By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the installation of a new escalator connecting Grand Central Terminal's dining concourse and a new Long Island Rail Road station.
The plan calls for drilling an escalator from the lower dining concourse to the new East Side Access Station, which is currently being built 140 feet below the surface.
The MTA says the new station, which will span 75 tracks and 48 platforms, will dramatically shorten travel times between Manhattan and Long Island, and will also ease congestion at Penn Station. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2017, according to the MTA.
In order to make room for the new entrance, two seating banks in the "Pullman Car" dining area will be removed, according to the plan.
That amounts to about half of the concourse's western seating area, Community Board 5 said.
Diners at the remaining tables will have a clear view of the escalators and will be able to peer from the railings down into the new concourse, according to the plan.
Designers said they chose the location because it provides commuters immediate access to both the lower and upper concourse levels.
At a scheduled hearing Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which must approve all alterations to Grand Central, voted unanimously to approve the plan after no one showed up to voice opposition.
"It's actually a minimal intrusion with a major impact," Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney said.
The proposal also outlines extensive efforts that will be taken to ensure the new entrance matches the terminal's existing stairways, including the use of Tennessee pink marble for stair treads, brass handrails and wooden balustrades.
"Every effort is being made to weave the new station into the existing historic fabric in a rational and sensitive manner," the proposal states.
The new entrance will be the only one running directly from the new concourse up into Grand Central, according to the plan.
Community Board 5 approved the project at its September meeting.