During a speech in NYC on Jan. 6, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled the 30th proposal of his 2020 State of the State: the creation of a 21st century transit complex in Midtown Manhattan's West Side.
The goal is to transform the existing Penn Station site and integrate the Moynihan Station and Train Hall that will be completed by December 2020. Twenty-seven New York City leaders and elected officials have endorsed the Governor's proposal, named the Empire Station Complex. It looks like the combination of different plans that were previously announced, and the Moynihan Train Hall is the only part that has seen any level of realization. The previously discussed acquisition of the MSG Theatre is still part of the plan. However, the projected price tag was not disclosed.
This new plan calls for acquiring the block south of Penn Station between Seventh and Eighth Avenues between 30th and 31st Street to create an expanded, remodeled and interconnected train and subway complex. The railroad portion would contain eight new tracks.
Cuomo criticized the pace of previous projects that were either slow or never realized. An example of this is the idea to remove the theater (and replace it with large glass panels to let the natural light in just like the original Penn Station skylights) that was originally named "The Felt Forum" (after Irving Mitchell Felt – the New York businessman who led the drive in the 1960s to build the current Madison Square Garden). Madison Square Garden’s construction, much derided, destroyed the character of the original Penn Station, which was a grand palace for visitors to arrive in.
The original Pennsylvania Station’s design borrowed heavily from the baths of Caracalla in ancient Rome and was an airy and sun-drenched train hall. Its destruction gave birth to the preservation movement that helped save Grand Central Terminal, built by the Pennsylvania Railroad’s once bitter rival, the New York Central’s Vanderbilt family.
Penn Station’s owner, Amtrak, praised Cuomo's new plan. "Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has already invested in transformative projects at Penn to improve the passenger experience at the station — including Moynihan Train Hall and an expanded LIRR Concourse — and these soon-to-be-completed projects will drastically enhance the transit hub," said Anthony Coscia, Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors.
The Long Island Rail Road, part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also commented. MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye said, "An interconnected Empire Station Complex will be an important driver of development for the region, which is the lifeblood of the state economy."
Big plans are wonderful. But can it get built? At what cost? That’s the multi-billion dollar question that needs to be answered.