New York City unveiled a new $1.6 billion concourse at Penn Station on Wednesday, expanding North America’s busiest train terminal and helping rectify what a celebrated architect called the “tragic demolition” of the old station six decades ago.
The construction of a new concourse in the iconic Farley Post Office building across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station had been talked about for decades before being set on a concrete path by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016.
The 255,000 square-foot Moynihan Train Hall, featuring a 92-foot high glass skylight and a lounge for nursing mothers, will feed passengers to 17 Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road tracks and provide more space for the notoriously congested transit hub, which served 650,000 customers a day prior to the pandemic.
It was named after the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who in the 1990s promoted the idea of converting the under-utilized post office as a way to restore the architectural beauty lost when the old Penn Station was torn down starting in 1963.
The demolition of the old station, brought about by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s bankruptcy, triggered a backlash and helped lead to the establishment of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, amid other efforts to protect its architectural history.
Paul Goldberger, a Pulitzer prize-winning architectural critic who advised on the new train hall, on Wednesday lamented the “tragic demolition” of the old Penn Station, which he called a “masterpiece of public architecture.”
“It took a couple of decades but it has finally happened in a way that is remarkably true to Senator Moynihan’s great idea,” Goldberger told a press briefing to unveil the new facility.
“There is a still long way to go but we are moving in the right direction toward a recognition that great public space belongs to everyone, that a great city deserves a noble public rail.”
The new concourse will open for business on Jan. 1.
Construction began in 2017 and the project was completed on time and within budget despite challenges thrown up by the virus, which has killed more than 25,000 people in the city.
“This would be an amazing accomplishment at any time, but it is an extraordinary accomplishment today,” Cuomo told a news briefing, speaking from a platform bathed in sunlight from the glass above. “As dark as 2020 was, to me this hall brings the light literally and figuratively.”
The project is the result of a public-private partnership that included developers Vornado Realty Trust and Related Companies. Over the summer, Vornado announced that Facebook Inc. signed a lease for office space at the Farley Building, a sign of confidence in the development.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)