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Agreement reached on Penn Station security measures

(The following story by Steve Ritea appeared on the Newsday website on April 21.)

NEW YORK Ending a long feud over construction of a security barrier around Penn Station, the MTA and Madison Square Garden announced an agreement Monday that will allow the project to move forward soon.

Construction, which is expected to involve placing large posts and barriers on or near the sidewalks all around around the station, is slated to begin next year and be completed by the summer of 2010.

Three years ago the Metropolitan Transportation Authority allocated $15 million for large posts and barriers around Penn's perimeter, designed to thwart potential terrorist attacks from the street.

Last week the MTA blamed Garden officials for the holdup, saying they had "refused to accommodate the security plan." The Garden suggested last week negotiations with the MTA had broken down, saying they were working with Amtrak, which owns Penn, and Vornado Realty Trust, which owns much of the property around the station.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly expressed frustration in a March 25 letter to all sides, saying "the impasse has gone on too long" and calling the barriers "the only near-term option for improving the protection" of the area.

In a statement on Monday, Tim Hassett, the Garden's executive vice president, commended the MTA, Vornado and Amtrak "for their commitment to resolving outstanding issues and willingness to reach an agreement." He did not elaborate.

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin similarly said Monday they "are pleased that we will be able to move ahead with the perimeter plan for Penn Station."

A source familiar with the negotiations said last week that the Garden wanted payment for lost revenue if construction affected any events there. A Garden spokesman denied that.

Neither side offered details Monday of what broke the impasse.

Kelly, Amtrak and Vornado declined to comment.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

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