MIDTOWN — New York's top architects let their dreams run wild this month, designing pie-in-the-sky versions of Penn Station geared toward restoring the cramped transit hub's long-lost high-ceilinged glory.
A 3-acre rooftop park, airy sunlit terminals, art installations, direct connections to the city's three major airports and shopping meccas were among the ideas submitted to the Municipal Art Society's "Design Challenge for a New Penn Station and Madison Square Garden," unveiled Wednesday morning.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro presented "Penn Station 3.0," which it described as a "city within a city, a porous and light-filled civic structure filled with diverse programs" targeting "commuters, office workers, fabricators, shoppers, foodies, culture seekers and urban explorers."
Under DSR's plan, Madison Square Garden would sit on the Ninth Avenue side of the Farley Post Office building, with access to Eighth Avenue.
H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture proposed relocating The World's Most Famous Arena to a 16-acre site overlooking the Hudson River.
Penn Station, meanwhile, would be rebuilt to include an eight-track high-speed rail expansion, 2-acre roof garden, 3-acre public park, and a new "Center for Education" at the Farley Post Office. The plan also calls for 24 million square feet of private development around Penn Station to fund improvements at the transit hub and post office.
SHoP Architects made Penn Station the entrance to a new district called "Gotham Gateway." The station would serve as a grand doorway, a "bright, airy and easily navigable space space" surrounded by new parks and an extension of the High Line that would connect the new station to "a glorious and financeable new Madison Square Garden."
Skidmore Owings & Merrill proposed "an open and intuitive," and greatly expanded, Penn Station. Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road lines, spread across multiple levels, would provide direct rail service to John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports, and the station would feature a walkway that would allow travelers to walk directly from Seventh Avenue, through security at Penn Station, onto a train, and directly to their airport gates.
The platforms, concourses and retail space would integrate "the station into the surrounding streetscape" allowing "visitors arriving from an overnight flight from Hong Kong to rub elbows with a commuter on her way to Morristown. With all of these networks intersecting at Penn Station, its central hall would become the iconic gateway for nearly every visitor around the world."
The designs were presented barely a week after the Department of City Planning voted to discourage Madison Square Garden from remaining atop Penn Station. The arena's 50-year occupancy permit expired in December, and it had sought a renewal that would allow it to stay put "in perpetuity."
Instead, the DCP granted a permit with a 15-year expiration date, geared toward prodding Madison Square Garden to relocate and allow Penn Station, one of the nation's busiest and most overcrowded transit hubs, much-needed room to expand.
"The best possible outcomes for the city would be a relocated Madison Square Garden coupled with a rebuilt Penn Station," City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said May 22.
The decision includes a caveat that still could allow Madison Square Garden to remain in place after 15 years if it reaches an agreement with Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the MTA to make certain transit improvements to Penn Station — a "loophole" that the Municipal Art Society calls "potentially fatal."
Still, The Madison Square Garden Company said it is "being held hostage" by the 15-year limit, adding that "it’s curious to see that there are so many ideas on how to tear down a privately owned building that is a thriving New York icon."
DCP did not immediately return a call for comment late Wednesday morning.