By Erin Delmore
“This has been a long time coming. It was a tremendous undertaking,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Penn Station is due for a makeover, to hear Gov. Cuomo tell it.
“Penn Station in un-New York. It is dark. It is constrained. It is ugly. It is dated architecture. It is a lost opportunity,” he said.
It is the site of the future Empire Station Complex — Penn Station plus the Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue. The governor says the much-needed face lift will decrease congestion and increase natural light and open space, adding new entrances, introducing new shops and restaurants and linking the two buildings underground.
“Any renovation is an improvement,” said one commuter.
“I think the money could be used better elsewhere,” said another commuter.
“I’d rather see it revamped. One hundred percent,” said another.
The governor’s office says the $3 billion project will be paid for by private funders. In return, funders will act as landlords to the shops and restaurants within.
When the original Penn Station opened in 1910, it was designed to accommodate 200,000 daily passengers. Now, it serves 650,000, making it the busiest train station in North America.
And that number is expected to double over the next 20 years. While Gov. Cuomo tackles the above-ground renovations on the New York side, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is slated to complete the Gateway Tunnel Project by 2030, doubling transit pathways below the Hudson River and repairing existing tunnels corroded by floodwater during Superstorm Sandy.
“There’s been momentum over the past year in building new tunnels under the Hudson River, but the tunnels need to land someone. And anyone who has gone through Penn Station knows it’s a cramped, overcrowded miserable place to get in and out of,” said Tom Wright, President of the Regional Plan Association.
The Gateway Program was greenlit late last year, thanks to a 50 percent buy-in from the federal government. Transit experts say the two projects complement — not compete with — each other.
“This is completely integral to any reasonable investment that you want to make ion this region. If you do it without Penn, you’re doing it without addressing what is probably the most dysfunctional aspect it has going,” said Municipal Arts Society of New York Executive Vice President Mary Rowe.
Gov. Cuomo says the state, Amtrak and the MTA will be soliciting design proposals from developers for the next 90 days. Groundbreaking is targeted for this year.