On November 24, 2017, the Wall Street Journal published the article below on our campaign to rebuild the original Penn Station. The article included above rendering of the rebuilt Seventh Avenue facade.
Penn Station's Glory Days Inspire Plan for Its Future
Wall Street Journal
By Paul Berger
Campaigners are stepping up their fight to restore New York Penn Station to its former grandeur.
Armed with an artist’s renderings of soaring Corinthian columns and platforms bathed in natural light, the National Civic Art Society has launched a three-month advertising campaign across NJ Transit trains and stations.
The Washington, D.C.-based society, which promotes art and architecture, is calling for construction of an improved version of the early 20th century station that was knocked down in 1963 to make way for Madison Square Garden and the subterranean station that commuters tolerate today.
Volunteers at Penn Station are also handing out leaflets to New Jersey, Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers. The campaign’s hope is that a groundswell of public support will push local, state and transit officials to seriously consider the project, which they estimate at up to $3.5 billion.
“We think that something has to happen with Penn Station,” said Justin Shubow, the executive director of Rebuild Penn Station. ”It’s not just a dismal hellhole, but incredibly dangerous” because of the hundreds of thousands of people crammed daily into the station’s warren of corridors and tight stairways.
Redeveloping Penn Station is complicated not only because it requires relocating Madison Square Garden, but also because the station is owned by Amtrak and operated in different sections by Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit.
Each weekday, the station handles about 600,000 passengers, mostly on commuter trains from Long Island and New Jersey as well as on the subway system.
A massive renovation of the Penn Station complex is already under way, spearheaded by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But it is mostly taking place outside of the current station.
In June, The Empire State Development Corporation opened a $300 million concourse for Long Island Rail Road commuters under Eighth Avenue.
The concourse is the first phase of a $1.9 billion project to transform the James A. Farley Post Office Building into a skylit Moynihan Train Hall for Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers. That hall is expected to open in 2020.
New York state also plans to overhaul Penn Station’s main Long Island Rail Road concourse and to redesign its two subway stations on the Eighth Avenue and Broadway—Seventh Avenue lines.
Mr. Shubow said those projects don’t go far enough because they condemn NJ Transit commuters to continue using Penn Station and because other passengers who wish to continue using the Seventh Avenue entrances to the station will still have to navigate the current station.
An official at the Empire State Development Corporation noted that while some ideas for Penn Station could take decades to complete, if at all, Mr. Cuomo’s plans can be completed within four years.
Howard Zemsky, president of Empire State Development, said in a statement: “The doors of the Moynihan Train Hall will open by the end of 2020 — far faster than any other option — and it doesn’t preclude additional future improvements.“
Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s executive vice president for public affairs, welcomed the Moynihan development, saying that it would open up more space in Penn Station so that modernization and other improvements can be made. A spokeswoman for NJ Transit said the railroad supports current efforts to improve the complex.
Neither spokesperson commented on the idea of rebuilding the original Penn Station.
In her book about the original Penn Station, Conquering Gotham, Jill Jonnes noted that commuters grumbled about the long walk from the sidewalk to the train and about the confusing layout of exits. Mr. Shubow said Rebuild Penn Station’s plan isn’t “an exact reproduction of the station of the time, but includes improvements” such as widening of platforms and tripling the current number of escalators.
Andrew Duran, a Long Island Rail Road commuter standing at Penn Station on Wednesday evening, said rebuilding the original station is “a great idea.” But he’s happy with the Moynihan train hall plan because it suits his commute to the west side of Manhattan.
If his office moved to the east side of Manhattan, he said he might change his mind.