeria on the ground floor.

The states redevelopment proposal identifies the Gumowitz property and surrounding parcels as “Site 6” in the redevelopment plan formerly known as Empire Station first proposed by former Governor Andrew Cuomo, with 2.1 million square feet of office space and commercial spaces. When unable to reach a deal with a landlord to purchase property, the state has declared its intention to use eminent domain to force sales.

As detailed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, the plan — now called the Pennsylvania Station Civic Improvement and Land Use Project — seeks to use revenue generated from eight large-scale development sites ringing Penn Station to fund improvements to the Transit Center, where the Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit, Amtrak and MTA subway lines converge.

Layla Law-Gisiko is running for Assembly in Manhattan’s District 75.

Layla Law-Gisiko/Facebook

But not if Law-Gisiko or his followers can help him.

As a longtime member of Community Board 5 and chair of its land use committee, Law-Gisiko has been a vocal opponent of the state’s proposal to surround Penn Station with a large-scale new development. .

Because the project is run by the Empire State Development Authority, it is controlled by the governor – but as in the thwarted effort to bring a huge Amazon campus to Long Island City in Queens, lawmakers in the have a potential leverage effect via the obscure control of the public authorities Council, argues the candidate.

Law-Gisiko told THE CITY she welcomes the support of other opponents of the Penn project — and says she wants to see Penn Station improve, but not the destruction and overkill of the neighborhood around it.

“Over the past two years, I have met and organized hundreds of local actors who oppose the proposed Penn Station development,” Law-Gisiko wrote to THE CITY in a statement.

“I led the fight to make Penn Station a 21st century transit hub as well as stop ex-Governor Cuomo’s gift to developers seeking to cash in on the construction of ten luxury towers massive attacks around Penn Station, while destroying six city blocks and displacing hundreds of people.

Neighborhood Slice

Gumowitz said the New York Post last year that he has no intention of leaving and is committed to fighting against the planned development.

He told THE CITY in a statement Friday that he “strongly” supports improvements at Penn Station, but said the current plan would “unnecessarily devastate my neighbors.”

“This plan is opposed by a broad and diverse coalition of transportation and housing advocates, community and anti-corruption groups and elected officials,” he said. “I’m proud to join them in the fight for a brighter future for the Penn Station area.”

Gumowitz isn’t the only opponent of the Penn Project to invest in the Law-Gisiko campaign, which has raised more than $95,000 in donations — less than two of his three opponents.

State Board of Elections records also show Law-Gisiko’s campaign received $4,700 from the owner of NY Pizza Suprema, a beloved Eighth Avenue restaurant that is set to be razed under the state’s plan and replaced with a hotel, offices and retail.

NY Pizza Suprema may close as part of Penn Station redevelopment.

Last year, local elected officials opposed to the plan distributed slices of the 57-year-old pizzeria during a press conference calling for more comments from the community.

Restaurant owner Joseph Riggio did not respond to requests for comment.

Pricing pressures

Gottfried announced his retirement late last year after serving on the West Side since 1970, making him the longest-serving lawmaker in New York state history.

He expressed concerns about the plan, saying he needs more housing and less office space.

His chosen successor is Tony Simone, 52, who most recently worked as director of external affairs at Hudson River Park Friends and previously worked for former board chair Christine Quinn, who also endorsed him.

Simone said he was inspired to run for office during the pandemic and is focusing his campaign on affordability in the community, from housing to health care.

“Too many of my friends and neighbors have been kicked out of the homes they grew up in in Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and Midtown,” he said in an interview with THE CITY. He said he is opposed to the current concept of Penn Station.

“It’s a development plan, not a transportation plan,” he said. “It needs to be reworked, we need more affordable housing in the plan.”

Another contestant, Harrison Marks, 34, worked as a consultant on Cuomo’s Reinventing the New York Commission to help the state recover from the pandemic, according to his campaign website organic. He said his experience there was part of what prompted him to run for office.

“I served in the Obama administration and led the work of the Reimagine New York Commission to support our state’s workforce, small businesses and the arts during the pandemic,” he said. he said in a statement.

“My campaign has one goal: to address issues affecting our community, especially safe streets and affordable housing.” He told THE CITY he also opposes the Penn Station project as currently proposed.

Chris Lebron, a longtime resident of the district who previously worked on city council, said he was running to protect his community from further redevelopment and said he opposed the state’s plan for Penn.

“I grew up on 47th Street, bought my first guitar from Sam Ash on 48th, Music Row – it’s gone now,” he said. “I don’t want to see my story disappear anymore.”

He found Law-Gisiko’s campaign donations “really disturbing.”

“I’m incredibly disappointed that this kind of money has entered the race,” he told THE CITY.

“The 75th District is incredibly important to whatever corner we’re talking about. It is extremely important to the economy of our state and the economy of our city.

Approvals loom

At a candidates’ forum in April, Law-Gisiko vowed not to take money from property developers – and asked his opponents to make the same promise. Gumowitz primarily works in property management, she said.

“As I am a candidate for the Assembly, I do not accept contributions from property developers. And as an Assemblyman, I will continue to represent the community to fight against this corporate giveaway,” he said. she said in a statement to THE CITY. “Once seated, I will work with the Executive Chamber, the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, the PACB and our federal partners to kill this real estate project, while ensuring that Penn Station itself becomes a transit hub of the 21st century.”

Empire State Development’s board of directors will vote later this month to approve the environmental impact statement and certification, according to a spokesperson. At the end of July, ESD will present its financial conditions on the project plan at the PACB.

“ESD continues to work closely with elected officials and community members to strengthen Governor Hochul’s plan before it is presented to the ESD Board of Directors this summer,” a doorman said. – agency spokesperson, Matthew Gorton, in a statement.

He highlighted the agency’s two years of community engagement on the plan and more than 100 meetings with community members and local officials – and argued that the proposal will significantly improve the area with improved safety for residents. pedestrian areas, squares, new sidewalks and protected cycle paths.

About Charles D. Goolsby

Check Also

Rudolph Giuliani sues Smartmatic to recover legal fees in Fox News lawsuit

NEW YORK, June 14 (Reuters) – Rudolph Giuliani has sued Smartmatic to recover legal costs …