If you enter Penn Station through the Long Island Rail Road entrance, you’ll see reliefs along the corridor that depict the tumbling Corinthian columns of McKim, Mead, and White’s Pennsylvania Station (1910). If you’d like to grumble along with me, please follow these links to my prior posts about the demolition of Penn Station here and here.
Michael Kimmelman (New York Times, Feb 8, 2013) recently pointed out a pivotal moment for redemption for Penn Station: Madison Square Garden’s permit is due for renewal. Renew MSG in place and Penn Station maintains its identity of squalor and heartbreak. Kick the garden further west, provide more redevelopment potential for West Side redevelopment, and reinstate the rail station that makes this city tick. Crucially, Kimmelman points out that the Moynihan Station plan in the Farley Post Office is only a shadow of the original idea, looking more like Lautenberg Secaucus Station (read: boring and mostly empty 1980s mall-like space). It will only accomodate Amtrak, and the other 620,000 daily commuters will still be stifled underground in the current Penn Station. The spaces will hardly make a heart soar a la what we squandered in the 1960s; it’s as if we’ve given up that we deserve beauty.
(A momentary pause to consider MSG on Penn Station’s back – I’m channeling how they killed Giles Corey during the Salem Witch Trials – by pressing him to death with stones in a feeble attempt to get him to confess he was a witch).
Can’t be done! Can’t be done! The suits line up and wave their hands dismissively. But think about how Grand Central Terminal survived its transformation from a dangerous and dirty street-level Depot to world-class Terminal in the early 1910s, sending all its tracks underground and creating a world class station, allowing real estate development where a train yard and meatpacking concerns once stood, WHILE regular train service continued.
New York manages the miraculous as an everyday operating procedure. Let’s get it done.