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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.