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MAS President Kent Barwick Interview in New York Observer

In a short interview with Chris Shott, [Urban Planning Fan Kent Barwick Channels Jane Jacobs] Municipal Art Society President Kent Barwick comments on the Farley Post Office, Moynihan Station, and the Hotel Pennsylvania. (Shott’s questions are in bold.)

Also, last week, MAS released the results of a poll on the proposed redevelopment of Penn Station as part of the Moynihan Station project. What did people say?

We found that, by and large, public knowledge of the project is very low. What people understood, the general idea of the project, improving the station, they were for it; but they also believed that it was important for the project to be made public, for the public to understand it before the government endorsed it. They didn’t trust the private developers alone to do it right.

Says here in the press release: “Nearly all respondents stated it is important for the city and state of New York to preserve historic buildings and more than 90 percent believe it is important to preserve the Farley Post Office building in particular.” But what about the historic Hotel Pennsylvania? Doesn’t anyone want to preserve it?

Of course, the Hotel Pennsylvania and the Post Office and the original Penn Station were all part of an idea that [architect Charles] McKim had to create a new city on the West Side. So, certainly, those other buildings are significant; I just think in the hierarchy of things, they’re not as significant. Preserving that hotel, which has become very seedy, is not anywhere near as important as reusing the Farley building and creating a new rail station.

Obviously, [Moynihan] would be the catalyst to the development of a new city on the West Side, which is, ironically, what McKim thought about 100 years ago. But now it could happen.

If you add up all the things on the West Side there, from Hudson River Park to the expansion of Javits to the new ferry terminal to the western rail yards to the eastern rail yards to the Hudson Yards city-zoning plan to Farley — you put all that stuff together, you’re looking at a level of development I’ve never seen in New York. It’s really comparable to building St. Louis in an afternoon or something. We’re very hopeful that [Governor] Spitzer will grab hold of it and help make sense of it.