December 2007
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Archive for December, 2007

Miracle on 32nd Street

After more than a decade of dreaming, it may still take a miracle to build a new Pennsylvania Station in New York City. The odds would increase if Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s development team presented their proposal to the public as soon as possible. Then everyone — especially the people who use the station — could push to make this much-needed project happen. Pennsylvania Station is now the busiest rail station in the country. It also ranks among the dreariest public facilities anywhere. Members of a group called Friends of Moynihan Station recently went there to distribute sketches of plans to rebuild the station and name it for the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It was like handing out a flagon of holiday cheer to downtrodden commuters who had no idea there was a possibility for something better. To get the public involved, Governor Spitzer’s development team, led by Patrick Foye, will have to unveil their plans for the project, as long promised. Once details are aired, commuters and others should make sure that this private-public partnership gives the public its due. One worry is that the James A. Farley Post Office building — the site for part of the new station and a grand example of Beaux-Arts architecture — is properly preserved when Madison Square Garden also moves inside. In recent days, some of the planners have hinted at another possibility. They talked about transplanting Macy’s into the section of the new Moynihan station that would be east of Eighth Avenue. At this point, this move seems like another complication for a project that is already about as complex as public works can get. For one thing, the old Macy’s building has national landmark status and needs to be protected. Also, moving Macy’s to 32nd Street raises new questions about whether that part of the Moynihan complex would become more shopping mall than railroad station. There are still many threads that need to be woven together. Right now, there are important negotiations going on about how to pay for the project, and whether the state, city and developers are contributing enough to pull in the necessary federal funds. If such negotiations must continue behind doors, that still does not mean the state and the developers can delay letting the public see detailed plans and proposals. Veteran commuters deserve some hope that the new Moynihan complex is not just another urban fantasy.

Urban Genealogy: An Introduction to Researching Buildings in New York City

February 20 & 27, March 5, 12, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. & Field Visit Curious about one of New York’s wonderful buildings, or maybe an entire neighborhood? Unleash your inner Sherlock Holmes. New York boasts more resources for tracking building histories than any other American city. Join our Urban Genealogy seminar and learn how to uncover architects’ names, construction dates, clients, tenants, photos, maps, and more. Instructor: Anthony Robins, former Director of Survey at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Continue Reading>>

Metro: ‘Operation Santa’ May Collide with Transit Hub

metro paper coverThe cover of today’s Metro features a story by Amy Zimmer about the future of Operation Santa in the new Moynihan Station. The MAS is working to ensure that the Post Office retail function – and Operation Santa – can continue to operate in Farley’s landmark lobby as it has for nearly a century.
”The idea to get people in this hard-hearted city to do this in the Christmas season for kids who aren’t getting much under the tree is moving,” said Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society, which is hoping to convince the Empire State Development Corp., the state agency overseeing the project, to retain the post office’s retail functions in the lobby of the new station. “What we hear is MSG felt it would be a nice place to sell tickets,” Barwick said. But the post office “is not just a great building, it’s a great institution.”
ESDC says it would “never be the Grinch who stole Christmas,” according to a spokesman. However, the project’s Draft Scope is quite explicit about the possibility of relocating the Post Office retail operations:
USPS Operations The proposed Expanded Moynihan Project would directly affect one community facility, the U.S. General Post Office, because it may involve the relocation of some or all of the remaining USPS facilities and offices in the Farley Complex. Administration and postal operations would be relocated to the Morgan Annex and some or all of the retail operations may be relocated to the Penn Station Block or another location(s).
Stay tuned for more information about Operation Santa…

Is Moynihan Station “Losing Its Civic Luster?”

In the December issue of Metropolis Magazine, Karrie Jacobs reviews the history of the Moynihan Station project and assesses its current status in her outstanding article, “Madison Square Station?” Jacobs writes:
I want to believe that Moynihan Station, West and East, will be everything it’s supposed to be: “iconic and monumental,” as the scoping document puts it, with not one but two Grand Central–size daylight-flooded public concourses. I want to believe in the civic goodness of this massive undertaking, not just because it’s pivotal to the future of New York, as the linchpin in a series of transportation and development schemes for Manhattan’s West Side, but also because it’s the role of New York City—and other major cities around the world—to be an engine of progress. I would hope that whoever is running this country in 2011 or 2018 is farsighted enough to invest in our transportation infrastructure and, as in Europe, develop high-speed rail as a cleaner, saner alternative to our overstressed air and ground transportation systems. But at the moment there is no such federal leadership, so local governments must take up the slack. At its best Moynihan Station could be a symbol of renewed investment in rail transportation.
But Jacobs questions “whether the Garden’s desires will further or trump the public good” and MAS president Kent Barwick wonders “who’s going to push back on the Dolans?”

MAS Urges City Council to Examine Columbia Expansion Thoroughly Before Voting

columbia university expansion new york eminent domainToday, MAS urged the City Council through testimony and individual letters to take the full extent of the time for review of the Columbia University expansion allowed under ULURP in order to fully examine the complexities of the plan. MAS’ effort comes as the City Council scheduled a vote that appeared to cut short a full public approval process. The announcement of the vote was made without ample notice to the public and with time still available for review of the project under ULURP. To read the full press release, click here.