By Della Hasselle
MIDTOWN — City and state officials broke ground on the expansion of Penn Station Monday while also celebrating the memory of the bustling transit hub's original building.
The new station — the long-anticipated $267 million project that will enlarge Penn Station and increase its rail capacity — promises faster trains and a boon to development in the area.
The Moynihan Station project, which will extend Penn Station into the historic Jame A. Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue, also aims to reflect the grandeur of the original building, which was torn down to public dismay in the 1963 and would have been a century old this year.
"A dream once deferred is now being realized," Governor David Paterson said during the ceremony, adding that the new station "will be a gateway to a rising metropolis" and a "catalyst for economic development."
In addition to bringing more trains into the station, the overall plan for the Moynihan Station project seeks to create more than 10 million square feet of new office space in the immediate area.
Planned developments that will connect to the Farley Post Office will bring an estimated 2,500 jobs and better serve more than half a million commuters a day, officials noted.
City officials acknowledged at the ceremony that the demolition of the original building — an event that sparked outrage and was responsible for the formation of the city's Landmark Preservation Commission — is still a sore spot for many New Yorkers.
"In many ways, New York never recovered from the demolition of the old Penn Station," Governor Paterson acknowledged, while insisting that the new station would capture the spirit of the original building.
Inside Penn Station Monday, commuters took a moment to reflect on the demolition of the original building, constructed in 1910.
"It seems like all the old stuff was better than the new," said straphanger Leon Lightfoot, 71, while looking at pictures of the old building and pointing out the high ceilings, archways and granite eagle statues perched above the entryway.
"They made a mistake," he said, referring to the demolition.
"The artful part has been destroyed," added Queens resident and writer Alvin Castillo, 26.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed the importance of seeing the project through to the end, despite all the "time and money" it will take to complete the station.
"If we don't continue to build," he said, "we will lose our status as the greatest city and state of the nation."