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The Year of Moynihan Station

farley post office moynihan station front

With an unspoiled new year ahead, and a new, reform-minded governor in Albany, there is fresh hope that a grand new train station will be realized in Midtown Manhattan. Now more than ever, the pressure is on to ensure that the public will benefit from what will also be an extraordinary real estate deal for the private sector partners. When construction finally ends, we must be left with a train station we can be proud of.

Despite a recent push to move forward quickly on plans to build Moynihan Station within the Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue, this dream deferred will have to wait a while longer. Optimistic observers have said that the project could get a green light as early as this summer.

Governor Elliot Spitzer has expressed his support for a concept advanced by the project’s developers, Related Companies and Vornado Realty, that would rebuild and expand the station on both sides of Eighth Avenue. But while intriguing, the expansion plan might involve the construction of a new Madison Square Garden within the walls of the Post Office — a designated landmark.

Working with the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the MAS contacted Governor-elect Spitzer three days after his November victory to make the case that both organizations have fought for over the past decade. The public deserves a guarantee that an inspiring work of contemporary civic architecture — with expanded and widely accessible rail transportation uses — will be the result.

Associated commercial real estate opportunities should be secondary concerns. When planning a vital public project, the state and its two private partners must keep the interests of city residents at the forefront.

With a final deal not yet agreed to, the public can still weigh in on how up to $1.5 billion of public money should be spent and what they will get for their investment. The successful revival of Grand Central Terminal taught us what sustained civic involvement and visionary leadership can achieve in New York. For many years, our elected officials said repeatedly that Moynihan Station would restore dignity and even pleasure to rail passengers arriving and departing from the sorry mess that is now Penn Station. With up to $1.5 billion in the public money on the table, 2007 is the year to finally prove it.