Moynihan Station

Moynihan Station Rendering

For over fifteen years, MAS has been working with city, state, corporate and civic partners to advocate for the transformation of the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station. The central goal of the project is to help alleviate pedestrian congestion at Penn Station by allowing passengers to access Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and Long Island Railroad trains at a farther west entrance located at the Farley Post Office. This in turn would make Midtown Manhattan, the largest central business district in the United States, more welcoming to New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike, while also encouraging train travel from New York City throughout the country.

Outline:

  1. Current Status
  2. Background
  3. History and MAS Role
  4. Principles
  5. Resources
  6. Media Coverage
  7. New Penn Station Archives

Current Status

Moynihan Station Entrance Rendering

On October 18, 2010, MSDC and ESDC broke ground on Phase 1 of Moynihan Station. In the spring and summer of 2011, MSDC conducted the Section 106 federal historic preservation review. The review allows consulting parties, such as MAS, to comment on the building design and to suggest alternatives. This review will make Moynihan Station eligible for funding from the federal historic tax credit program. Thus far, MAS has been in support of the proposed design of Phase 1 (read MAS’ letters to MSDC).

In October 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Patrick Foye as the Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. With the arrival of Foye to the Port Authority, Governor Cuomo also announced that the agency would take over control of the Moynihan Station project from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the Moynihan Station Development Corporation (MSDC). This announcement demonstrates a commitment by the Cuomo administration to complete this significant project for the future of New York City’s transportation infrastructure.

Background

In 1963, Pennsylvania Station was demolished, leaving New York City with the loss of one of its most cherished civic buildings. At the time, the rationale for demolishing Pennsylvania Station was that rail travel was declining and space needed to be created to make way for new infrastructure that would yield greater utility for the city – in this case, Madison Square Garden and a high rise office tower.

Pennsylvania Station

In 1968, construction was completed on what we know today as Penn Station. At the time, with its modern amenities, it was seen as a first class train station. However, today it is difficult to navigate with cramped corridors and poor wayfinding, in addition to being a far from the great piece of architecture. Moreover, the current Penn Station does not have adequate capacity to handle the number of passenger trips that it takes in everyday. In 1963, approximately 200,000 people used Penn Station daily. In 2008, the same concourses took in over 640,000 people daily, which is more than LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports combined.

As a result of the extreme overcrowding in Penn Station, in the latter 1990s, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan proposed that the Farley Post Office, spanning an entire city block from 8th Avenue to 9th Avenue and running along West 31st to West 33rd Streets, be converted into a train hall. This would result in the city once again being home to a major, regional transportation hub that represents the grandeur of New York City.

History and MAS Role

It was in the late 1990s that MAS became engaged in the Moynihan Station development project. At the suggestion of the late New York State Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, MAS produced a vision for the full conversion of the Farley Post Office into a train station and civic center. With the unveiling of this vision, MAS became a leading organization in a larger consortium of civic organizations working to transform the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station.

Over the years, there have been numerous visions. At one point, the plan included the relocation of Madison Square Garden from its current location on 7th Avenue to the Western Annex of Moynihan Station. In its place, 5.5 million square feet of office development would have been created on the Madison Square Garden site.

Friends of Moynihan Station

In 2006, MAS played a leading role along with the Regional Plan Association, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, General Contractors Association and Manhattan Community Board 4 in the creation of the group, Friends of Moynihan Station. The Friends worked together to leverage support for the creation of Moynihan Station.

In 2008, upon news that Madison Square Garden was not going to move into the Western Annex of the Farley Post Office, the project was rethought and divided into three phases. Phase 1 primarily involves creating points of entry and exit from the Farley Post Office to the tracks that run below it from Penn Station (see MSDC June 2010 General Project Plan). Phase 2 consists of the restoration and design of the main train hall. Phase 3 includes the development of the Western Annex as a public space. In 2008, as a shovel ready project, Phase 1 was deemed eligible for federal stimulus funding from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant.

In September 2009, Amtrak announced its intention to move the majority of its operations into Moynihan Station. This announcement created great momentum for the project, and in February 2010, Moynihan Station received $83.3 million in TIGER federal stimulus funds to begin construction on Phase 1.

Moynihan Station Cross-Section Rendering

Figure 4: Rendering of Moynihan Station and surrounding area
Released by the Moynihan Station Development Corporation

With the completion of Phase 1, individuals will be able to access Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road trains through entrances at the Farley Post Office. This will alleviate passenger congestion in Penn Station and its surrounding streets. Specific work that is to be completed as part of Phase 1 includes:

  • Points of access to eight additional tracks currently not served by Penn Station.
  • The development of nineteen vertical access points (stairs, escalators and elevators) to and from the train tracks below the Farley Post Office.
  • Two new above-grade entrances through Farley just west of 8th Avenue – at 31st and 33rd Streets.
  • Improved connections from Farley to the 8th Avenue (A/C/E) Subway and Penn Station.
  • The addition of new platform ventilation fan rooms.

Principles

In 2007, MAS, along with Friends of Moynihan Station, created principles to guide the development of Moynihan Station. While these principles were created at a time when the scope of the Moynihan Station project was quite different than it is today, they reflect important design and planning notions. The highlights of these principles include:

NYC Street

  • Put the Public Interest First: Give the public a strong voice in the planning process of the station and district. Ensure that the design of the train halls reflects the fact that they are primarily public spaces.
  • Create a Great New Train Station: The new Moynihan Station should be a grand work of civic architecture that is both beautiful and functional as a transportation hub – with large public spaces, natural light and dramatically improved public circulation and safety features.
  • Protect the Historic Farley Post Office Building: Rehabilitate the Farley building in a way that qualifies the project for federal historic preservation tax credits.
  • Build a Great Moynihan Station District: The district should knit together Midtown with the Far West Side, be a global model for climate-friendly development, and respect the scale of its surroundings.

As MAS and its civic partners continue to work towards advocating for the Moynihan Station project, we must revisit these principles and revise them as necessary to meet the demands of the current project scope. MAS will also work with City, State and Federal officials, along with our civic partners, to ensure that Moynihan Station is designed and developed as an inviting and welcoming hub for New Yorkers, commuters and visitors alike and serves as a model for future capital infrastructure projects both in New York City and beyond.

Resources

Moynihan Station Development Corporation

Moynihan Station Development Corporation – Section 106 Historic Review Process

Friends of Moynihan Station

2010 MAS Summit for New York City Panel, “Moynihan Station and the Far West Side”

Media Coverage

The New York Times: Deal Will Give A Grand Space to Penn Station, 3/5/98

The New York Times: With Each Design, A Sparer Penn Station Emerges, 10/26/06

The New York Times: Plan to Rebuild Penn Station Area May Be Close to Failure, 2/23/08

The New York Times: Amtrak to Move to Farley Building in New Moynihan Station, 9/13/09

Crain’s: Moynihan Station Gets $83M in Stimulus Bucks, 2/16/10

The New York Observer: Moynihan Station Gains a Little Steam, 10/19/10

The Wall Street Journal, Deadline Nears on Moynihan Station, 7/25/11

Cuomo Names A Deputy to Lead the Port Authority, 10/19/11

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Kate Slevin
Vice President, Policy & Planning
sklevin[at]mas.org