— Jack Sterne (@JRSterne) December 30, 2020
Here's the new Moynihan Train Hall pic.twitter.com/J1qNkv1b5I
— Dan Rivoli (@danrivoli) December 30, 2020
For more than half a century, New Yorkers have trudged through the crammed platforms, dark hallways and oppressively low ceilings of Pennsylvania Station, the busiest and perhaps most miserable train hub in North America.
Entombed beneath Madison Square Garden, the station served 650,000 riders each weekday before the pandemic, or three times the number it was built to handle.
But as more commuters return to Penn Station next year, they will be welcomed by a new, $1.6 billion train hall complete with over an acre of glass skylights, art installations and 92-foot-high ceilings that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who championed the project, has likened to the majestic Grand Central Terminal.
Wait. Sunlight? Glass? The hell is this? That’s not the Penn Station I, or a billion of New York’s hapless commuters, know and hate. Penn Station has been a joke for so long that I hesitated to even write this blog because even putting “Penn Station” in a headline feels like the opposite of clickbait (Clicknope. Click… elsewhere?)
But credit where credit is due: the new glass terminal looks incredible. This is a step in the right direction towards returning Penn Station to its pre-1964 demolition glory—when it truly was a beautiful train station. Check these pictures out:
The original Penn Station Concourse in 1962, two years before its demolition pic.twitter.com/mhr3obzawX
— AlluringArchitecture (@AlluringArch) October 20, 2014
The original Penn Station first opened in 1910 and was the grand and triumphant entrance that New York deserved. pic.twitter.com/yowGOrr38O
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 6, 2016
Pretty cool. Not sure why they decided to demolish it and go with the underground rat farm/food court hybrid that it is today, but with this new Moynihan Train Hall, things are looking up.
Except… the new hall will service the Long Island Railroad and Amtrak travelers:
Still, only passengers who use Amtrak or the Long Island Rail Road — which account for 30,000 and 230,000 of Penn Station’s 650,000 daily riders — will have access to trains directly from the Moynihan hall, which is atop platforms for both.
Nothing against Amtrak customers. The Amtrak from New York to Boston is one of the most pleasant travel experiences you can have in America, IMO. That stretch from New Haven through Rhode Island, along the ocean? Pretty as a postcard. Make sure you sit on the right side of the train. Also get the blondie brownie from the cafe car. Tell them to heat it up. Tell them Francis sent you.
But do we really think that the LIRR commuters should get the shiny new terminal over the NJ transit folks? No, surely not. Long Islanders won’t even look up at the stunning glass ceiling. They won’t even realize what they’ve got. Say what you want about New Jersey but those commuters coming in to the city are simply higher caliber people than the flotsam from Long Island. They would treat that terminal with respect and care, appreciating its elegance and splendor. Long Islanders will stop to buy a pretzel at Auntie Ann’s and toss the paper on the floor with no regard for human life, welcoming pigeons from near and far. Pretty soon, that terminal will be overrun with birds, and not the good kind like sparrows and eagles and doves. It’s going to be pigeons and seagulls galore, swirling and cackling and pooping all over the benches. Thanks a lot, Long Island. Way to ruin something beautiful.