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February 2008
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Archive for February, 2008

World-Class Train Stations

Wednesday, April 30, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society Christopher Brown, author of Still Standing: A Century of Urban Train Stations will use his visual survey of stations from St. Louis to Istanbul to trace the development of the urban train station from its beginnings in the 1820s to the end of the 20th century era of station-building in the 1950s. Architect Andrew Whalley, partner at Grimshaw Architects, will draw on his experience as partner-in-charge of Paddington station and Waterloo’s Eurostar terminal in London to discuss the design of today’s train stations worldwide. The program will be introduced by Hugh Hardy, FAIA, founder of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, LLC and moderated by Alexandros Washburn, chief urban designer, New York City Department of City Planning. $15, $12 MAS members. NOTE: We are no longer taking advance reservations for this event, but seats are still available, so please show up and purchase your ticket at the door.

The Heart of the City: Grand Central Terminal & The Urban Railroad Station

Wednesday, May 28, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society Great railroad stations are often not just gateways to cities, but are the beating hearts of cities. Midtown Manhattan is unimaginable without Grand Central Terminal, which defines Midtown’s circulation patterns, gathers and dispenses people, moves the masses with a functional elan that Continue Reading>>

Ask George: “The Mother of All Train Station Connections”

Reader: “Is there a way to connect Grand Central to Penn Station? Have there been any plans to do so?” Mr. Haikalis: Yes, in fact a plan was put forward in 2003. The original plans for the new train tunnel under the Hudson River – known as Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) – proposed bringing the new 2-track tunnel directly into existing tracks and platforms at Penn Station, and then continuing under 31st Street and Park Avenue to existing tracks and platforms on the Lower Level of Grand Central Terminal (see green tracks in figure below). penn station train connection map old This plan – the mother of all train station connections – would have tied the two stations together, permitting thru train service between points in Westchester-Connecticut and points in New Jersey. The plan called for using existing tracks and platforms at the two stations, taking advantage of unique elements that were incorporated into their design when they were built nearly a century ago. The Major Investment Study (MIS) phase of planning found that this plan – known as Alternative G – would have cost the least to build and operate, attracted the most riders, and diverted the greatest number of motorists of three final alternatives studied (click here to read the report). It would have afforded West of Hudson riders easy access to Manhattan’s East Side, the nation’s premier commercial district, and would have made it easier for workers from points north of NYC to reach growing West Midtown developments. Furthermore, it would have allowed Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor trains to serve both business centers en route from Washington to Boston, making the train more competitive with air travel. The MIS planning study found no “fatal flaws” in the connection. But a key to making this plan work is for NJ Transit trains to operate on Metro-North tracks and vice versa. These inter-operability agreements are quite common in the freight industry, and could be negotiated between the two transit carriers. It’s a matter of political will. map midtown west trains moynihan The leadership in both states declined to advance this very attractive plan. Instead, NJ Transit was left to “go it alone”, pressing for a deep cavern dead-end station 140 feet below 34th Street and Macy’s. This plan is costly, inconvenient and poses a clear security risk. It obviously lacks the connection to Grand Central. In fact, it doesn’t even have a connection into Penn Station. The red line into Penn Station in the figure above has been dropped from the project! Now with both states facing severe budget challenges, it is especially important to move forward on a more cost-effective plan — Alternative G. More questions about ARC? Want to know more about Sunnyside Yards, connecting Metro North to Penn Station, or the possibilities of light rail in New York? Please submit questions in the comments section.

MAS Planning Center Forum: Elected Officials Respond to Communities That Plan for Themselves

Monday, March 24, 6:00 p.m., at The Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue MAP Launching the fifth edition of Planning for All New Yorkers: the Atlas of Community-Based Plans, this forum features panelists Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Continue Reading>>

Moynihan Station: What Needs to Happen Next

moynihan penn station concept rendering somTuesday, May 13, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society The construction of Moynihan Station is the single most critical civic project planned for New York City this decade. Penn Station, this country’s busiest transportation center, is overcapacity and inefficient. A modern, state-of-the-art train station would revitalize the surrounding district and be the most effective catalyst for development on the Far West Side of Manhattan. Continue Reading>>

Watch NYT Video on Farley Renovation

moynihan station south front angle smallThe New York Times just posted a short video about the recently completed exterior renovation of the Farley Post Office Building. It features Hugh Hardy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architects, the lead architect of the renovation and Vice Chairman of MAS. The exterior renovation is an important first step toward creating a new gateway for New York, but the building still faces an uncertain future. The MAS strongly supports the use of the federal rehabilitation tax credit in the redevelopment of the Farley Building, a city, state and national landmark, for two main reasons: First, adhering to the rehabilitation standards required to qualify for the tax credit will safeguard the Farley Building’s historic fabric, including significant interior areas. Second, the tax credit would be a significant financial boost of Federal funding to the project (up to $250 million). At this point, it’s unclear whether the developers and MSG are willing to preserve enough of the historic features, like the lobby’s ticket windows and the brick walls of the future train hall, to qualify. Watch “An Old Face Rejuvenated: The Farley Post Office Building,” a New York Times video

Observer Editorial: Travesty on Eighth Avenue

farley post office columnsToday, The New York Observer published an editorial about the current state of the Moynihan Station project. Below is an excerpt:
More than a decade ago, the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan challenged New York to do something grand on Eighth Avenue. With the Postal Service pulling its operations out of the Farley Post Office, Moynihan proposed—and got funding for—a new Penn Station in the Farley building. During the ensuing years, designs were created, press releases issued, promises made—the project was even named for its sponsor, Senator Moynihan—and very little if anything has happened. The senator passed away nearly five years ago, his dream unfulfilled. There is a chance now that it may never be realized. This newspaper reported on its Web site last week that the owners of Madison Square Garden, the Dolan family, may be reconsidering a plan to build a new Garden adjacent to the stalled Moynihan Station site. The Garden was not part of the senator’s original vision; the man just wanted a beautiful train station. But as the project expanded and contracted, new pieces, including the Garden, were folded into the plan. The Dolans, whose stewardship of the Garden and its teams has been incompetent at best, are part of the problem on Eighth Avenue. But they are hardly the only obstacle; Governor Eliot Spitzer has not managed to bring the competing groups together and forge a feasible solution. The Moynihan Station project has turned into a $14 billion mega-development, and for comparison’s sake, consider that Boston’s Big Dig cost about $15 billion. That project took years before it came to fruition; it finally was finished just last month. But it got done. Moynihan Station, by contrast, remains very much undone. Various government entities are beginning to send out signals that it may never get done. At the close of his Senate career, Pat Moynihan remained dubious that his adopted city could, in fact, build on a heroic scale anymore. It would be a shame if his doubts proved correct.
Read New York Observer editorial: “Travesty on Eighth Avenue”

Ask George: More on the West Side Yards

hudson yards aerial train tracksIn response to our first “Ask George” post we received a detailed response regarding the necessity of the West Side Yards:
Mr. Haikalis’ asserts that the West Side Yards are somehow an unnecessary luxury that the MTA can ill afford. On the contrary, they are a vital asset serving a valuable function and must remain in place. Any development that takes place there must be in the form of an overbuild, precisely the process that is being pursued today. Of course, the MTA has a fiduciary responsiblity and an obligation to the public to maximize the proceeds it receives from any scheme to the greatest extent possible. Mr. Haikalis leaves out two critical points. First, he neglects to give the reason why LIRR trains are stored there at all. In the late 1980s, it was forseen that the ability to handle traffic growth at Penn Station and in the East River Tunnels would be impeded as long as the tunnels were being used to send back empty trains east after their morning runs. Building the yard allowed trains to move west after unloading their passengers, getting out of the way of succeeding trains and freeing up additional slots in the tunnels for more trains to be added. A similar operation takes place for NJT trains which move to Sunnyside Yard in Queens for daytime storage after their morning runs. Second, there is no room at the LIRR’s existing yards on Long Island to support more storage, and the possibility of easily building new yard capacity will be difficult. The LIRR already discovered this in the late 1990s, when trial balloons about new yards were floated in Suffolk County and were immediately met with stiff local resistance. That is not to say they that new yards shouldn’t be built; in fact they will be needed in the future so that East Side Access and the proposed additional track on the Main Line can be worked to their maximum advantage. Mr. Haikalis may respond to this by saying that Penn Station is not being used effectively today because of its inherent design as a through station, and that sending LIRR trains to NJ in continued service is more efficient. This should be pursued in the future if we are to ever have an effective regional rail system. He may also point out that the East Side Access scheme is flawed and should be dropped (it is not flawed; it is a very expensive and ambitious project that needs to be finally built). However, these are not valid reasons for giving up the West Side Yards. They must remain in place.
We will be back later with George’s response!

Venture Remains Committed to Moynihan; Morgan Analyst Says a Failed Project Hits Vornado’s Bottom Line

Today, the Observer reports that the Moynihan Station Venture, a partnership between Vornado and Related, has spent over $47 million on Moynihan Station. According to the article:
The large amount of spending thus far—at a stage where planning is far from done and the public has not even seen renderings—is indicative of the tremendous value that Vornado and Related stand to gain from the project, which involves moving Madison Square Garden to the rear of the neighboring Farley Post Office. “Nothing could be a clearer statement of our long-term commitment to Moynihan Station,” the president of the Moynihan Station Venture, Vishaan Chakrabarti, wrote to the state in May about the $47 million. The Venture represents the joint effort of Related and Vornado. A priority of the Spitzer administration since the governor arrived in office, Moynihan Station seems to have hit some major obstacles: The Dolan family, which owns Madison Square Garden, is giving signs that it is tiring of inactivity and disagreements among the project’s multiple constituencies, including preservationists, and is considering a renovation of the existing Garden rather than a move. Without the Garden moving, Penn Station could not be remade, and without that redo, Vornado and Related will not have access to more than five million square feet of air rights tucked away on the Garden site. Those air rights stand out as a tremendously appealing carrot for the developers, especially Vornado, which has substantial property holdings in the area.
Earlier in the week Morgan Stanley raised concerns about the impact of a failed Moynihan Station project on Vornado Realty Trust, indicating it could knock $11 off its $94 price target for Vornado stock. Read “Related, Vornado Spend $47 M. and Counting on Moynihan Station,” by Eliot Brown for New York Observer Read “Vornado Tornado: Penn Station Fallout Hits Bottom Line,” by Kira Bindrim for Crain’s New York

MAS Planning Center Forum: David vs. Goliath

Wednesday, May 14, 6:00 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue MAP Panelists Anthony Borelli of the Office of the Manhattan Borough President, Marshall Brown of UNITY Plan for Atlantic Yards, Candace Carponter of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Jordi Reyes-Montblanc of Manhattan Community Board 9, Ed Rubin of Manhattan Community Board 6 and moderator Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush of El Diario/La Prensa will discuss neighborhood planning in the face of large-scale development. This program is at capacity. No more reservations are being taken and walk-ups will not be admitted.

MAS Panel Discussion: Preserving The Moderns – The Next Steps

lever house som building new york cityWednesday, April 2, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., reception to follow, at the Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue MAP. Among New York City’s architectural treasures is a wealth of modernist buildings, including such world famous icons as the Seagram Building, Lever House, and the TWA Terminal. Continue Reading>>

Panel Discussion: Free Play – Risk, Learning and Design in Public Playgrounds

Monday, April 21, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue, MAP City plans now underway will give New Yorkers hundreds of new public playgrounds. These timely developments comes as scholars, educators, and designers are reexamining the way children play today. An international panel of play and design experts will analyze the factors that influence Continue Reading>>