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Penn Station: Building a Landmark for a New Century

new penn station front rendering

New Yorkers can collectively exhale as the long awaited conversion of the Farley Post Office into a new Penn Station has finally received the green light. On October 8, Governor Pataki and the U.S. Postal Service reached an agreement for the sale of the post office to the State of New York. “This agreement clears the way for a new Penn Station on the grand scale envisioned by Senator Moynihan so many years ago,” said Kent Barwick, president of the Society. When the senator’s brilliant idea almost died in 1998 as the victim of compromise “halfway plans,” the Society’s volunteer architects drew up a detailed, ambitious master plan for a national transportation gateway, retail arcade and civic center. Concerned Society members and other citizens lobbied the Mayor, the Governor and the White House and the project stayed alive.

Many of the features of the current plan, designed by David Childs of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, in association with Hugh Hardy, fulfill the Society’s 1998 plan, including a spacious mid-block ticketing hall, multiple entry points, and ample space to accommodate future train-to-the-plane service.

The plan has, at its heart, a gridded glass fan sheltering the main ticketing hall in the mid-section of the building. This signature feature clearly signals the entrance from points east and west. Passengers will descend from the concourse to the platforms below which are crowned by the building’s original skylight. The original Pennsylvania Station’s most cherished quality – the filtering of natural light down to the train tracks – will be recreated here in modern dress. The flagship post office at the top of the grand Eighth Avenue stairs will be carefully refurbished and new retail and passenger services will surround the station’s main rooms. The project is expected to be completed in 5 years.

This is good news for all of the travelers who course through the present Penn Station, the busiest passenger transportation facility in the world. Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit service will remain in their present facility and will expand into the space formerly occupied by Amtrak.

The project has been widely endorsed as a means of reclaiming some of the grandeur of the original Penn Station, the demolition of which 40 years ago gave birth to the modern preservation movement. The $550 million price tag will be raised through a combination of city, state and federal funding.