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'Ugly' Penn Station to Undergo $3 Billion Revamp, Cuomo Says

By Jeff Mays | January 6, 2016 5:06pm
 Calling Penn Station "un-New York" and "ugly," Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to revamp one of the busiest transit hubs in the world by bringing in more light and adding a state-of-the-art train hall.
'Ugly' Penn Station to Undergo $3 Billion Revamp, Cuomo Says
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MADISON SQUARE GARDEN — Calling Penn Station "un-New York" and "ugly," Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to revamp one of the busiest transit hubs in the world by bringing in more light and adding a state of the art train hall.

"Penn Station is un-New York. It is dark, it is constrained, it is ugly, it is dated architecture, it is a lost opportunity," Cuomo said during a press conference at Madison Square Garden.

"Travelers are relegated to a bleak warren of corridors. Frankly it is a miserable experience."

Under the proposal, Penn Station would be revamped to bring in more light under several possible scenarios.

The options include a "friendly negotiated condemnation" of the Theater at Madison Square Garden, closing 33rd Street to build a skylight, creating a grand entrance on Seventh Avenue or adding new mid-block or corner entrances.

The improved Penn Station would also have widened corridors and improved navigation.

The second part of the plan would involve turning the Farley Post Office across the street from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station into an "architecturally significant" and "state of the art train hall" that would include space for retail.

That project has been known as Moynihan Station, named after the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The new train hall would then be connected to Penn Station through a series of underground tunnels to create what would be called the Empire Station.

The Empire State Development corporation, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road have formed a partnership to redevelop the station and a request for expressions of interest and proposals will go out this week.

In exchange for redeveloping the station, the chosen developer would have retail rights to the new complex where 650,000 passengers pass through every day.

The plan would cost $3 billion, including $2 billion for the redevelopment of Farley Post Office and Penn Station and another $1 billion for retail development. Up to $325 million of the cost is expected to come from state or federal tax dollars.

Requests for proposals or expressions of interest are due back in 90 days.

Cuomo said a new Penn Station is needed because it is the "nexus" of several other major transportation infrastructure projects that he has proposed or supports, including the Gateway project that will add a new rail tunnel from New Jersey, as well as a plan to add a third track to a stretch of the LIRR and proposed rail connections to a revamped LaGuardia Airport.

Those projects could double traffic at Penn Station over the next 15 years, said the governor in explaining the need for a change.

"It is a terrible impression of New York. Imagine being a first time visitor to New York and getting off in Penn Station," said Cuomo.

"Good thing the vice-president flew and didn't take the train," Cuomo said about remarks from Vice President Joseph Biden that LaGuardia looked like a "third world" airport.

"If that's what he said about LaGuardia, imagine what he would have said about Penn."

Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan said he is on board with the project.

"It's not very often that I get applauded in this building," Dolan said in brief remarks.

Cuomo's plan was welcomed but skepticism and concerns remained.

Mary Rowe, executive vice president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, said she was "cautiously optimistic" of the plan but remained concerned because the proposal wouldn't expand Penn Station enough to address overcrowding, the growing West Midtown area or increased traffic.

Joe Sitt, chairman of the Global Gateway Alliance, said it was "past time to bring Penn Station into the 21st century" in a statement but also said more needs to be done, such as adding the Gateway tunnel under the Hudson River.

"Because a new station that still relies on the same old bottlenecked, dilapidated, more-than-century-old single-track tunnel would just mean a nicer cover to the same old record of delays and lost productivity," Sitt said.