The powerful head of the Vornado Realty Trust appeared to have taken the wind out of Gov. Cathy Hochhol’s plan to erect new skyscrapers in the Pennsylvania Station District on Tuesday, when CEO Stephen Roth said it was not the time for a major new development.

Publicly traded Vornado owns most of the ten sites in the Western 30s designated for large-scale rebuilding. Roth made the shocking retraction on an investor conference call on Tuesday. Pointing out the improvements Vornado had made to buildings near the station she already owns, he seemed to call for a pause in putting up any new buildings.

“I must say that the headwinds in the current environment are not at all favorable for the development from the ground up,” Roth said.

When asked if that meant he would change or scale back the state-sanctioned plan for the Pennsylvania station neighborhood, he said, “That’s not something we’re going to go into now.” Apparently he meant he wasn’t ready to discuss it.

View the plan of the Ben Cathy Hochul station.
View of a plan for the State Penn Station Cathy Hoshol.
New York Governor’s Office
Vornado CEO Stephen Roth
“I must say that the headwinds in the current environment are not at all favorable for ground-up development,” said Stephen Roth, CEO of Vornado.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Governor Cathy Hochhol
Hochul Governor’s plan calls for new office skyscrapers.

But Evercore ISI analyst Steve Sakwa told Crain’s that Roth’s statement meant the project was “definitely delayed” due to a lack of demand for the office. “They are not going to spend billions to build an empty building,” he said.

Ruth’s decline doesn’t mean the Penn County Giant Project is dead, because Vornado hasn’t been able to start building for several years anyway.

Although the proposal for 18 million square feet of new buildings has been approved by the state’s Public Authority oversight body, it still faces environmental challenges and other reviews. At least three lawsuits were recently filed to block the scheme.

display bin . station
Roth’s decline doesn’t mean the Penn County giant project is dead because Vornado hasn’t been able to start building for several years anyway.
New York Governor’s Office

However, Roth’s statement cast a shadow over the controversial proposal to remodel the Pennsylvania area, which calls for wholesale evictions of residents and businesses to make way for new towers that would decouple from revenue to pay for the new Pennsylvania station. Vornado is seen as the driving force behind the plan blessed by Hochul and her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo. Ruth donated heavily to both governors.

Critics say the Penn project will provide tax breaks to Vornado and enrich the company without enough guarantee for a new train station, which is the project’s supposed rationale.

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