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Vornado CEO Steve Roth Gave Blessing To Killing Gateway Tunnel Deal

Vornado CEO Steve Roth Gave Blessing To Killing Gateway Tunnel Deal
Vornado CEO Steven Roth at REITWeek 2014

Vornado CEO Steven Roth, who owns more office space around Penn Station than any other landlord, told U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in July to "stick to your guns" when the administration was mulling killing a crucial transportation project.

The Gateway Tunnel project, which would construct a second tunnel under the Hudson River to connect New Jersey to Manhattan's Penn Station, was originally an agreement between New York, New Jersey and the Obama administration, in which the states and the federal government would split the billions in funding required 50/50. 

President Donald Trump's administration announced in late December it would not honor the previous administration's agreement, throwing the project's future in doubt. Penn Station's tunnels have been plagued by issues and are deteriorating, and the Gateway Tunnel is seen by many locals — including those in Roth's commercial real estate community — as a project key to the city's future. 

Chao emailed Roth, a longtime friend of Trump's, with an article about the tunnel's future in the conservative publication Weekly Standard, titled "Schumer's Losing This One." Roth responded Aug. 11 with “Thank you for sharing ... You are doing great ... stick to your guns,” Crain's New York Business reports. The email was released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by executive branch watchdog group Democracy Forward.

Vornado is one of the developers, along with Related Cos. and Skanska, that won the bid to redevelop the Farley Post Office building across from Penn Station into Moynihan Station, a project designed to relieve some of the congestion in the country's busiest train station. An improved Penn Station experience would be a boon to property owners like Vornado, as it would boost its long-term transit appeal.

Roth, along with fellow New York developer Richard LeFrak, served on Trump's infrastructure council. The council disbanded Aug. 18 — one week after Roth's email — after Trump's controversial statements following the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally and attack.