Cuomo: LIRR Operation to Leave ‘Dingy’ Penn Station for New Digs

Moynihan Train Hall

Tell us how you really feel, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

During a presentation Tuesday morning reminiscent of Vice President Joe Biden’s dismissive attitude toward dilapidated LaGuardia Airport, the New York governor excoriated Penn Station as “terrible” and “dingy” as he announced plans for the state to move the Long Island Rail Road’s operations across the street to the historic James A. Farley Post Office building, which has been vacant for years.

“Penn Station is the train version of LaGuardia,” Cuomo said in his remarks at an event hosted by the Association for a Better New York. “It is decrepit and it’s an affront to riders.”

Plans to transition the old Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue into a train station have been in the works for 20 years, but originally only included migrating Amtrak’s operations.

The revitalized project is much more ambitions. Cuomo said the Moynihan Train Hall at the defunct post office will house both Amtrak and LIRR ticketing and waiting areas.

The new 250,000-square-foot facility will stand 10 stories high—50 percent larger than the existing Penn Station—and be bigger than Grand Central Terminal. It will include an acre of glass arches and a 70,000-square-foot balcony for “world class” dining and shopping.

Cuomo also sounded a lot like Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

“It will be the best of the best,” Cuomo said of the Moynihan Train Hall.

The new train hall is slated to be completed in 2020, Cuomo said.

Additionally, Cuomo said a Request for Proposals (RFP) went out Tuesday for a redesign of Penn Station, which is estimated to cost $220 million. That plan includes a new concourse that will connect Penn Station to Moynihan Train Hall while spanning all LIRR tracks along 8th Avenue. The two subway stations located inside the underground facility will also be remodeled, Cuomo said.

Penn Station
Artist rendering of a renovated Penn Station, featuring wider corridors and an LED ceiling. Credit: MTA

The governor made clear that he’s offended by Penn Station’s current state of disrepair. He said a revamp is long overdue.

“New York was constructed and designed and built, that’s how we got to this place,” Cuomo said, adding that other regions—in the US and internationally—have surpassed New York in terms of modernization.

“You either build and grow, or you stay where you are and you stagnate and you falter and you let the world pass you by,” he said.

Penn Station, which is owned by Amtrak, is currently at triple the capacity it was designed for, with 650,000 passengers coming through its doors each day—more than John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports combined.

“It is dirty. It is dingy. It is dark, and that is not what New York is all about,” the governor said. “It’s the equivalent of LaGuardia Airport, which has now become the national laughing stock, right?”

He then dismissed the original plans to move only Amtrak operations from Penn Station as nonsensical.

“You’d leave the Long Island riders in the old Pennsylvania Station,” Cuomo added.

The remodeled Penn Station will boast concourses three times the size of the current train hub, be more open and feature LED ceilings displaying a blue sky.

Three firms have won bids to collectively design and construct Moynihan: Related, Vornado, and Skanska, at a cost of $1.6 billion.

James A. Farley Post Office across the street form Penn Station will be transformed into a train hall housing Amtrak and the LIRR. Photo credit: Juan Miguel Lago
James A. Farley Post Office across the street form Penn Station will be transformed into a train hall housing Amtrak and the LIRR. Photo credit: Juan Miguel Lago

The initial Moynihan development has been in the works for two decades. A development contract was signed in 2005 but it did not include any deadlines—and so, work never got done. Cuomo said the state cancelled that contract and had companies rebid for the development. The new deal states that developers will incur penalties if the project is not completed on time.

Aware of the natural-born skepticism inherent in all New Yorkers, Cuomo said this project, unlike the original, is moving forward.

“The train is leaving the station,” he said.

(Featured photo credit: Artist rendering of new Moynihan Train Hall at Farley Post Office)