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Can New York Build a New Train Station?

moynihan station current frontThis spring, MAS hosted a series of programs under the title “Can New York Build a New Train Station?” Among the themes that the programs addressed were the growing popularity of rail travel in the United States, the capacity of well-designed and functional train stations to revitalize the city, and the belief that Moynihan Station should be the primary focus in efforts to develop a new commercial district on the Far West Side of Manhattan. Highlights from the program included a fascinating presentation on the construction of Penn Station and its tunnels by historian Jill Jonnes, who researched the train station’s history as part of her recent book: Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic. Sharing some amazing photos rescued from the depths of the Pennsylvania Railroad archives, Jonnes recounts the “titanic battle with nature” that culminated in the construction of the original Penn Station. On the subject of “World-Class Train Stations”, architect Hugh Hardy facilitated a discussion on the history and current status of urban train station design around the world. Panelists pointed to examples of restored and new train stations abroad, and expounded on the vital note of these transportation nodes in the civic lives of the cities where they are located. Charles Bagli, a reporter from the New York Times, moderated a panel discussion that focused on next steps for Moynihan Station and the Far West Side. Pointing to a projected map of the Far West Side, MAS President Kent Barwick observed that there was a need for better planning and coordination, saying: “We’re dealing with mostly state projects being built by people who apparently don’t run into each other in the halls of Albany.” Daily life in Albany aside, Barwick noted that it is essential that the public sector build the infrastructure to create the conditions for development on the Far West Side, and that “there is no theory in which Moynihan Station is not the first step.” This is the challenge inherited by Governor Paterson, and if “New York doesn’t grab this opportunity it would be great shame.” See the latest information on Moynihan Station here.