What a Moynihan Station means for New Yorkers

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A construction sign in front of the future Moynihan Station, that is supposed to connect commuters to tracks at Penn Station in New York.
Ralph Spielman
NEW YORK — There was once a great entrance to New York City, a larger expanse than Grand Central Terminal, filled with commuters, shoppers and travelers to places far away. It was New York’s Pennsylvania Station — of course.

When you looked above you on the main concourse level, you could see light from the sky, and if you looked lower at the floor, the occasional pigeon strolling amidst the human tide, let in through tiny windows in the overhead skylights. The scale of this Pennsylvania Station, modeled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, was part of Alexander Cassatt’s vision for The Standard Railroad of the World when it was opened in 1910.

Scarcely 50 years later, the Pennsylvania Railroad found itself on hard times. Passenger service was a drain on income, and freight service revenues were decreasing. In 1961, plans were announced to tear it down and build a new Madison Square Garden Area above it. The actual work commenced, against protests, in 1963 and was completed in 1966.

What had been a grand hall of welcome became a bowling alley with tracks. The pigeons were gone, as was natural light. New Yorkers, never holding back, complained immediately and loudly about what Penn Station had become. One of the avid listeners was the the Late U.S. Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was a public policy advocate, and a traveler through Penn Station.

His office exchanged letters with others who could do something about finding a better solution. After 25 years of discussion, work is finally going ahead to place a new Amtrak and separate Long Island Rail Road Concourse in what was the James A. Farley Post Office, one block west in a commercial partnership with developers, under the aegis of the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

To native New Yorkers, the news is welcome. While most dwellers of Gotham may not stop to look at the 92 foot skylights inside, or the renovated exteriors outside, which were designed in a similar manner to the original Pennsylvania Station, the quarter million square feet of room dedicated to Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road and the almost 700,000 feet of new retail space will give everyone a chance to have a little more room to get where they are going.

For those who’ve never been to New York Penn Station, it is, in a word, congested. Three separate railroads, two separate subway lines, a host of local bus lines, taxis, trucks and personal vehicles contribute to the scrum that every traveler must experience. Add to this the plethora of retail space, and resultant traffic, and, if you are catching the 5 p.m. Acela to Washington, the 5:12 p.m. LIRR train to Ronkonkoma, or the 5:13 p.m. NJ Transit train to Short Hills, you are instantly part of the scrum of humanity rushing for all wheeled conveyances within and out of the station. What makes this even more insidious is the ceiling is fairly low and despite state-of-the-art interior lighting, parts of the station seem dated and not up to par for for the 650,000 people that pass through it every day, which is three times the amount that it was
designed for in the 1960s.

The move to this new location should also give respite to NJ Transit travelers, who should see far less of the 30,000 Amtrak and almost a 250,000 people on the Long Island Rail Road that they may come in contact with.

Tracks 1 to 4 will remain strictly NJT. While there is a new west end LIRR concourse in the Farley Building now which will alleviate overcrowding, those passengers will be able to use existing entrances and exits.

By the beginning of 2021, New York travelers will find a little bit more sanity, which will be welcomed by all.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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