NY Gov Calls for Penn Station Overhaul

John Hill
7. January 2016
Image: Woods Bagot/MAS

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $22 billion plan to modernize transportation infrastructure throughout New York state, with $3 billion going toward a renovated Penn Station, the busiest – and considered the worst – train station in New York City.

In the New York Times coverage of Cuomo's announcement, which took place on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (MSG – the sports arena and concert venue that sits atop the warren that is Penn Station), the governor said, "We wanted people to know we’re looking for an aggressive, ambitious design. This will get done." The announcement comes after years of nothing getting done – at least not to Penn Station: MSG underwent a $1 billion renovation that wrapped up in 2013.

That renovation made calls for tearing down the arena and building a new Penn Station with the grandeur of the original that was demolished in 1963 practically impossible. The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) has been the most vocal proponent for making substantial changes at Penn Station; they held a "design challenge" in 2013 (SOM, SHoP, DS+R and H3 Hardy all proposed moving MSG off-site) and successfully lobbied around that time to have MSG's permit shortened from perpetuity to ten years.

Yet as a compromise of sorts, MAS worked with the Regional Plan Association and Australian architecture firm Woods Bagot in 2014 to envision a Penn Station where MSG stays put. Their renderings are the ones that accompany the latest news by the Times and other outlets. It remains to be seen if the project would be realized to those designs, since an RFP (request for proposals) is going out to developers who may very well have other architects in mind.

Although the source of funds for Cuomo's ambitious plan is not known, the Penn Station project would involve upgrading the shops below MSG, the potential demolition of a theater under the arena, new entrances on Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street, the addition of a glass-walled entrance to the station on Eighth Avenue and, directly across the street from the last, the transformation (finally!) of the huge Farley Post Office into a waiting room for Amtrak trains, as well as office space and shops. 

Penn Station was designed to accommodate 200,000 passengers a day, but now it handles more than 650,000.

Image: DBOX for Woods Bagot/MAS

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