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A Call for Public Debate on Moynihan Station

Bloomberg’s architecture critic, James S. Russell, wrote an insightful article about the new Moynihan Station Penn Station Project Needs Real Debate to Produce Great Design] today. He wrote, “now the stars seemed to have aligned to fully realize Moynihan’s dream,” while cautioning that amidst this large development project there needs to be assurance that the public will have a voice in building a great new station.

Russell decries the “secret negotiations,” between the developer and the state and says “That approach needs to be rethought right now. The project’s scope should be the beginning of a genuine public dialogue, not a one-way hearing process.” His concerns parallel the public’s, according to poll results released by the Municipal Art Society on August 7, 2007.

According to our poll results, there was strong support for public oversight of the Penn Station project as well as a desire to see the plans for the project before they are accepted by the city and state.

  • 87% say public oversight of the Penn Station renovation project is absolutely necessary given that $1 billion of taxpayers’ money is at stake
  • 92% think that the public should have the chance to see the plans for renovating Penn Station before the Governor and Mayor endorse them

Finally, Russell asks, “What should the public demand from this deal?” He answers “it should get a gorgeous landmark gateway.” We couldn’t agree more. Care must be taken that the landmark Farley Building, and its beautiful historic post office lobby, are preserved. And unlike the current Penn Station, Moynihan needs to be a highly functioning station, large enough and smartly designed to accommodate, on a daily basis, more than half a million people in a hurry. The station should allow for airport access and connections to subways and maybe a new light rail with connections to the burgeoning Far West Side. And once built, the station must remain in public hands. The care and management (including the careful choice of retail) should be at the level of the city’s beloved Grand Central Terminal.